The Tāmaki (Auckland) isthmus is associated with many of the canoes that came in early migrations from Polynesia, including the Matawhaorua or Matahourua, Aotea, Mataatua, Tainui, Te Arawa, Tākitimu and Tokomaru.
Some crossed Te Tō Waka, the narrow stretch of land between the Tāmaki River and Manukau Harbour. This was the most frequently-used canoe portage in pre-European New Zealand – canoes had to be dragged from the Tāmaki River before they could cross the Manukau Harbour. From there they sailed south along the coast to Raglan, Kāwhia and on to Taranaki, or they sailed northward to Northland. Alternatively, they could make another portage at Waiuku to access the interior of the North Island along the Waikato River. Those crossing in the other direction could go east to the Coromandel or north to Whangārei. Many who made these early canoe journeys stayed and settled in Tāmaki.
Older canoes, tribes and conquests
The older tribes of Tāmaki such as Te Wai-o-Hua and Te Kawerau-a-Maki trace their descent from the canoes Te Wakatūwhenua and Te Moekākara, which landed around Leigh and Kawau Island. Many other tribes have lived on the Tāmaki isthmus, including Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tītahi, Ngāi Tāhuhu, Ngā Marama rānei, Ngā Uri-o-Rakataura, Ngāti Huarere, Ngā Riki and Ngā Iwi among others. Traditions also record several battle campaigns across the isthmus, including those by Rautao of Ngāti Maru and Kapetaua of Ngāti Paoa, Maki of Te Kawerau-a-Maki, Kāwharu of Tainui and Tuperiri of Te Taoū and Ngāti Whātua.