Mataatua is a large, fantastically carved 1875 wharenui (meeting house) that is the centrepiece of Te Mānuka Tūtahi marae (traditional meeting place). The remarkable story of 'the house that came home' is told in the neighbouring visitor centre through displays and a fascinating eight-minute movie. To visit the wharenui you'll need to take an hour-long guided tour (usually at noon and 2pm; call ahead), which starts with a powhiri (traditional welcoming ceremony).
In 1879 Mataatua was dismantled and sent to Sydney, much to the consternation of the local Ngāti Awa people whose ancestors it embodied. Adding insult to injury, it was re-erected inside out, exposing its precious interior carvings to the harsh Australian elements. After a stint in Melbourne it was sent to London and ended up spending 40 years in the Victoria & Albert Museum cellars. After 71 years in the Otago Museum, where it was cut down to fit the space, it finally came home in 2011.
Visits can be combined with the 90-minute 'Footsteps of Our Ancestors' walking tour, taking in nearby sites of cultural significance.