Te Wharewaka o Pōneke Māori cultural experiences

Unique Māori cultural experiences on land and water in the heart of Wellington

Wharewaka Walking Tours Hongi

Where

Wellington waterfront

Location

2 Taranaki Street

Accessibility

Wheelchair accessible

Once you’ve seen the surface of Wellington, go deep into its rich history on a cultural waka (canoe) or walking tour with Te Wharewaka o Pōneke. These tours share stories of the city’s Māori past, local iwi Te Atiawa and explain how it has led to its contemporary culture.

Te Wharewaka o Pōneke is a distinctive building located by Whairepo Lagoon on the site where Te Aro Pā, one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington up until the 1880s, was located. This spectacular building houses four waka as well as a café and function centre and is where the tours begin.

BE Te Wharewaka tour people on waka
Te Wharewaka o Poneke building front
Waterfront lagoon Boatshed Te Wharewaka
Poneke Waka Tours

Walking tours

Ariki Brightwell, who is a kaiārahi (guide) for Te Wharewaka, says there are “layers of history hidden beneath the city”. A two-hour Hidden Māori Treasures tour takes you right into these fascinating layers to a part of central Wellington that many locals don’t even know about.

You’ll head to the Te Aro Pā (Māori village) where whareponga (sleeping huts) were unearthed and learn about Māori culture and hear stories the people who lived here, and even visit an excavation site that’s not open to the public. This unique piece of history right under your feet tells the stories of how Wellington developed and became the city it is today.

If you’re short on time, a one hour City to Sea tour will have you seeing Wellington from an all-new perspective. You’ll hear how the great Polynesian explorer ‘Kupe arrived in Áotearoa New Zealand, the story of the taniwha (water monsters) that shaped the harbour the city is built around, and find out how Māori culture influences modern day life in Wellington.

Waka tours

Traditionally, Māori used waka (canoes) for voyaging or battles (waka taua), fishing and transporting goods (waka tētē), and racing and navigating rivers (waka tīwai). 

For a truly unique and memorable group experience, gather your whānau (family) and friends and join a waka tour with Te Wharewaka o Pōneke to learn more about the waka traditions and paddle on Wellington's beautiful harbour.

The crew will welcome you into the wharewaka (boat house) with a mihi whakatau (traditional welcome) which is all about making connections with the crew and others on your tour. 

You'll then learn how to hoe (paddle) using the basic commands and chants, haka and salutes before taking to the water aboard waka Poutu or Te Taumata.

BE Te Wharewaka o Poneke people on waka tour

Wellington’s harbour and hills are said to be shaped by two taniwha, mythical spirits monsters, one of whom opened up the harbour when he broke out to sea.

Karaka Cafe 1 Credit Celeste Fontein
Karaka Cafe Credit Celeste Fontein 109
Karaka Cafe Credit Celeste Fontein 28

Karaka Cafe

Te Wharewaka’s tours embody the Māori concept of manaakitanga, which is about respecting and caring for guests. Guide Ariki Brightwell explains that it’s something that’s at the core of these tours, from taking manuhiri (guests) through traditional practices and customs while on tour, through to sharing kai (food) at Karaka Café.

The cafe’s menu includes Māori kai using native ingredients and traditional cooking methods. A must-try is the café version of a traditional hāngi which includes houes smoked meats, oven steamed veges and fry bread. Karaka Café focuses on bringing all the senses alight through taste, sound, language and sight.

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