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Māori and Pasifika cultural experiences in Te Whanganui-a-Tara

Wellington, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, embraces diversity and is proud of the many cultures that make up our vibrant and inclusive city. Wellington offers many unique Māori and Pasifika experiences that will give you insight and understanding into cultures, languages, art that may be new to you. Meet new people, try new foods, ask questions and have an experience you'll never forget.

Interactive experiences

Te Hīkoi o Pūkaha

Join local Māori iwi (tribe) Rangitāne on a walk through the bush at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. Learn about wildlife, trees and traditional stories of the Tangata Whenua (people of the land). Listen to ancient stories of the Pūkaha forest. Discover Māori whakapapa (genealogy), spirituality and connection to place. Includes shared kai (food) of kawakawa tea and bread.

Māori hospitality on Kāpiti Island

Experience genuine Māori hospitality on a Kāpiti Island Nature Tour. The contemporary Māori whānau (extended family) have been hosting manuhiri (visitors) on Kapiti Island since 1820, telling the stories of the land, the history of their iwi (tribe) and the important conservation story of Kāpiti Island. You'll get an authentic whānau experience and be introduced to Māori culture through every day norms with a strong emphasis on manaakitanga (hospitality).

Māori Highlights Tour at Te Papa (He Haerenga Rūmakina ki te ao Māori)

Māori Highlights Tour at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the perfect way to enrich your understanding of what makes New Zealand’s Māori culture unique. Book in for one of the daily tours and go on an in-depth journey to discover Te Papa’s taonga (treasures) and hear stories giving insights into Māori culture.

Paddle a waka (canoe)

Take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to paddle a waka (a traditional Māori canoe) on Wellington harbour. Te Wharewaka o Poneke's friendly and encouraging staff will teach you the mihi whakatau (welcome ceremony), some basic te reo (Māori language) and show you the simple hīrau (paddle) movements required to paddle a waka. Then take the water as a team, for an unforgettable cultural experience on the water. 

New Zealand Parliament tour

The New Zealand parliamentary system has seven seats reserved for Māori Members of Parliament and Māori is an official language of New Zealand.  The Māori Affairs Committee Room, ’Māui Tikitiki-a-Taranga’ represents all of New Zealand’s tribes through stories and symbols incorporated into the weavings and carvings in the room.  The room is often visited on free guided tours of Parliament.

Arts, film and performance

Kia Mau Festival

A Wellington-only, innovative annual festival of theatre and dance performances by Māori, Pasifika, and indigenous artists and their companies from across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa and the globe. Kia Mau is a celebratory call to action, uplifting the voices and visibility of Māori, Pasifika and global Indigenous artists.

Māoriland Film Festival

Each March, Māoriland Film Festival brings the Indigenous world to Ōtaki on the Kāpiti Coast to celebrate indigenous creativity through screen storytelling. Since it began in 2014, the festival has grown to be the largest presenter of Indigenous screen content in the Southern Hemisphere, with a year-round programme of events. Throughout the year you can visit the Māoriland Hub, a vibrant space where visitors are encouraged to create, learn and be inspired by Indigenous creativity and innovation through film, art, technology, kōrero and more. 

See contemporary Māori and Pacific Art

Take a trip to Porirua to check out exhibitions of contemporary Māori and Pacific Arts at PĀTAKA Art + Museum, a lively hub of arts and culture in one of the most multi-cultural cities in New Zealand. In te reo Māori, a pātaka is a storage place for precious things - in this case, beautiful, challenging and inspiring art by artists from around the world. PĀTAKA Art + Museum is a place for visitors and the local community to engage with and celebrate diverse cultures.

Food experiences

Fine-dining Māori kai

Wellington chef Monique Fiso has received global acclaim for her innovative Māori kai, which you can experience for yourself at her restaurant Hiakai on Wallace Street. Fiso's boundary-pushing dishes showcase some of Aotearoa's indigenous ingredients and traditional cooking techniques to create dishes that show what modern New Zealand cuisine can be. Hiakai is a dining experience like no other and it's incredibly popular, so make sure you book well in advance. 

Have some hāngī at Karaka

Hāngī is a traditional Māori method of cooking, where food is wrapped in leaves or cloth and steamed underground in hot stone ovens. Try hāngī for yourself at Karaka Café at Te Wharewaka o Pōneke on Wellington's waterfront. Karaka's signature dish is a café version of a traditional hāngī meal, including rewena (Māori potato bread) or legendary fry bread. Finish your meal off with a purini (golden syrup steamed pudding) and you'll be ready for a moe (sleep)! 

Sample Pacific-inspired food

lulu bar

Inspired by the islands of the Pacific, from Hawaii to Aotearoa, Lulu is a fresh new dining and cocktail experience on Courtenay Place. Lulu’s semi-tropical enclosed courtyard is the perfect spot for a drink and a bite, while the intimate indoors spaces are made for settling in for a feast of Oceanic-inspired eats.

On Saturday mornings, head to Porirua's Saturday Market and immerse yourself in Pacific culture, music and flavours. Visit Samoa's Finest (Commerce Crescent, Waitangirua) to try traditional Samoan panikeke, a fried banana pancake. 

Museum experiences

Te Taiao Nature

Te Taiao Nature at Te Papa is a bold and immersive journey through the natural world of Aotearoa New Zealand, combining cutting-edge science with mātauranga Māori. This exhibition explores the natural world using the concepts of mātauranga Māori. Mauri is an energy which binds and animates all things in the physical world. Without mauri, mana cannot flow into a person or object.

Wellington Museum

Wellington Museum offers a wonderful insight into the rich social and cultural history of Wellington. A favourite with visitors is 'A Millennium Ago', a dramatic installation that uses holographic effects to tell Māori creation legends including the taniwha that created Wellington’s harbour.

Historical experiences

See a beautiful pātaka (store house)

Visit The Dowse Art Museum to see Nuku Tewhatewha, a nationally significant pātaka (Māori store house, usually for food) which was built in 1856. No ordinary food store, this beautifully carved tāonga (treasure) has had a long symbolic history linked to the history of Māori leadership throughout Aotearoa. 

See the Treaty of Waitangi

See the original Treaty of Waitangi up-close at the National Library of New Zealand’s permanent exhibition, He Tohu. Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi, is the agreement that Aotearoa New Zealand is built on and was first signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands on 6 February 1840. As well an opportunity to view the treaty, He Tohu is an interactive, hands-on exhibition that gives historical insight into the treaty and its implications in Aotearoa New Zealand since its signing. 

Te Raukura/Te Wharewaka o Poneke

This distinctive contemporary building, conceived as a feather cloak laid across the landscape, is located on Wellington’s waterfront on the former site of Te Aro Pa, a large Māori community until the 1880s. The Wharewaka (waka house) holds two ceremonial waka and is open daily to the public. Traditional Māori cuisine, including hangi, can be enjoyed in the adjoining Karaka Cafe. 

Celebrate and commemorate

Wellington's Pasifika Festival

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Experience the sights, sounds and flavours of the wider Pacific region at the Wellington Pasifika Festival held in late January each year. Experience performances by traditional and contemporary Pacific artists, enjoy delicious Pacific region food and take part in free family-friendly activities. 

Commemorate Waitangi Day

Waitangi 1

Waitangi Day is the national day of New Zealand and commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February, 1840. Wellington celebrates Te Rā o Waitangi with a day of music, dance, craft and kai (food) at Waitangi Park on the waterfront. Waitangi Day is the perfect opportunity to go and see the Treaty of Waitangi at He Tohu at the National Library. 

Celebrate Aotearoa's midwinter festival

matariki pleiades full size NASA

Matariki is Aotearoa's own homegrown midwinter celebration held every June and July. Matariki – also known as the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades – is a cluster of stars that becomes visible in the sky during winter, heralding the Māori New Year (here's a handy vid on how to spot the Matariki star cluster). Wellington puts on an array of events to celebration Matariki, from fireside rituals at Te Papa, to concerts, to stargazing at Space Place