Meet the Explorer: Taryn Beri is an independent tā moko practitioner in Wellington and a member of the Ngāti Toarangatira tribe of the Wellington Region, North Island, Aotearoa, New Zealand.
The proper Maori name for Wellington is Te Whanga nui a Tara, which means “the great big bay of Tara.” Tara was an early Maori ancestor in the region before Wellington was conquered and claimed by the current tangata whenua (“people of the land”), the tribes of Te Atiawa and Ngati Toarangatira.
When I’m tattooing travelers from all parts of the globe, I’m often asked about the best things to see, do, and experience in Wellington. In my view, the best weekends always start with a hearty brunch, so head to one of these top spots to fill your belly first. Spruce Goose Café and Maranui are close to the airport and have beautiful views of Lyall Bay, a popular surfing beach. A little farther from the airport is Chocolate Fish Café, which has a great setup for kids, with bikes for them to play on while you enjoy your kai (food).
After brunch, visit the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. Our world-class museum will not disappoint. Learn about ancient Maori culture and be sure to check out the spectacular contemporary Maori marae (meeting grounds) on the top floor, by game-changing Maori artist Cliff Whiting.
Near Te Papa you’ll find Kura Gallery and Toi Maori Art Gallery, where you can pick up a piece by an authentic local artist. When shopping for Maori art, be sure to inquire about the tribal affiliations of the artist whose work you are considering buying. If they don’t have any tribal affiliations, they are not an authentic Maori artist. Be a responsible traveler and use your discernment when deciding which art to invest in and who you want to support.
Pack a lunch and take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, then pick your spot in nature and set yourself up to enjoy a picnic. Check the website for upcoming art, music, and cultural events.
If you have a car and fancy venturing out of the city, the Kapiti Coast on the furthest outreach of the Wellington Region has a lot to offer. Visit any of the beaches along the way like Plimmerton, Paekakariki, Raumati, Waikanae, or Otaki. Take in the view of the beautiful and historically significant Kapiti Island while you’re at it.
Getting tattooed is a very popular way for travelers to mark their time in Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand). If I am not in the country at the time of your visit, I recommend tattoo artists Lorna Tawhiti and Tim Hunt in the Wellington Region. As with all top artists, contact them in advance to book an appointment.
After exploring Wellington’s natural beauty, check out Cuba Street in the central business district. This is the top spot in town for shopping, bars, and cafés. I spent many years growing up in this area when I was a teenager. My favorite spots are Havana Bar and Laundry Bar, both located on Cuba Street with good music, drinks, and people. You could also check out Moon Bar in Newtown.
During your visit, try saying kia ora instead of hello. Enjoy your time in our fair city, and do come back!