At this interesting heritage village beside Lake Rotorua see a traditional Māori meeting house, including an unusual church, and experience modern-day Māori life.
Ohinemutu is a small part of the city of Rotorua where ancient and modern Māori culture lives on. Providing an insight into both the past and present way of Māori life, it’s a cultural experience not to be missed. Just like the rest of the Rotorua city center, Ohinemutu sees small pockets of geothermal activity and has wonderful views of Lake Rotorua.
Take a walk along the lake from the center of Rotorua to reach the small settlement. Home to the Ngāti Whakaue people, Ohinemutu is centered on the fascinating Te Papaiouru Marae. A “marae” is a traditional complex of a meeting house with courtyard and any other associated community buildings.
Looking at the intricately painted buildings with wood-carved decorations, you can see how important these are to the local community. The most striking of all is the Tama-te-Kapua meeting house. The meeting house was named after the legendary chief and captain of the Te Arawa “waka” (canoe), which brought the first inhabitants to New Zealand. Notice the inlaid paua shells and the delicate carvings that adorn the façade.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the unusual St. Faith’s Church, which was built on the lake’s shore in 1914. Its Tudor-style exterior, common in England, gives way to an interior with a strong Māori influence. Its most famous feature is a stained-glass window depicting Jesus Christ wearing a Māori cloak. The position of the window gives the impression of Jesus walking on the lake’s surface.
As you stroll around the village, hear and smell the geothermal activity, bubbling up through the Earth’s surface. The site of Ohinemutu was chosen to take advantage of these thermal waters for bathing, cooking and heating.
Ohinemutu is only a short walk from central Rotorua. If driving, there is a small parking lot next to the Māori handcrafts shop. The meeting house is not open to the public, but the church is. A donation is kindly requested. As a living and working suburb, Ohinemutu is permanently open and free of charge, but the villagers ask you to respect their privacy as you walk around.