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.
The beautiful panoramic views of Great Lake Taupo. There’s no better way to experience this natural wonder than on the water itself. For a truly unique sailing experience – Sail Barbary to the Maori Rock Carvings or enjoy a Private Charter.$49 - $54
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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