From the traditional hangi (earth oven) to foraging for ingredients harvested from the land and water, there are many ways to experience the culinary traditions of New Zealand’s Māori people.
New Zealand is known for incredible restaurants that draw their influences from around the world, but the indigenous Māori people also possess a tradition of food and hospitality that is uniquely their own and which boasts flavours found nowhere else in the world.
Waka on the Waitemata – Auckland
Long before Auckland became New Zealand's largest and most cosmopolitan city, it was a haven of plenty for the Māori tribes who inhabited its gentle coastline.
It’s on the beautiful Waitemata Harbour that a new cultural experience ‘Waka on the Waitemata’ blends history and tradition with an authentically inspired combo featuring a waka (traditional canoe) voyage and Māori cuisine experience hosted by Big Foody.
As the hosts tell tales of the ancient waka migration across the vast Pacific Ocean to the shores of Aotearoa, their guests enjoy spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and dine on Māori cuisine featuring hangi (earth oven) and seafood seasoned with native herbs and spices.
Setting sail from the heart of downtown Auckland, Waka on the Waitemata's half-day tour is a great introduction to Auckland – famous for fantastic shopping, cultural festivals, theatre productions and more.
Charles Royal’s Māori Food Tour - Rotorua
As the original supplier of Māori herbs and spices in New Zealand, Māori chef Charles Royal is an expert when it comes to New Zealand's unique flavours.
Royal’s Māori Food Tour transports travellers into a foraging tradition stretching back into time, gathering pikopiko (fern fronds), horopito (Māori bush pepper) and kawakawa (Māori bush basil) from the bush encircling beautiful Lake Rotoiti as he demonstrates how Māori lived and survived on the bounty of the land.
It all comes together in a delicious array of kawakawa shortbread, forest-infused dips, freshly trapped eel, kawakawa chicken and horopito hot smoked beef followed by a visit to the geo-thermally heated Soda Springs pools for a relaxing soak.
Setting off from Rotorua, the Charles Royal tour is a great starting point for learning about Māori culture and Rotorua offers a wealth of options to expand that education, with historic villages and cultural shows on offer.
Treetops Estate Wild Food Cooking - Rotorua
Nestled in the heart of a vast 2500-acre estate, exploring Treetops Estate is a 4WD trip through a forest filled with wild deer, pigs and game birds, streams and waterways teeming with trout, freshwater crayfish and eels.
It is deep in the heart of this estate that guests can experience living Māori culture on a one-hour bush walk foraging for native bush delicacies, herbs and spices to take back to Treetops Kitchen where world-class chefs combine the ingredients into memorable meals.
Located to the south-west of Rotorua, Treetops Estate makes the most of its wild location, offering guests a wide array of experiences on the estate in addition to its culinary offerings including hiking, horse trekking, hunting, archery and more.
NativConnectionz - Whakatane
NativConnectionz tours originate in a place which is hugely significant in the history of Māori cuisine and manaakitanga (hospitality) and traces back to very early Māori settlement.
Guests are invited to a family homestead in the Māori village of Wairaka, ancient site of the garden of Matirerau and the place where New Zealand's first kumara (sweet potato) was planted nearly 800-years-ago.
There visitors can roll up their sleeves and help create a hangi (earth oven) then, while it steams to perfection, they will hear ancestral tales of nearby Whakatane's ancient history before returning to savour an unforgettable meal of slow-cooked pork, chicken and beef with kumara, potatoes, pumpkin and stuffing.
Set near the sun-soaked town of Whakatane (an easy 90-minute road trip from either Tauranga or Rotorua), a NativConnectionz hangi is perfect as part of an exploration of the area's long white-sand beaches, forests walks, and the off-shore active volcano White Island.
Nestled on the western edge of the clear waters of sacred Lake Tarawera, Pounamu Lodge provides a window into the ancient traditions of Māori manaakitanga (hospitality) through authentic home-cooked Māori kai (food) in a charmingly rustic location.
Host Karen Walmsley shows off a green-thumb, growing a range of Māori herbs and spices which she uses to prepare breakfasts each day, and when guests return from the nearby streams with fresh trout she is happy to share some tried and true ways of using those fresh Māori herbs to create one-of-a-kind culinary experiences such as smoked trout and kawakawa bread.
Located south-east of Rotorua, Lake Tarawera is reached via a short drive through beautiful green forests. Its central location makes it ideal for visitors wanting to explore the area's majestic natural sights including Mount Tarawera and towering forests penetrated by many walking tracks.