European exploration

When Europeans arrived in New Zealand, most of the country was already known to Māori. Yet throughout the 19th century, a number of European men set out on journeys of exploration.

Part of story: European exploration

Geological exploration

The early naturalists and geologists who explored New Zealand were energetic and dedicated. They sketched, made notes, plotted maps and published reports on volcanoes, river terraces, oil seeps and mineral ores.

Part of story: Geological exploration

Exploration traditions

When the Polynesian ancestors of Māori first arrived in New Zealand, they explored the coastline in ancestral canoes. Later they travelled by foot around coastal and inland areas.

Part of story: Ngā waewae tapu – Māori exploration

Early explorers

The earliest European names were given by explorers. They follow the coast or places that could be seen from it, such as mountains.

Part of story: Place names

French explorers

The French became interested in the Pacific at about the same time as the English. Louis Antoine de Bougainville crossed the Pacific on his 1766–69 voyage, in the wake of British explorer John Byron.

Part of story: European discovery of New Zealand

Why explore?

While research suggests how the Pacific was probably settled, it is harder to explain why.

Part of story: Pacific migrations

Northern explorers

Tōhē Tōhē, a chief of the Ngāti Kahu people, lived at Maunga Piko in Kapowairua Bay. When he was very old he announced his intention to travel south and see his only daughter,

Part of story: Ngā waewae tapu – Māori exploration

Explorers after Cook

Because James Cook had done such a thorough job of charting New Zealand, explorers and navigators who came to New Zealand after him tended to use the country as a base or way station to other more challenging destina

Part of story: European discovery of New Zealand

Discovery and exploration

New Zealand writing about history has often distinguished between ‘discovery’, which included initial surveys by sea, and ‘exploration’ – travelling on land through an area to learn about it.

Part of story: European exploration

Early European exploration

The travelling naturalists Although there was considerable knowledge of minerals and fossils at the end of the 18th century, geology had not

Part of story: Geological exploration

Explorers and missionaries


Part of story: French