Discovering Maori Culture in New Zealand

Treetops Lodge and Estate on the North Island provides the perfect backdrop to explore the spectacular history of New Zealand’s native population, the Maori.

The thermal region of Rotorua, located on the North Island, offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to discover the majestic beauty of the countryside and the rich history of New Zealand’s native population, the Maori. A third of Rotorua’s 70,000 residents are of Maori descent, the highest percentage in any New Zealand city. An easy hour flight from Auckland, Rotorua reigns as “Trout Fishing Capital of the World” (there are 11 major lakes), and is famous for adventure sports like Zorbing—a recreational activity that involves rolling down an incline in an inflatable, usually transparent, double-hulled sphere. True Kiwi hospitality greets visitors upon arrival; Kiwis (nicknamed after the country’s national bird, not the fruit) are incredibly friendly people and eager to share their bountiful country with others.

The ultimate place to stay on the North Island is Treetops Lodge and Estate, a 30-minute drive from Rotorua. This luxury eco-lodge is a testament to preservation, with a keen regard to the indigenous plants and animals of the region. The owner, Jon Sax, was committed to creating a resort without causing harm to its natural inhabitants or damaging the existing flora; he even went so far as to plant an additional 70,000 trees around the property. The end result is a magnificent array of nature that offers myriad activities. There are seven streams, four lakes, three waterfalls, and 60 miles of walking track shielded by fern trees.

The resort aimed to create an eco-park, combining an atmosphere of five-star luxury with New Zealand’s stunning temperate rainforest. From the light sensors to the thermally heated floors, the interiors of Treetops are equally striking and environmentally friendly. A natural stream and man-made waterfall surround the entrance to the stone and timber lodge. Comfortable, natural elegance is the theme, with 35-foot ceilings, a large stone fireplace, native wood furniture, carved beams and cozy oversized couches.

Treetops’ unique ecological surroundings provide something compelling for everyone, with plenty of adventure and therapeutic healing readily available. Activities include horseback riding, clay-target shooting, trout and salt-water fishing, wine tasting, and photographic safaris. One of the most enriching experiences is learning about New Zealand’s native population, the Maori.

The Maori culture is rife with natural healing remedies and treatments, and Treetops offers an educational excursion called the Maori Indigenous Food Trail, located in the ancient wilderness surrounding Treetops Lodge. Led by Charles Royal, a leading expert in local ecology, Charles has more than 20 years experience with Maori food and was awarded New Zealand’s 2003 Innovative Chef of the Year. He created the excursion exclusively for Treetops, as guests trek through the estate’s 800-year-old forests, and even pass the 80-foot cascade, Bridal Vail waterfall, sampling unusual ingredients, and searching for exotic plants that have been used by the Maori since they migrated from Polynesia more than a millennium ago. New Zealand has over 200 varieties of ferns – the largest collection in the world – and only seven of these are edible. Charles teaches guests about the indigenous herbs and plants, and points out that newborn fern fronds called the “koru” represents the Maori symbol for new life, growth, and peace. The koru is found on many Maori carvings, along with gracing Air New Zealand’s tail.

Back at the resort, many of the native herbs and ingredients traditionally used by the Maori are incorporated into the food. In keeping with Treetops’ eco-friendly ethos, a key focus of the fine cuisine is that it is prepared with locally grown produce; the chef also uses fresh game caught on the property. Before guests head out for the day, a member of the staff describes the daily menu, and a delectable five-course meal awaits every evening. Superior service adds to the seamless experience throughout Treetops, and the friendly Kiwi hospitality makes guests feel relaxed and at home.

Treetops also arranges for Maori cultural tours around Rotorua.  Below are a few recommended places where visitors can discover even more about this unique culture:

Te Puia

This Maori arts and crafts institute allows guests to discover Maori songs and traditional dances, as well as the national carving and weaving schools.

Mokoia Island Wai Ora Experiences

Take a boat cruise to the sacred island of the Te Arawa people, located in the middle of Lake Rotorua. A guide will explain the legends of the tribal people whom used to live on the island, as well as indigenous food tasting, or a hot soak in the Hinemoa’s Pool.

Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

This living Maori village is situated in the heart of Rotorua and offers guided tours twice a day with cultural performances. Learn how the Maori live in harmony with Mother Nature. A typical package offered includes a guided tour, cultural performance and a Hangi lunch (traditional Maori food).

For more information and booking visit Treetops Lodge & Estate in Rotorua, New Zealand. Rates start at US$573 for single occupancy.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by team wandermelon, Ann Wycoff. Ann Wycoff said: Discovering Maori Culture in New Zealand: Treetops Lodge and Estate on the North Island provides the perfect bac… http://bit.ly/bU4ZlW […]

  2. Maori Haka on December 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Amazing pictures. Nature is really attractive and eye-catching in New Zealand as its culture and history.

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