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Authentic Aotearoa: 4 Ways to Experience the Local Culture

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New Zealand? Snow-capped peaks; chains of mountain ranges, volcanos and expansive national parks waiting to be discovered; wine regions, extreme sports and a wilderness experience that leaves one suffused in wonder… a cultural awakening, inexplicable and indescribable. What makes New Zealand special though, can’t be observed through a camera lens; the secret of this laid-back, welcoming, nature-orientated culture lies in its spiritual origins.

Are you ready to experience a more authentic New Zealand?

Photo: Te Puia

1. Te Po, Rotorua

Picture a clear night, lit only by tribal fires and a blanket of stars; a small crowd gathers, entranced by ancient stories, songs and dances. The Te Po package at Te Puia, Rotorua, is an opportunity to connect, relax and sample the hospitality of Te Arawa people. Your night will begin with a traditional welcoming ceremony, followed by a mouth-watering entrée of New Zealand mussels, corn on the cob, traditional breads, dips and a signature beverage harnessing the flavours of kawakawa extract and delicious manuka honey. And the main? Well, a surprise or two is good for anticipation – it’s simply delectable, we promise.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds Meeting House – Photo: David Kirkland

2. Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Bay of Islands

New Zealand as we know it began on the green grounds of Waitangi, as two peoples met to draw up a peaceful accord and catalyse the birth of a small but amazing nation. An adult day pass is priced very reasonably at $50, giving you all the time in the world to explore the vast grounds and trace the journey of those who changed history. Between the Museum of Waitangi, and the absorbing cultural performances, you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of Maori living and protocol. Bonus? Nothing quite measures up to the beautiful Bay of Islands back-drop.

Waipoua Forest – Photo: James Heremaia

3. Waipoua Forest (near Whangarei)

The Waipoua Forest is the largest remaining patch of native forest on the North Island; a leisurely drive north of Dargaville, it’s easy to see why travellers continue to rate the highway trip highly, as farm-land gives away to something a little more wild and sky-scraping kauri trees begin to frame the road. Once you’ve arrived, wide-eyed and excited, the Footprints Waipoua tour will take you deep into the kauri forest, highlighting the remedial significance of native plants, the calls of native birds and of course, the Lord of the Forest, Tane Mahuta. Imagine trying to wrap your arms around a tree trunk 4.4 metres round… not quite magical enough? You’ll also meet Te Matua Ngahere, the Father of the Forest, aged between 2,500 and 3000 years old.

Te Papa, Wellington – Photo: Te Papa Museum

4. Te Papa Museum, Wellington

Leave the outside behind for a day and delve into Te Papa, a museum with a difference, combining historical flare with Maori art and modern indigenous identity pieces. Displays are always evolving – if you’ve already been, we can almost guarantee you haven’t seen everything Te Papa has to offer. New exhibitions appear regularly, showcasing traditions, interpretations, Pacific Cultures, natural history and powerful expression. Even if you’re not a museum person, you’d be remiss to skip this cultural experience.

Do you need to know more, do more and see more? Uncover the historical significance of some of New Zealand’s most striking places with New Zealand Holidays.


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