You won’t find a city with a more romantic name than Auckland.
The Te Reo Māori (indigenous Maori-language) name for Auckland is “Tāmaki-makau-rau,” meaning “Tāmaki (bride) of a hundred lovers.”
It’s hard not to fall in love with Auckland on first sight. With an iconic cityscape embraced by a sparkling gulf and fertile, green hills, the City of Sails captures the hearts of more than just a hundred lovers.
See the city through the eyes of its first admirers with these incredible Maori cultural experiences in Auckland.
Sail the Gulf like the Great Polynesian Navigators
There’s no end to the yachts and charters offering sailing tours along Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
After all, this is “The City of Sails.”
But among the countless vessels docked along Waitemata Harbour is a portal into the past.
Here you’ll find the ‘waka,’ a traditional Maori canoe as once chartered by the ancient Polynesian navigators. Inspired by a recent resurgence of voyaging traditions, the New Zealand Maritime Museum in conjunction with local tourism operators developed a breathtaking journey into Maori seafaring traditions aboard Haunui, a handcrafted waka.
When you board Haunui, you’re embarking on a journey just as the ancient Polynesian navigators once did. You’ll learn the sailing traditions and stories of the Maori as an expert Maori crew charters across Waitemata Harbour.
If the famous Auckland landmarks you’ll see don’t captivate you, the oral traditions, artistry and rituals shared by your crew certainly will.
Feel the Land Come to Life on a Maori Walking Tour
Learn the stories behind Auckland’s green volcanic landscape on an intimate, Maori-guided walking tour.
Auckland is dotted with 48 volcanic cones, each bound with a story rich in cultural and spiritual significance.
In other words, a natural treasure trove of Maori culture.
Your Maori guide leads you through Auckland’s unique terrain on walking trails strewn across the volcanoes as they share the history of each site.
Walk to the top of Maungawhau, or Mount Eden, and learn about the legends surrounding this natural wonder. As the highest natural point in Auckland, there’s an unmistakable sense of mysticism from the incredible panoramic views atop this volcano.
Hear the story of how this mountain came to be, as passed down through oral traditions. Spot the remains of pā terraces, or hill forts, and food storage pits once used by the Maori.
As you walk down the volcano, you’ll come away with a sense of the Maori’s deep connection with the land. Ask our About New Zealand Destination Specialists about our favorite Auckland walking tours for your next trip!
Get Off the Beaten Path and Get in Touch with Nature
Auckland is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Black sand beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls and soaring cliffs await just outside the city.
But that’s just the problem for many visitors. It’s all outside the city.
Fortunately there’s several tours setting out from the city into the pristine natural wonders at its doorstep.
On one of our favorite New Zealand wilderness tours, you’ll venture into Auckland’s spectacular west coast and into the renowned Waitakere Ranges. You’ll pass through Titirangi, which translates to “fringe of heaven” in Te Reo Māori, and learn about the unique flora and fauna that call these ranges home.
Hear the legends of the forest and its shy bush-dwelling birds so iconic to New Zealand. Discover the medicinal uses of the indigenous plants around you, as still used by the Maori to this day.
Finish the day off with a stop at the west coast’s most arresting black sand beaches – the west coast’s signature feature.
Discover Maori Treasures at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Explore the world’s largest collection of Maori artifacts (taonga) at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Renowned for its interactive exhibits and respectful insights into Maori and South Pacific cultures, you could easily spend days in this three-level museum.
Visit the ground floor to see original full-size buildings adorned with intricate Maori woodcarvings and designs. See Te Toki ā Tāpiri, the last great waka once used in battle, carved from a giant totara tree. Get a glimpse of traditional dress including dogskin cloaks, feather cloaks and flax cloaks as worn by Maori ancestors.
On the first floor you’ll learn more about the Maori way of connecting with the natural world. Step foot on a topographical recreation of Auckland, outlining the routes of the seafaring ancestors and their stories. Learn the narratives behind the origins of the world as understood by the Maori.
Opt for a guided tour to fully immerse yourself and understand the unique culture on display before you.
Watch a Maori Cultural Performance
Stick around the Auckland War Memorial Museum for what is lauded as one of New Zealand’s best Maori cultural performances.
This daily performance takes you on a moving journey through the story of Auckland and New Zealand. Watch as performers donned in gorgeous traditional dress dance the gracious poi and a spine-tingling version of the powerful haka war dance.
As Auckland’s only venue providing daily Maori cultural performances, you’ll want to pre-book this often sold-out event.
Performances begin at 10:45am until 1:30pm with additional times available during high season.
Get a Taste of Maori-Inspired Kai at Pasifika Festival
There’s no way you can authentically experience a culture without tasting its food. Even if you’re averse to trying new foods, the scents of kai (Te Reo Māori for food) will have your mouth watering.
The traditional Maori method for cooking food in underground ovens is called hāngi. This usually consists of meats, root vegetables and kumara, a kind of sweet potato, wrapped in leaves and lowered into the earth. After cooking for three to four hours in the heat from the earth, a delicious dish of tender, fall-off-the-bone meat and roasted vegetables infused with a smoky fragrance is ready to eat.
Though you won’t find many eateries in Auckland showcasing traditional Maori cooking methods, you can find Maori flavors at the Hangi Shop or Puha & Pakeha.
One of the best ways to experience Maori kai in Auckland is at the Pasifika Festival, an annual celebration of South Pacific cultures. Not only will you get a taste of hāngi, but you’ll also see signature dishes unique to cultures all across the Pacific Islands throughout 200 different food and craft stalls.
Travel to Auckland towards the end of March to witness this spectacular event.
Experience Maori Culture in Auckland
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture brings the North Island to life with its warm Polynesian roots. Although the town of Rotorua is New Zealand’s renowned heart of Maori culture, you’ll find plenty of incredible experiences within Auckland to gain insight into this unique culture.
Want to add an unforgettable Maori experience in your visit to Auckland? Connect with our About New Zealand Destination Specialists for more ideas on experiencing Maori culture on your New Zealand trip.
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