History and culture holidays in New Zealand
When Captain Cook arrived in New Zealand in 1769 the Maoris had already been there for 400 years or so, having arrived from Polynesia in ocean-going canoes. The symbols of Maori culture are pervasive in modern New Zealand, and there are a great many sites that are worth making the time to explore. Our holidays also incorporate tours through some of the country's most beautiful regions.
Visit Hamilton and Waikato, home to the king of the Maori
Until the 19th century, the Maori were a number of often quite separate tribes, each with their own chief. However, growing European settlement around Hamilton lead to some of the tribes uniting to make a Kingitanga, or kingship. Hamilton is also the region that was thought to be the landing spot of the very first canoes to arrive from Polynesia. Some more recent canoes – though still 200 years old - can be seen in the Waikato Museum. If you can visit in the middle of March, the highlight of the area is the annual Turangawaewae Regatta – a spectacle of Maori war canoes racing on the Waikato river.
Hear the story of New Zealand, as told by Maori people
As with many cultures of Polynesian origin, Maori storytelling reflects the culture’s relationship with the sea, the most famous story being how the demi-god Maui fished the North Island from the sea. Seeking to eclipse his envious brothers, who had also gone out fishing, Maui fashioned a hook from an ancient jawbone and eventually caught a massive fish, the head of which is said to be the North Island of the country – the South being Maui’s canoe, or Te Waka a Maui in Maori. Visit the renowned Waitangi Treaty Grounds, or take a guided tour through the Northland’s Waipoua forest, complete with stories of Maori legend, to get a strong sense of New Zealand's heritage.
Let us tailor make your trip with an even balance of culture and nature
Our New Zealand travel consultants can help advise you on how best to incorporate historical sites on your trip – in particular how to get the most from your holiday while still relaxing, and enjoying high-end accommodation throughout your journey.
Our top itineraries for New Zealand History and culture
With boutique hotel stays and car hire included throughout, this curated road trip perfectly showcases the unique cultures and natural wonders of New Zealand's North and South islands.
This tailor-made holiday combines the best that Australia and New Zealand have to offer. You'll explore New Zealand's world-famous glaciers and remote fjords with a self-drive before discovering Australia's sacred Ayers Rock, stunning beaches and delightful waterside cities.
A tip-to-toe tour of New Zealand, taking in the best of its landscapes and culture, and calling into filming locations from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.