Wharewaka o Poneke

Wellington’s early history is rich in stories. Local iwi Te Atiawa can give you an insight into the city’s cultural background. They conduct walking tours and waka experiences on the water. The tours share stories of the city’s Māori past, and explain how it has led to its contemporary culture.

All tours leave from Te Wharewaka o Pōneke — a distinctive building located by Whairepo Lagoon on Wellington’s waterfront. It is the site where Te Aro Pā once stood, one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington up until the 1880s.

The exterior of Karaka Cafe at Te Wharewaka o Pōneke over the water.

Walking tours

There are two walking tours to choose from.

On the two-hour Hidden Māori Treasures tour, you’ll head to Te Aro pā and learn about the people who lived there. There’s also a special visit to an excavation site that’s not open to the public. This unique experience 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 about Polynesian explorer Kupe’s arrival in Aotearoa, the story of the taniwha that shaped the harbour, and find out how Māori culture influences modern-day life in Wellington.

You’ll also hear stories about the two taniwha (mythological beings) in the harbour and other fascinating facts about Māori culture.

Waka tour

Four traditionally carved working waka (canoes) sit in Te Wharewaka o Pōneke. A traditional Māori mihi whakatau (welcome) awaits visitors. After a waiata (song) and introductions, guides will take you through everything you need to know to become kaihoe (paddlers). They teach you basic commands, chants, haka, and salutes. Paddling across the water in a waka is a unique and enchanting tour that offers insight into Māori culture.