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10- Day North Island “Te ao Maori” Tour

10- Day North Island “Te ao Maori” Tour

This tour celebrates living and working by Maori customs, values and culture. Get a close insight into Maori culture out of today's perspective and hear the stories of the past.

This Tour will give you a meaningful experience of Aotearoa with a chance to relax, engage with nature and meet local Maori people. Māori are the Tangata Whenua, the indigenous people, of New Zealand. They came here more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Today Māori make up 14% of our population and their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand's identity.


Your guide for the tour is Dianne Sharma Winter who is a chef and tour guide. She has travelled extensively and also worked in many tourism fields from bed making to hotel management!  Dianna is passionate about Maori and indigenous tourism and wants to share this.  

Dianne is from the river tribe of Ngati Awa in the Eastern Bay of Plenty with links to various other Iwi or tribes in the North Island. She has lived and worked in India where she consulted with local operators on the village and experiential travel. She introduced the concept of experiential tourism in India where for many years she worked promoting and advising on village-based kaupapa tourism. She has a background in social work and journalism, also a dive instructor, was NZ's first female river guide and is qualifying to become a skipper! Her passion for travel is only matched by the passion for making heart connections with people, something that has kept her on the road and peering under magic carpets all over the world. She is particularly excited about the potential growth of Maori and Indigenous tourism in New Zealand.

Plan Your Tour


Private guided tour 9 nights
Culture, Active
North Island
Departing/Finishing: Auckland (Itinerary can be reversed
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, Luxury Serviced Apartments
Next Departure: Departs Daily

Day 1 Auckland arrival 
(Day to your own leisure, Or: Visits of Domain and Art Gallery, focus on Maori artefacts and art)
Day 2 Auckland City
(Dawn Powhiri - Maori welcome, and Waiheke Island)
Day 3: Auckland – Waitomo – Rotorua
(Waitomo Caves Private Footwhistle Cave Tour)
Day 4: Rotorua
(Maori spirituality, health and rongoa)
Day 5: Rotorua to Whakatane
(Mataatua Whare, Walking with the Tipuna)
Day 6: Whakatane
(White Island Excursion either by boat or helicopter, Or: picnic to a secluded beach)
Day 7: Ohope/Ohiwa Harbour
(Experience a typical Kiwi Bach holiday. Moonlight kayak. Food foraging)
Day 8: Ohiwa Harbour
(Cycle the Motu Trail,  Learn how to make your own kawakawa ointment, BBQ with a few local musicians in the evening)
Day 9: Ohiwa Harbour
(Taneatua and Ruatoki Art Trail)
Day 10: Whakatane – domestic flight back to Auckland

Day 1: Auckland Arrival

Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping, and you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland, our largest and most diverse city. The Auckland region is dotted with 48 volcanic cones, which provide spectacular panoramic views of the city and harbour.  

Auckland was first settled by Māori people around 1350. The narrow Auckland isthmus was a strategic location with its two harbours providing access to the sea on both the west and east coasts. It also had fertile soils which facilitated horticulture and the two harbours provided plentiful Kai moana (seafood). Māori constructed terraced  (fortified villages) on the volcanic peaks.

Accommodation: Auckland City

Day 2: Auckland - Day trip to Waiheke Island

Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland - The land of a thousand lovers. Dawn is when all new ventures are blessed and welcomed in Te Ao Marama (the world of light and understanding) so it will be a formal welcome for you at dawn on the sacred grounds of Takaparawhau (Bastion Point). Breakfast will be served at the Marae. 

Cruise to Waiheke Island in the beautiful Waitemata Harbour for a full day exploring. The jewel of the Hauraki Gulf, it is a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves, farmland and golden beaches. There are plenty of places to enjoy a good coffee or a taste of New Zealand's fresh Pacific Rim cuisine. The white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi slope gently down into the Hauraki Gulf. They are perfect for swimming, kayaking, strolling along or having a picnic in the sun. 

Activities include a Guided Native Bush Walk, where your guide will explain the traditional and medicinal Maori uses of native plants. The walk will take you to the summit of a historical pa site where you will see archaeological remains of kumara pits, shell middens and defensive terraces. Our native bird's tui, kereru and tirairaka can also be seen.

You will be introduced to a variety of traditional Maori Musical Instruments and you can even try to play them!  Lunch will be at a local Cafe and then you will visit a local Vineyard for a wine tasting.  Later you will watch a weaving demonstration using the flax plant and you can even try your hand and make a little souvenir to take home.

Accommodation: Auckland City

Day 3: Auckland - Waitomo - Rotorua

Travel south through the lush green rural farmland of the Waikato region. The rich and fertile pastoral land of the Waikato is one of New Zealand’s major dairy producing and horse breeding areas, and host to incalculable stands of exotic timber. 

One of the major attractions of the region is the famous Waitomo Caves. Many caves were discovered by Maori 400 to 500 years ago when hunters or war party passed through the area. Take a short walk through breath-taking New Zealand native bush to the cave entrance. There, your guide lights the candles setting the scene for an intimate cave experience, where you will see glow-worms and cave formations up close and appreciate the beauty of Footwhistle Cave (also known to local Maori as Te Anaroa Cave). Māori often used caves as shelter, but also as burial sites, regarding them as sacred places or tapu. 

Rotorua is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, as well as showcasing our fascinating Maori culture. Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland.

Accommodation: Rotorua

Day 4: Rotorua - Area Tour

Rotorua is the heartland of Maori culture. The spirit of Manaakitanga (hospitality) is alive and well in the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. The Te Arawa tribe of the region started the tourism industry in New Zealand in the 19th century when visitors first began travelling to the area to experience the healing qualities of the thermal waters and to visit the “Eighth Wonder of the World” - the magnificent Pink and White Terraces which were tragically destroyed in the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera.  

Today the Māori people continue to play a major part in the local tourism industry, opening up their homes and villages to guests and sharing their food, song and dance; arts including carving, weaving, tattoo, and weaponry; holistic knowledge such as Māori spirituality, massage and the medicinal use of native plants; as well as local history and legends. 

Spend the day with a Maori tohunga (healer or expert in their field) as you explore Rotorua from a unique Maori perspective.

Accommodation: Rotorua

Day 5: Rotorua to Whakatane

For around 55 days a year, Whakatane records the highest temperature in New Zealand. This sunny town is known for fishing trips and volcano visits. In Whakatāne, New Zealand’s longest continually occupied settlement and gateway to Whakaari (White Island), you will find the revered Mataatua Wharenui: a fully carved Māori ancestral house that travelled the world for over a century, before returning home to its people – the Ngāti Awa Māori tribe of the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Tonight we take a look at the stories of the arrival of the Maori in Aotearoa and what happened since. Mataatua is a remarkably personal encounter defined by a rich and genuine insight into a fascinating culture, the legendary story of the house that came home and the warmth of welcome as visitors arrive as strangers, but leave as friends.

Having now been connected to Mataatua and Te Manuka Tutahi in the heart of Whakatane you will be guided by us, on a walking journey, to explore some of the nearby sites of the ancestors of the local people from the tribe of Ngati Awa. 

Accommodation: Whakatane

Day 6: Whakatane - Day trip to Active Volcano

White Island appears on the horizon as a thick plume of smoke rising from the Pacific Ocean - the first visible sign of one of New Zealand’s most fascinating natural attractions. Māori called the island Whakaari meaning ‘that which can be made visible’ - most probably referring to the way the island disappeared and reappeared from behind the plumes of smoke and steam. According to Māori legend, Whakaari was sent from Hawaiki - traditional homeland of the Māori - as a gift of fire to warm an ancient high priest named Ngatoroirangi. Early Maori visited Whakaari for sulphur, which they used as manure on their mainland gardens, and to hunt birds - primarily mutton birds - that nested on the island.  

Take a Heli-hike (optional) to Whakaari (also known as White Island) and enjoy a 20-minute scenic flight to and from the island. You circle the island and view the volcano before landing in the sulphurous crater and explore its moon-like surface. There is an hours tour around the crater with your pilot/guide. You get to walk through the abandoned ruins of the sulphur factory, once a bustling hive of mining activity.

Or: Take a leisurely boat trip. There are also options for picnics in secluded beaches and a hike over the hills.

Accommodation: Whakatane 

Day 7: Whakatane - Day trip to Ohope Beach

Ohope Beach is nestled among the Pohutukawa trees with the offshore backdrop of volcanic islands Whakaari (White Island) and Motuhoroa (Whale Island). Ohiwa Harbour is one of the natural jewels of the region. The surrounding hills are dotted with pā sites, including Tauwhare Pā. Ohiwa is a haven for birdlife - godwits migrate from Alaska every season to nest on its shores. 

Ohiwa Harbour offers wonderful kayaking, with plenty of beaches to stop for a rest. There’s plenty of open paddling around high tide. Around low tide, there’s less choice but the channels are easier to follow and it’s easier to spot birdlife. Especially on an outgoing tide, the places you can paddle change very quickly. There are five main islands: Uretara, Ohakana, Hokianga and Pataua. Uretara is administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC) and you are welcome to explore this lovely pohutukawa-edged island. 

The Māori word for food is kai. Traditional kai involved food-gathering with extensive cultivation of the kumara (a sweet potato). Ti Kouka (cabbage tree) were also harvested for the Kauru and the Taproot, both of which were eaten. Eels (tuna) were a favourite food of the Māori along with the many fish species found around our coastline. Another prized food was titi, or muttonbird, which was preserved in a process known as pōhā tītī. Kai was an important part of festivals such as Matariki when people would gather to share entertainment, hospitality and knowledge at feasts. The Moon (Marama) is central to the of harvesting kai on the land and at sea.

Accommodation: Whakatane

Day 8: Whakatane - Day trip to Te Urewera

Explore the connection between art and activism, health and wellness and visit a unique art gallery and eco-building.  

The Tāneatua Gallery is a contemporary art gallery, exhibiting works by international artists, and emerging artists and shows. The Taneatua Gallery was established and is the result of a dream and a strong desire to support artists and the people of Tūhoe within the community. 

Ruatoki is located at the base of the Urewera Valley, approximately 20 km south of Whakatane. The predominantly Maori community of approximately 600 people affiliates with the Tūhoe iwi, with at least ten Maraes located in the area.

Te Urewera is an area of mostly forested, sparsely populated rugged hill country. The Te Urewera protects the largest area of native forest remaining in the North Island and is home to nearly all species’ of New Zealand native birds. It is the historical home of Tūhoe, a Māori iwi (tribe) known for their stance on Māori sovereignty. Because of its isolation and dense forest, Te Urewera remained largely untouched by British colonists until the early 20th century; in the 1880s it was still in effect under Māori control. Te Kooti, the Māori leader, found refuge there from his pursuers among Tuhoe, with whom he formed an alliance. Like the King Country at the time, few Pākehā were prepared to risk entering Te Urewera. 

Accommodation: Whakatane

Day 9: Whakatane - The Ohope Harbourside Trail

The Ohope Harbourside Trail officially opened in March 2018 and is the completion of a long-held dream of making the changing moods and estuarine beauty of the Ōhiwa Harbour more accessible. The Trail is 2.9-kilometres of the shared-use pathway that runs along the harbour edge, from Waterways Drive in the west to Port Ōhope Wharf. The Trail takes in views of the Ohiwa Harbour and the wildlife that call it home.  

Learn from the native locals how to make oil tree treatment. The NZ pepper tree or the Maori name Kawakawa is a native coastal shrub with aromatic heart-shaped leaves. The plant can be found along coastal cliffs, sand dunes and lowland forests. The fruit, bark and leaves all have medicinal properties. The leaves can be made into a tea by being steeped in hot water. Maori custom is to use the leaves as head wreaths for tangis (funeral ceremony), chew the leaves to reduce a toothache and to place leaves on fires to act as an insect repellent.

End your journey with a traditional BBQ with a few local musicians in the evening. 

Accommodation: Whakatane

Day 10: Whakatane departure

Your guide will connect you back with a flight to Auckland.

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