Experience an authentically Aotearoa welcome to New Zealand
June 7, 2023
Haere mai! Welcome to New Zealand, or Aotearoa as it’s known in our indigenous Māori language. If it’s your first time visiting our corner of the world, New Zealand is ready to welcome you with open arms. Whether on a quick trip to see the highlights or you have plenty of time up your sleeves; we encourage you to arrive curious, eager to discover our rich cultural and natural history, and ready to hear stories that will intrigue and inspire. Come and connect with the people and places that make the country unique – here’s a few of our top spots to kick start your voyage of discovery around New Zealand.
Start your engines in Auckland
Firstly, it’s time to get your bearings! Most international flights land in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Head up the top of the Sky Tower, the328-metre-tall structure that’s the highest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. You’ll be greeted with breathtaking 360° views of ancient volcanos and sparkling harbours. While you’re there, check out the All Blacks Experience for a journey through our rich rugby heritage. As the ‘unofficial religion’ of Aotearoa, it’s a sport close to the hearts of Kiwis – so take the chance to test out your own rugby skills! Learn the story and feel the passion of the iconic haka – the ceremonial Māori war dance that showcases pride, strength and unity while setting a challenge to the opposition.
Learn all about our history
Now, it’s time to head North, and travel back to New Zealand’s early days. A visit to Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a must-do for visitors from near and far – it’s widely-regarded as the nation’s most important historic site. It’s here in the Bay of Islands where the history of modern-day Aotearoa began, with the 1840 signing of the founding document between local Māori chiefs and the British Crown.
Spend a day enriching your knowledge and understanding of the stories of Waitangi – with two fascinating museums, live carving demonstrations, Māori cultural performances in Te Whare Rūnanga and a ceremonial waka (war canoe) proudly on display. A visit to Waitangi will not only introduce you to the history of Aotearoa, but also encourage you to reflect on your own cultural connections, whakapapa (genealogy) and tūrangawaewae (sense of identity/home).
Make your way to Wellington, the capital city, to see the original Treaty of Waitangi itself. Housed in He Tohu, this engaging exhibition is where three of New Zealand’s most precious and important documents are presented – a declaration, a treaty and a petition which have each played a pivotal role in shaping our nation.
Wellington is also home to Te Papa, our national museum that translates to ‘container of treasures’ and brings the stories of New Zealand’s land and people to life. Be educated, inspired, and challenged as you soak up six stories of exhibits ranging from New Zealand’s quirky wildlife and unique landscapes through to our cultural diversity and extraordinary events.
Immerse yourself in Māori marvels
Core to New Zealand society is the role of Māori culture. As tangata whenua (indigenous people) of the country; the language, customs and influence of Maoridom is interwoven throughout daily life and is a key part of any visitor experience. There are plenty of locations across Aotearoa where you can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the culture – by witnessing a traditional performance, learning some of the Te reo Māori language, and sampling scrumptious kai (food).
A pōwhiri is a centrepiece of New Zealand’s manaakitanga (hospitality to new guests) – a welcoming ceremony that invites you onto a traditional meeting place. These usually include whaikōrero (formal speeches), karanga (a welcoming call), waiata(singing) – and of course, plenty of shared food. It’s an incredibly powerful tradition to spectate and be part of, being formally greeted as manuhiri (a visitor)to our sacred places. Other ways to experience Māori song and dance are through poi and kapa haka.
Finally, a trip to Aotearoa wouldn’t be complete without tasting traditional kai. Hāngī (an earth oven) is perhaps the most common of these. Heated stones are placed inside a pit dug in the ground and wrapped baskets of meats and vegetables are placed inside to cook for several hours, resulting in a mouth-wateringly tender meal infused with smoky flavours. More than just a delicious feed, it’s also a way of connecting communities and bringing visitors and hosts together.
Popular spots to experience hāngī include Waitangi Treaty Grounds’ seasonal offering accompanied by a captivating live concert, or one of the many Māori villages in Rotorua. It’s here where the unique geothermal properties of the area mean that the hāngī is cooked using natural thermal steam, for an unbeatable taste.