Where: Tuarangawaewae Marae, nr. Hamilton, North Island, New Zealand.
When: Annually in mid-March.
What happens? A rowing regatta to honour the Maori Queen.
Remember to bring: A big appetite so you can sample traditional Maori food and drink.
The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and make up 15% of the total population. Traditional Maori customs play an important part in Kiwi cultural heritage and are an unmissable part of any trip to New Zealand.
The annual regatta at Tuarangawaewae Marae on North Island takes place every year in mid-March, and offers a fantastic day trip out from nearby Hamilton. The Marae is the traditional home of the local Maori Queen who heads up four major Maori tribes: the Waikato, Maniapoto, Hauraki and Raukawa – all of whom are directly descended from the early settlers who arrived by canoe from the Polynesian islands in the South Pacific.
During the day, there are plenty of rowing races and entertainment to honour the Queen. The highlight of the event is the journey down river of the elaborately carvedwar canoes, with accompanying traditional invocations and rituals. Along the banks of the river, as well as having a prime view of the racing, you can cheer on the champions in the log chopping contests, listen to traditional Maori songs and enjoy a picnic of traditional fare from the many food and drinks stalls.
Entry to the event is free – you just need to make a small donation on the door. The Regatta offers not only a thoroughly entertaining day out but a real, authentic experience of Maori culture.
For other insights into Maori culture, other must-see-and dos include:
Te Puia in Rotorua for greenstone carving, concerts and geothermal activity.
Waitangi National Reserve, Northland: The Treaty of Waitangi was signed here in 1840, whereby the Maori sold their land and handed over the governorshop of New Zealand to the British in return for protection of Maori tribal authority.
main image: courtesy of Michael Coghlan, Flickr Creative Commons