Discover Maori Heritage & Culture

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. According to Maori legend, the Maori people came to New Zealand more than 1,000 years ago from the island of Hawaiki, the birthplace of all life. Did you know that the Maori make up 14% of New Zealand’s population? Their history, language, and traditions are key to Kiwi identity.

From the ever-present Maori art to the iconic haka, you’ll find that Maori culture is present in day-to-day Kiwi life—children learn Maori waiata (songs) and haka early on. Here are some of our favorite ways to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s Maori heritage and culture:

New Zealand Maori dancers and warriors at Tamaki Village
Dancers at Tamaki Maori Village. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Visit a Marae and See a Haka

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Maori culture is by visiting a marae—used for meetings, celebrations, educational workshops, and other important tribal events. Each marae belongs to a particular tribe or family.

Make sure you get to see the haka performed! The haka is an ancient Maori war dance, traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. If you’re a rugby fan, you may have seen the national rugby team, the All Blacks, perform the haka before each match.

New Zealand Maori culture - Family on their marae
Four generations on their marae. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Meet a Maori Elder

For the most authentic Maori cultural experience, we recommend a private tour with a Maori elder. Learn about the traditions and history of the area, along with how Maori culture has evolved. You can even sit down to dinner in an elder’s home, discover traditional cuisine, and have plenty of one-on-one time to ask any questions you may have. We can arrange this in many locations throughout New Zealand, so ask our travel designers about how to incorporate a private Maori experience into your itinerary.

Take in the Greenstone Carvings

While in New Zealand, you’ll notice gorgeous greenstone (jade) carvings, often used as jewelry. In pre-literate Maori society, designs in greenstone were visual depictions of their life stories. They told stories about their wearer, hinting at personality traits, as well as strengths and weaknesses. One of the best places to pick up some beautiful greenstone souvenirs is the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand’s West Coast.

Visit the Historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Make sure you get the chance to see the Waitangi Treaty Grounds—an important New Zealand historical site located in the stunning Bay of Islands on the country’s northern tip. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed here, laying the foundations for modern New Zealand. From the gorgeous grounds outside to the fascinating interactive museum, you’ll find yourself enamored by the beauty of Maori culture here.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand
Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Tour the Te Papa Museum

Another great place to discover and learn about Maori culture is the Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum in Wellington. Here you’ll find the greatest treasures and stories of New Zealand, as well as a unique natural environment and a plethora of Maori culture, art, heritage, and fascinating history. If you like, we can arrange a private tour of the museum that gives you a very intimate experience and allows you to see some of the collections that are not on display to the public!

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand
A recreated marae at Te Papa Museum in Wellington. Image: Tourism New Zealand


Are you ready to explore Maori culture in New Zealand? Browse our New Zealand culture vacation packages, or give us a call today at (888) 229-0082 to start handcrafting your trip!