As dusk falls, join a cast of thousands on Wellington’s stunning waterfront for the once-in-a-lifetime 2018 New Zealand Festival opening night event, Kupe.

Inspired by the arrival in Aotearoa of great navigator and explorer Kupe, this free, whānau-friendly spectacular is part one of A Waka Odyssey and a landmark celebration of our shared voyaging history. Be a part of history in the making, welcoming a majestic fleet of waka hourua (traditional double-hulled sailing canoes) and their fearless crew, as they sail across the waters of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington Harbour – a moving finale to their months-long journey from Samoa, the Cook Islands and around New Zealand.

Then let the sounds of the Pacific surround you in this theatrical extravaganza featuring performers, a mass choir, a thousand-strong haka and a musical score by Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots, Little Bushman).

Kupe sparks a celebration of our place in the Pacific, including Kupe Landing: Petone Family Day, a fun beach party for all the whānau, and the Kupe Dreaming series of waka-themed community events and activities. Download the A Waka Odyssey flyer to plan your journey. 

Some useful information to help you enjoy Kupe: Festival Opening Night

Acknowledgements: The Wellington Regional Amenities Fund is a partnership between Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council and Porirua City Council

Thanks to Te Puni Kōkiri


"Set to inspire new ways for us to move forward as New Zealanders as master navigators of our destiny," says RNZ's Kathryn Ryan in an interview with Anna Marbrook and Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr.

"About 20,000 people gathered at Wellington's waterfront at dusk to witness the arrival of a fleet of waka, and the opening of the New Zealand Festival" on Stuff.

"Thousands packed out the capital's inner harbour last night to pay tribute to one of the first voyagers to arrive in New Zealand" on TVNZ news.

"Haka coordinator Kura Moeahu says it was all for the kids, showing that if Kupe can overcome the waves, so can they" on TV3 Newhub.

"A Waka Odyssey involves deep community participation and commitment, and will have resonance throughout New Zealand, and beyond," says Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza on Scoop.

"An unrivalled indigenous spectacular," says Meriana Johnsen on Spinoff.

Watch the live feed from the opening night on Facebook.

Haere mai – Come on Board

Follow A Waka Odyssey online. Join our fleet of Pacific sailing waka and their heroic crew on an adventure of a lifetime, across the Pacific Ocean and around Aotearoa. Sign up for Festival email updates and become part of the story. 

Sign up now