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Where to Get a Tattoo in New Zealand?

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What is the best place to get ink during your New Zealand Gap Year?

Dating back all the way to the first Maori settlers in New Zealand, the tattoo culture here is pretty huge. So huge, in fact, that there is even a National Tattoo Museum in Wellington. It is called Moko Museum and it is well worth a visit. More than just a gimmick, a New Zealand tattoo is a piece of art marking a story that should never be forgotten. So to remember your gap year and the fact that you are now a changed person, you may want to get inked for life before leaving the country. But where can you get a tattoo in New Zealand?

We have compiled below a list of well-known parlours so you can find the best artist to work with on your design and tattoo and get back home embodying your parents’ worse fear. Just picture your mum’s screaming: “OH MY GOD! MY DAUGHTER GOT A TATTOO!!!” Just for that reaction, it is worth getting inked.

Ideas of tattoo to remember your gap year

Most of us prefer to design our own original tattoo so it truly represents us for the rest of our life. To get you started, here are a few ideas of tattoos that are pretty sweet way to remember a gap year in New Zealand:

  • The shape of New Zealand (filled with stories)
  • Traditional Maori design retracing the story of your family (ask your tattoo artist)
  • Footsteps, passport, plane (to symbolise the journey)
  • Wildlife (Maui dolphins, kiwi bird, kea, etc.)
  • Passport entry stamp to New Zealand (this will include the date your adventure started, as well as an original design)
  • A heart saying “I love Mom” (just because that’s original, right?!)
Evolution Tattoo

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The most convenient places to get a tattoo in New Zealand

With your head full of fresh memories from an unforgettable gap year that changed your for life, getting a tattoo from your exit city is clearly the most convenient way to do it. So it is no surprise that Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown are the towns where most tattoos are done. Make sure to book ahead as some tattoo artists are well sought after. We also advise you to book your ink session about a week before flying to avoid complications.

Auckland:

Ship Shape Tattoo
Sacred Tattoo Shop

Christchurch:

Left Hand Path
City of Ink

Queenstown:

White Tiger Tattoo
Otautahi Tattoo

New Zealand Tattoo Art Festivals

If your idea of convenience is a whole lot of artists from all around the world in the same place, you are in luck as New Zealand is home to not only one, but two tattoo festivals. Head to the International Tattoo & Art Expo in Tauranga or the NZ Tattoo Art Festival in New Plymouth to get inspired and stamped for life.

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The most authentic places to get a tattoo in New Zealand

First up, let’s get it straight: a traditional Maori Tattoo or “Tatu” lives with its owner, it tells its story, the story of its family, and the story of its iwi (tribe). Those things are taken very seriously here in New Zealand. With almost no written history, most of the legends, cultures and stories of the Maori people were passed on orally and through their tatus. Every Maori that you will meet proudly wears their tatu and can tell you the story behind it. For this reason, you are the best person to design an authentic tatu. You can do so along with an artist but this will take time (and money).

If you are looking for a tattoo done the traditional way (bone and wooden sticks) instead of the contemporary way, a great place to start is Moko Ink, an artist that even did a tattoo for Rihanna. It is worth noting that this kind of tattoo is very pricey, sometimes risky and often painful. It’s only for the tough ones!

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The most award-winning places to get a tattoo in New Zealand

With such a strong tattoo culture brought from Polynesia even before the Maori ever set foot in New Zealand, it is no surprise that the country is home to some of the most awarded tattoo artists.

Here are a few of the best in the country:

  • Left Hand Path in Christchurch has 4 award-winning tattoo artists from all horizons, from a neo traditional Japanese artist to a Maori artist.
  • Power House is the tattoo parlour of Steve Nesbit in Palmerston North. Steve is known worldwide for his fresh approach to tattoos and self-taught skills.
  • In the coastal North Island hotspot of Coromandel Town, Evolution Tattoo Studio is the base of award-winning artist, Lee Jones known for his contemporary style, clean work and fine lines.
  • Owned by New Zealand’s most awarded tattoo artist, Steve Johnson, City of Ink is a tattoo parlour based in Christchurch where the man works alongside four other artists to create unique skin pieces.
  • Based in Hamilton, Skins is home to seven artists each with their own style and awards. Walking in, you’ll have plenty of choice to find the artists that fits you best.
  • Finally, Kyle and his team at Sinatras are also strong contenders for the best tattoo parlour in New Zealand with a long list of awards under their belt. Head there if you are in the Wellington area.

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The most affordable places to get a tattoo in New Zealand

Don’t go there… Remember, when it comes to tattoos, you usually get what you pay for. So we strongly advise you not to go for cheapness but look for quality. This is not one noodle meal that you will pass overnight. It’s an ink art piece that you will wear on your skin for the rest of your life.

The best way to choose a tattoo parlour is to visit them a couple of times, browse their designs and each artists’ past work. Tattoo artists are deeply passionate and will be happy to spend time discussing designs and technique with you. Spend some time picking the design that represents you the most or even better, create your own design. It is a lifelong commitment that you are about to make.

More ways to remember your trip

Feel like your going to chicken out of getting a tattoo in New Zealand? Don’t worry, there are other less-permanent ways to remember your time here.

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