The Māori name for the North Island of New Zealand is Te Ika-a-Maui – the fish of Maui. Here’s how it got its name.

Maui was a demigod in Māori mythology – a clever trickster famed for his many great deeds. One day Maui’s big brothers set off on a fishing trip, and told Maui he wasn’t allowed to come. So he hid in the bottom of their waka (canoe) until it was far out to sea. When he revealed himself, his brothers were furious! They wouldn’t give him bait or a hook, so Maui used his grandmother’s magical jawbone, baited with his own blood. With these tools he caught an enormous fish and hauled it up to the surface.

Maui went to fetch the rest of the village to join in the feast. Meanwhile his greedy brothers began to carve up the fish for themselves. They hacked into it with their weapons, creating great chunks and jagged edges. This is how the North Island got its bumpy terrain of mountains, valleys, lakes and cliffs.

If you look at a map of the North Island you can see the fish, with its tail at the top and its head at the south. Its fins on either side form Taranaki and the East Coast.

Travelling the North Island

You can explore Maui’s catch by bus with InterCity’s Big Fish TravelPass. Take in highlights of the North Island, from Auckland all the way down to Wellington inside the fish’s mouth.

On the way you’ll pass through the diverse countryside created by Maui’s brothers, from lush rural countryside in the Waikato (where you’ll take a guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set) through to the volcanic plateau of Rotorua and Taupo and the gorges and hill ranges that form the spine of Te Ika-a-Maui.

Find out more about InterCity’s North Island TravelPasses.

Posted by Backpacker Bus

When it comes to New Zealand (and backpacking in general), we've been there, done that and got the t-shirt! We love sharing our knowledge about New Zealand with fellow backpackers.

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