61. Marvel at Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings
Māori culture can – and should – be experienced in all forms across the country: from the historical to the geothermal and, in some cases literally carved into the storied landscape: here is No. 61 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
The imposing Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupō have been hailed as one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary Māori artworks. Rising 14 metres above the deep, blue waters of Lake Taupō, artist Matahi Whakataka- Brightwell’s intricate carvings have become one of the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui’s most iconic attractions for locals and visitors alike.
The carvings depict the likeness of Ngātoroirangi, a Māori navigator who guided the Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupō area from the traditional homeland of Hawaiki. Whakataka-Brightwell, a traditional marae-taught carver who is a 27th generation descendant of Ngātoroirangi, first envisioned a carving on the rock alcove at Mine Bay in 1976. It took him four summers working with artists Jono Randell, Te Miringa Hohaia, Dave Hegglun and Steve Myhre to finally complete the carvings in 1980. The fact the carvings are accessible only by water adds to the drama and impact of the experience of seeing the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings.
You can choose to arrive by yacht on an eco-conscious scenic cruise, take a larger cruise boat tour, or climb aboard the Ernest Kemp, a replica steamboat, to take the trip, with some boats providing the opportunity to jump in for a swim in the cool waters or try to catch a trout along the way. Another popular way to arrive here is by kayak, paddling into the bay and floating close to the rock face to get a privileged view of these amazing carvings from below.
Located in Timaru in the South Island/Te Waipounamu, Te Ana Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art takes pride in being the kaitiaki (guardians) of some of the most significant ancient Māori rock art in the country. The collection of eight tribal taonga (treasures) were cut from their original sites over a century ago before eventually being returned to their home and their people.
Te Ana’s local Ngāi Tahu guides, descendants of the people who created the artworks, will take you on an immersive journey through the history and culture of their people at its state-of-the-art cultural centre. By retracing the seasonal journeys of the Ngāi Tahu, exploring the practice of rock drawing and getting hands-on with history-making your own rock art, holding an ancient moa bone (huge flightless birds endemic to New Zealand that are now extinct) and sheltering from Pouākai, the giant eagle of Polynesian mythology, in the cave of the Taniwha (a supernatural creature similar to a dragon in Māori tradition) – you’ll gain an insight into the stories and traditions that have been shared and practised here for multiple centuries. Te Ana also offers tours to the Ōpihi rock art sites from November to April, or by arrangement (this is a self-drive tour following Te Ana guides in your own car), to view works painted on the walls and ceilings of limestone caves by Ngāi Tahu ancestors.