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The Best Matariki Public Holiday Events In Tāmaki Makaurau And Around Aotearoa In 2023

By Alice Rich

The milky Way is seen at Cooks Beach.

Matariki a.k.a. Māori New Year is just around the corner (Friday 14 July to be exact). A time of reflection and new beginnings, Tāmaki Makaurau is busting out all the stops with a treasure trove of ways to celebrate with everything from umu breakfasts and kite-flying, to full-blown festivals and street parties popping up across the city.

So let's join in the festivities—which also honour how Māori navigators were guided to New Zealand by the stars, including a cluster called, you guessed it, Matariki—and celebrate this incredibly unique part of our culture.

Here are 15 of the best Matariki events in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and around Aotearoa in 2023. 

Ways To Celebrate Matariki In Auckland

People at Matariki celebrations on Karangahape Road sing and dance. Star-Bathe In Ngā Whetū

Epsom | June & July

Matariki - Ngā Whetū o te Tau Hou, which translates to The Stars of the New Year, is a brand new star-studded show at The Stardome that’s a bit out of this world (we had to). This fifty-minute show will take you through the night sky, celebrating Matariki and a new page in Maramataka—the Māori lunar calendar—with astronomy and pūrakau. There are 1-2 shows per night, starting at 7 and/or 8.30pm. 

Discover Matariki As A Muse

Henderson | 2 June - 13 July

Corban Estate Arts Centre is hosting a culturally-rich art exhibition this Matariki. Ngā Whetū showcases unique and personal approaches to storytelling across various creative disciplines by Māori artists including Atareta Black, Tony Brown, Aroha Gossage, Penny Howard, Wikuki Kingi, Lisa Reihana, Kauri Wharewera, Siniva Williams, Ann Uerata and Louie Zalk-Neale. Head along on 24 June at 10am for a free guided tour by curators, Melina Payne and Penny Howard. 

Get Lit 

Auckland Harbour Bridge, 11-19 July

Tāmaki Makaurau’s Harbour Bridge is playing host to a gorgeous light show specially curated by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. Representing Te Ahikāroa which translates to the long-burning fires of occupation or an enduring relationship with the land that transcends time, gazing upon the lights is the perfect opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and what’s to come. The lights will be turned on at 5.30pm on Tuesday 11 July in Silo Park, officially opening the Matariki Festival. The show will play for six minutes, every half hour from 6pm until midnight until Wednesday 19 July. 

Te Karanga ā Hape

Karangahape Road, 13 July

A person has their back to us and a blond bob. They wear neon body paint. Get amongst the celebrations early with one helluva Matariki eve street party along Karangahape Road. Dubbed Te Karanga ā Hape, this year’s theme is He Ara Matarau / Pathway of Diversity and the glorious lineup is exactly what you’d expect from a Karangahape shindig—a kaleidoscope of cultures, identities, colours, sounds, flavours, and sensory delights. With live music, art, kai, markets, fashion and performances, this has got to be one of the best ways to celebrate Matariki. 

Immerse In The Vibrant Culture Of Te Ao Māori

Auckland CBD | 14 July

An epic one-day festival is popping up in the historic Hōro ā-Tāone o Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland Town Hall). Whānau-friendly and free to attend, Matariki Festival Day is set to be packed with art and culture, from waiata, kapa haka and kiriata (movies) to Māori gaming, indigenous craft, kai and fashion, and of course, some seriously tasty kai. 

Celebrate Indigenous Filmmakers

Various | 14 July

Ahi, a film distribution collection in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, has teamed up with the folks at Silky Otter Cinemas to screen four epic Māori-made films: Patu!, Mauri, Ngāti and Utu Redux. The flicks will be showing around the motu in Ponsonby Tāmaki Makaurau, Wigram Ōtautahi Christchurch and Papaioea Palmerston North. Nab your tickets on the Silky Otter website.

Indulge In A Matariki Long Lunch in Northland

Russell, 14 July

Fancy an authentically Aotearoa spin on a s’more? Drizzled with manuka honey, Foundry’s iconic chocolate, horopito marshmallow, peanut brittle and more toasted marshmallow gelato? Of course you. Find this—alongside four courses of impossibly delicious kiwi kai— at Russell’s Sage Restaurant’s Feast Matariki Lunch, from 12noon-2:30pm. Paua fritters, mushroom fricassée, seared wild elk, local cheeses and Rawhiti honey butter and bee pollen-topped Kumara Rewana bread are among some of the locally-sourced—and let’s not forget, stylish—kai created just for the occasion.

Feed The Stars

Ōrākei, 14 July

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are reviving the tradition of the Matariki umu (earth ovens) bright and early at Takaparawhau/Bastion Point. Traditionally the different foods cooked in the umu represent one of each of the nine stars in the Matariki constellation and when the smoke rises it’s said to feed the stars of Matariki. Whānau and communities are invited to attend the ceremony before partaking in a breakfast at the Ōrākei Marae. This free event begins at 5am and is an incredible opportunity to deepen your understanding, and share in, the practice of Umu Kohukohu Whetū

Experience Marae In The Sky 

Auckland CBD, 14-15 July 

A dancer wears a striking black outfit for their performance of Marae In The Sky, for Matariki. A spellbinding dance and music experience is taking place at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and you’re going to want in. Directed and choreographed by Taane Mete (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura), Marae in the Sky was inspired by a local Rainbow collective from the ‘90s and embodies hauora (health), hope, reflection, connection to nature and the environment, and the wellbeing of all. Entry is free but spaces are limited so be sure to turn up early. This is part of Matariki Ahunga Nui

Be Blown Away By The Power Of Kapa Haka 

Auckland CBD, 15 July

Reigning national champions of Ngā Kapa Haka Kura Tuarua o Aotearoa, the rangitahi of Hoani Waititi marae are putting on two free half-hour kapa haka performances at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. If you’ve never before experienced a kapa haka, and even if you have, this performance is not-to-missed—this group also holds the record for number of wins on the Polyfest Māori stage consecutively taking out the top prize from 1996 through to 2001. Damn.   

Fly A Kite 

Ōrākei, 15 July

Watch kites of all shapes and sizes take to the skies in an incredible visual spectacle at the Manu Aute Kite Day taking place at Takaparawhau/Bastion Point. The one-day festival is inspired by the manu aute (kites made from the aute plant), manu tukutuku (kites with long tails) and manu taratahi (kites with a single plume) once used by Māori to send messages to the heavens. Entrance is free. A similar event is being held in Puketāpapa on 16 July. 

Sit In On An Arty Kōrero 

Auckland CBD, 22 July

The appearance of the Matariki star cluster marks the beginning of the new year, but it’s just one part of the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar). In this very special kōrero at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki artists whose creativity is intertwined in, and informed by, the Maramataka will riff on its importance in A life by, with, and through the Maramataka.The half-hour talk kicks off at 2pm and is free to attend. 

Ways To Celebrate Matariki Around Aotearoa

A cute cartoon sign of a happy taro for sale for $2.60. Paint Matariki 

Multiple venues, 28 June - 18 July

There’s no question that wine and paint make for a great celebration no matter the occasion, and Matariki is definitely not an exception. Flock to Ploughman’s Restaurant and Bar in Taupō, The Dish Cafe and Bar in Dunedin or Good Eastern Taphouse in Rotorua to flex your creativity (or lack thereof) and paint your own Matariki vista. All art materials are provided and you’ll be guided by an expert Paintvine tutor. Come through. 

Celebrate Matariki In The Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands, 30 June - 16 July

Of course, Matariki celebrations aren't limited to Tāmaki Makaurau and one spot that's going all-out for the occasion is the country's birthplace, the Bay of Islands. Steeped in cultural significance, this gorgeous region is bringing us their annual Matariki Pēwhairangi, a three-week celebration featuring the likes of dawn cruises, story-telling, workshops, waiata and a whole lot of kai. Ka rawe!

Explore Matariki Through The Intersection Of Art And Nature 

Kapiti Coast, 1-23 July 

Kapiti Coast is pulling out all the stops this year with Matariki Ramaroa, a massive 3-week arts festival to celebrate the dawning of the new year, and it’s one of the most diverse lineups we’ve seen yet. Events include music gigs, art exhibitions, the lighting of the Matariki beacon fires, tree planting, an upcycled runway show workshopbeach clean ups, a series of ‘Native Minds’ thought leader conversations, the Matariki Ramaroa Street Party, and more.

Be Moved, Be Inspired, Remember

Whanganui-a-Tara, 1-16 July

There are a whole lot of great things to do in Wellington this Matariki. Firstly, Mana Moana Pōneke, an ethereal experience where ocean-centric films are projected onto the water at Whairepo Lagoon from 6-9pm, 1-16 July. This will be followed by Matariki Ahi Kā, a free festival from 6-9pm every evening from 13-16 July featuring large-scale projections, fire and performances. And if there’s a lost loved one you’d like to honour, you might like to get involved in the 8pm remembrance ceremonies where you’ll get to send your wishes and thoughts to the stars.

Deep Dive Into Everything Matariki

Ōtautahi, 3-20 July 

The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora is collabing with a bunch of artists and practitioners in a Matariki festival that spans almost the whole month of July. The lineup includes a chance to learn whakatere waka (navigation) by starlight every Friday night; spoken word and music performances from folk and soul to haka and jazz; kite-making, a Micronesian stick chart-making workshop, putiputi/harakeke flower-weaving, a mākete (market) showcasing the mahi of Māori artists and craftspeople, and more.

Feel The Magic Where Stonehenge and Matariki Collide

Waiarapa, 14 July

A ridiculously gorgeous starry night sky above Stonehenge Aotearoa.

You’ve probably definitely heard of Stonehenge, but did you know we have one here too? No joke, Stonehenge Aotearoa exists and it’s an open air astronomical observatory. Wild. They’re throwing a special Matariki event where you’ll explore the cultural significance of Matariki, a.k.a. The Pleiades star cluster, around the world and their physical nature. It’s sure to be a star-studded way (sorry not sorry) to celebrate the Māori New Year.

Wish Upon A Whetū

Wellington, 14-16 July

Pōneke’s iconic museum, Te Papa, has a sensational lineup of free events for Matariki this year so if you’re in the capital, be sure to get amongst. From a Matariki-inspired exhibition, wish cards and other crafts for kids, to kapa haka, performances by the Royal New Zealand Ballet and pop and neo-soul artist HINA, taonga pūoro (traditional Maōri musical instruments), and more. 

Chalk It Up

Various, 15 July 

Express yourself creatively this Māori New year by grabbing a piece of chalk and illustrating the pavement in a beautiful public art initiative. Taking place in Hawarden, Waikara and Waipara, the Matariki Chalk Walk is a free initiative and an invitation to celebrate joy, peace, new beginnings, bountiful produce and reflect on those who have passed. Everything you need will be supplied too—chalk, refreshments and Cookie Time biscuits. Yep, this is not a drill. 

Muse Over Matariki Markets 

Raumati South, 15 July 

Swing by Tennis Court Road Reserve between 3 and 8pm to get your fill of music, arts and crafts, face painting, balloon-twisting and kai at the Matariki Night Market. While there’ll be a bunch of food trucks and a sausage sizzle to stave off hanger, our pick for best mid-market feed has got to be the hangi. Just be sure to pre-order so as to not miss out. Do buy a raffle ticket too—there are stacks of great prizes to win. Need something closer to home? Waiwharariki Anzac Square in Takapuna will also be hosting a Matariki Market on the same day.

Celebrate Matariki in Arrowtown

Arrowtown, 14 July

Matariki Arrowtown Lights is back in Kā-Muriwai / Arrowtown in a one-day cultural event that’ll see Buckingham Street a-glow with light displays. The day will include performances by local kapa haka school groups, karakia and songs by Waiataia group, Ngā Manu Hou, loads of kai and fire pits which set the scene for cosy storytelling, and the froth-worthy return of Professor Brian Boyle, who will, once again, dazzle crowds with the wonders of the Otago night skies.

For more exciting Matariki events, check out Auckland Council's Matariki Festival website.

Image credit: Getty Images / Jordanwhipps1987, Karangahape Road, Karangahape Road, Māhia Dean, Karangahape Road, Stardome Aotearoa. 

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