Mine Bay Māori rock carvings

The giant Mine Bay Māori rock carving of Ngātoroirangi on Lake Taupō has been hailed as one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary Māori artworks. Towering 14-metres above the deep water of Lake Taupō, the carving has become one of the North Island’s biggest tourist attractions.

About the Mine Bay Māori rock carvings

When traditional marae-taught carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell paddled past a rock alcove on Lake Taupō in 1976, he had a vision of a tattooed face. 

His grandmother, Te Huatahi Susie Gilbert of Ngati Rauhoto, Ngati Tūwharetoa, Ngati Maiotaki and Ngati Whakaue, had asked the young carver to create a likeness of her ancestor Ngātoroirangi on a totara tree to create a permanent connection for her family to the land. When Matahi arrived in Taupō there was no totara tree to carve so he journeyed onto the lake for inspiration.

The rock alcove at Mine Bay became the canvas for one of the most extraordinary contemporary artworks New Zealand has ever seen. Sculpted over the course of four years and completed in 1980, Matahi led a team of four artists, Jono Randell, Te Miringa Hohaia, Dave Hegglun and Steve Myhre, to create a spectacular carving of Ngātoroirangi on the rock face.

Wearing nothing but safety goggles and a pair of speedos, the carvers marked out the artwork using chalk, string lines and spray paint, then sculpted it by hand.

Surrounding Ngātoroirangi are smaller sculptures. These carvings depict tupuna (ancestors) and kaitiaki (guardians) that are pivotal to the history of the local Maori tribe. 

Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell: the artist        

Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell is one of the last traditional marae-taught carvers (Tohunga Whakairo) in New Zealand. As a 27th generation descendant of Ngātoroirangi, Matahi is passionate about his Māori heritage and is considered one of the fifty most remarkable people in New Zealand.

He is also the founder of waka ama in New Zealand, the sport of competitive racing of traditional Polynesian canoes, and was awarded the prestigious Blue Water Medal by the Royal Akarana Yacht Club in 1989 for his meritorious sailing from Tahiti to New Zealand in his hand-built 21m twin-hulled canoe called Hawaikinui.  

How to get to the carvings:

The Mine Bay Māori rock carvings are accessible by boat only, and can be reached by taking a scenic cruise, sailing or kayaking trip from Taupō Boat Harbour.

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  • Boat Cruises

    Chris Jolly Outdoors Taurikura Maori Cultural Scenic Cruise Experience

    Hear the songs and stories of ancient Tuwharetoa, participate in interactive Maori performances and traditional games, learn to work the poi and even get your own moko tattoo on this special Lake Taupo Maori culture scenic cruise.

    $45 - $55
  • Cultural Attractions

    Chris Jolly Outdoors Lake Taupo Scenic Cruises

    Cruise to the famous Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings and around the picturesque bays of Lake Taupo. A full commentary is given on the volcanic history and Maori mythology surrounding Lake Taupo. Great for families and those who want comfort on the water

    $40 - $46
  • Kayaking

    Kayak to the Maori Rock Carvings

    Glide your kayak across stunning Lake Taupo while taking in all the beautiful views of the surrounding coastline and neighboring mountains before getting up close and personal to the iconic Maori Rock Carvings on our fully guided kayaking tour.

    $99
  • Boat Cruises

    Chris Jolly Outdoors Knight Rider Scenic Cruise - Lake Taupo

    Cruise on Lake Taupo under the moonlight to the Maori Rock Carvings on Chris Jolly Outdoors Knight Rider Scenic Cruise, a "first of a kind" experience that is only available on board Cruise Cat.

    $46
  • Cultural Attractions

    Maori Rock Carvings with Taupo Kayaking Adventures

    Let us take you on a 1/2 day adventure kayaking to the impressive 14m high Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay, Lake Taupo. Only accessible by water, a visit to the carvings is one of the must do activity in Taupo.

    $100
  • Cultural Attractions

    Ernest Kemp Scenic Cruise Lake Taupo

    Daily Scenic Cruises to the Maori Rock Carvings. Ernest Kemp replica Steamboat. 4 cruises daily during summer months. 2 cruises daily during winter months. Get close to view the carvings. Departs daily 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm, & 5pm Cocktail Cruise.

    $35 - $44
  • Kayaking

    Canoe and Kayak Taupo: Twilight on the Lake Tour

    End your day on the crystal clear waters of Great Lake Taupo on our fully guided Twilight on the Lake tour. Glide across New Zealand’s largest lake while taking in the spectacular views of the sun setting beyond the mountains.

    $79
  • Scenic Flights

    Taupo's Floatplane

    Spectacular flying experiences. Floatplane flights over the snow capped volcanoes of Tongariro National Park, Mt Tarawera, Huka Falls and Lake Taupo. An unforgettable experience.

    $109 - $830
  • Boat Cruises

    Chris Jolly Outdoors Sunday Kiwiana Brunch Cruise

    Enjoy the tastes of traditional Kiwi cuisine and get to know what it really means to be Kiwi on our Sunday Kiwiana Brunch Cruise.

    $40 - $64
  • Sailing

    Sail Fearless Maori Rock Carvings Tours

    "Be Fearless" and take an amazing sailing trip on Great Lake Taupo, sailing to the Maori Rock carvings. It's a great affordable and family friendly cruise.

    $29 - $59

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