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6 Amazing Maori Cultural Experiences in Auckland

Posted on: November 7th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments

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

Waka sailing on Waitemata Harbour credit Waka Quest

Image: Waka Quest

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

Auckland Maori Tour credit AucklandNZ.com

Image: AucklandNZ.com

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 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

Piha Beach, Auckland credit Scott Venning

Image: Scott Venning

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

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Image: © Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira

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

Maori Cultural Performance at Auckland War Memorial Museum

Image: © Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira

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

Maori Hangi credit Tourism New Zealand

Image: Tourism New Zealand

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. Pasifika Festival will be held from March 23rd – 24th, 2019.

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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Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm)


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New Zealand Hot Springs Indulgent Experiences

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

hot springs activities New ZealandEver have the urge to jump into the ocean in the middle of winter? Maybe you’d wish it was warm enough outside to take a swim. New Zealand doesn’t let silly things like seasons dictate when you can enjoy the water. In fact, there are countless number of hot spring experiences all across the North and South Islands. Here are our (and the world’s) favorite Hot Springs in New Zealand.

Hot Water Beach New Zealand – Mercury Bay

Located on the east side of the North Island, Hot Water Beach is a unique experience to dig your toes in the sand and relax in the natural hot water. You can rent a shovel for $5 and dig your own spa in the sand! The water can get very hot but luckily the ocean is just a short walk away!Friends at Hot Water Beach

Waiwera Thermal Resort – Waiwera

Just north of Auckland, Waiwera is a popular thermal water destination. There are hot water thermal pools surrounded by native New Zealand fauna. And this destination is family friendly! Whether you want to relax or relive your childhood, don’t miss out on Waiwera.Waiwera Water Slides in New Zealand

Taupo Thermal Hot Pools – Taupo

Located in the middle of the North Island, the Hot Pools in Taupo are a great place to stop. It offers a number of attractions anyone can enjoy. While some of their services do cost, Otumuheke Stream is a hot stream that flows into Waikato River and free for visitors. There are lots of little hot spots along the way – just follow the steam! Taupo Hot Springs

Hells Gate – Rotorua

Hells Gate is an awesome way to experience the thermal phenomenon in Rotorua in a relaxing spa setting. Most people come to see Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere! It’s a special waterfall to the Maori people because they believe the sulfur in the water healed their ancestor’s years ago. If you’d rather stay in, there are a number of hot mud spas in the park too.

Couple at Hells Gate Rotorua

Polynesian Springs – Rotorua

This is one of NZ’s oldest spa attractions and a must see if you’re traveling through Rotorua. You can choose to relax in a Hot Mineral Bath, take part in one of their numerous spa treatments or experience the healing properties of one of their mud treatments. Whatever you choose, the Polynesian Springs provide a place to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the hot water year-round.

polynesian spa rotorua

Onsen Hot Pools – Queenstown

Travel down to Queenstown in the South Island for this relaxing gem. The Onsen Hot Pools provide a romantic backdrop for any traveling couple. Filled with a soothing and nature provided combination of rain water, purified lake water and mountain spring water, the pools are truly a natural source of relaxation.

Friends relaxing in the Onsen Hot Pools

Whether you’re traveling during the US Winter or the NZ Winter (May-July), these New Zealand hot springs experiences will not disappoint. Start planning your trip today and make sure to include some of these glorious, natural H2O experiences!

If you need some help planning, call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).

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Houston to Auckland Flights Open Doors for About New Zealand

Posted on: October 19th, 2015 by MelissaM No Comments

City scape of Auckland New Zealand

In December 2015, Air New Zealand will host direct flights from Houston to Auckland, New Zealand. This means traveling to New Zealand just became even easier with five Air New Zealand hubs in North America!

Training with Tourism New Zealand

In preparation for the inaugural flight from Houston, the staff at About New Zealand partnered with Tourism New Zealand for a massive training event Thursday. 24 vendors from all across New Zealand showed up Thursday morning and, after a Texas sized breakfast, the teams got to work.

About New Zealand meeting with Tourism New Zealand

The morning jumped right into fast paced training sessions for our staff. The vendors in town ranged from luxury accommodations to award winning Maori Cultural experiences and even self-drive experiences in the comfort of a camper van, like tourism New Zealand’s Kombi Diaries.

There are some pretty interesting things waiting you in New Zealand including Helicopter Tours to Franz Josef, luxury day cruises on Doubtful Sound, accommodations fit for royalty (literally) and lots of Hobbit inspired experiences. We even got a look at a real prop worn by a Dwalin in The Hobbit!

Dwarf prosthetic worn by an actor in The Hobbit

  Photo courtesy of Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand

By midday the About New Zealand staff was full to the brim with New Zealand knowledge and Tourism NZ was out the door to Houston for their final stop. Housing this many vendors in one day was a milestone for About New Zealand. It was exciting and exhausting but most importantly it was another way we can improve your travel experience!

What does this mean for you? Our partnership with Tourism New Zealand and the amazing turn out of New Zealand vendors ensures your next New Zealand vacation is one you’ll never forget! After extensive training, our Destination Specialists are even more excited to start planning your New Zealand vacation!

Call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US) or Start planning my trip

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