New Zealand's rich traditional culture is the fascinating Maori culture of the indigenous people. Marae's or 'meeting places' are scattered throughout the country including Nga Hau e Wha, New Zealand's biggest marae, in Christchurch. There are a great range of attractions and tours available to introduce you to this friendly and unique culture including welcoming ceremonies known as powhiri and a traditional hangi, a feast cooked underground in an earth oven. Rotorua is another ideal destination to experience the Maori culture with plenty of interactive experiences on offer including staying overnight in a marae, learning a waiata (song) and even learning about traditional weaving, carving and weaponry.
New Zealand's culture is also based around a variety of handmade arts and crafts representing the country's Maori and European heritage. Handcrafted by local artists, stuffed and wooden toys, jewellery, knitted and wool products and pottery are all available for purchase. You can also pick up replicas of ancient artefacts and new crafts in both modern and traditional designs. The Maori Arts and Crafts Institute is a popular attraction in Rotorua and offers visitors the opportunity to see skilled Maori weavers and carvers at work. In Nelson, there is also a thriving creative community of proud working artists who are only too happy to show off their work.
New Zealand's rich European and Maori cultural heritage is reflected in its major museums, many of which are located in main cities although there are also some great local museums too. Auckland Museum is home to a collection of Polynesian and Maori artefacts while in Wellington Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand is a fantastic experience offering a hands-on museum with interactive technology combining an exciting mix of art and history. Christchurch's Canterbury Museum is more focussed on Antarctica with its collection centred around the many expeditions made to this sub-continent.