Revealing Wellington’s rich Maori history is the focus of Te Wharewaka o Poneke Waka and Cultural Walking Tours, which provides experiences in which visitors can share in New Zealand’s indigenous culture.
Located on the harbour beside New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, the Te Aro Pa (settlement) was once one of Wellington’s largest Maori communities. Today, Te Wharewaka houses three traditionally carved working waka (canoes).
The waka are launched from a floating pontoon into a lagoon, but can also be paddled out into the harbour. Groups first undergo simple training exercises on dry land, including learning to obey the captain’s commands in Maori and paddling exercises.
Each canoe holds up to 18 paddlers, and if the weather is good, the excursion can travel beyond the lagoon into the harbour. Tours take two hours.
The Hidden Maori Treasures Cultural Walking Tour also takes two hours, and visits the remains of a whare (house) on the Pa site. Woven into the sights are the Maori fables and stories, including the connection of the land to Polynesian explorer Kupe.
Canoeing and walking tours can be combined for a three-hour experience. Te Wharewaka also runs the waterfront Karaka Café, which serves traditional Maori kai (food) including hangi food, cooked in large fire pit in front of the building.