The Latics had gone in front in the 21st minute through Ben Watson’s spot-kick after Ritchie De Laet had fouled Franco Di Santo.
But the Canaries made it 1-1 at the end of the first half when Ali Al Habsi could not hold on to Steve Morison’s delivery and Hoolahan slotted the ball into the net.
Watson almost won it late on with a shot which struck the woodwork and Victor Moses and Hugo Rodallega also went close in the dying moments – but overall Paul Lambert’s side deserved to come away with something.
Summer signings Morison and De Laet made their competitive debuts for the Norfolk club, who were back playing top-flight football after a six-year absence.
Meanwhile, Latics boss Roberto Martinez – shorn of the services of departed duo Charles N’Zogbia and Tom Cleverley – named one new arrival, David Jones, on the bench alongside forward Rodallega, who had returned to training late after his involvement in the Copa America with Colombia.
Moses and Di Santo led the attack, while midfielder James McCarthy was fit to start despite a recent ankle problem.
After seeing his team suffer a 4-0 hammering at home against Blackpool on the first day of last season, Martinez was all too aware that Premier League new boys should not be underestimated.
And Norwich certainly made their presence felt in the opening seconds when David Fox lunged in on Di Santo, picking up a booking.
Emmerson Boyce and Moses had chances as the hosts started brightly, but Norwich almost carved an opening when Morison cut the ball back for Hoolahan, who scuffed his attempt off-target.
Moments later, though, Wigan had the lead after Di Santo dispossessed De Laet. Looking to make amends, the Belgian chased his man into the box but brought Di Santo down to give away a penalty, which Watson dispatched into the bottom corner.
Norwich gave the ball away again just before the half-hour mark as Mohamed Diame pounced on an error by Whitbread, but the Latics midfielder then tried to lob goalkeeper John Ruddy from a few yards past the halfway line and lacked accuracy.
The lively Moses, who had impressed in pre-season, caused the Canaries problems again with a snapshot that Ruddy got down to save.
Wigan looked set to go in a goal up at the break – but just before the interval it was 1-1 in the 45th minute when Al Habsi spilled Morison’s cross and Hoolahan was on hand to level.
Soon after, Di Santo went down in the area under a challenge by Russell Martin but play continued, and the striker headed over the bar after connecting with Moses’ cross.
The tempo did not let up as the second half got under way, with Di Santo heading just wide and Andrew Crofts blasting over at the other end.
Eight minutes after the restart Martinez adjusted his forward line by substituting Jordi Gomez and Di Santo for Rodallega and Conor Sammon, who was then just beaten by the outrushing Ruddy to a ball over the top from Moses.
Moses was unfortunate to lose his footing before he could get a shot away after a mazy dribble past a host of yellow shirts, and Ruddy just managed to get his hands on a shot from Rodallega.
A mix-up between Al Habsi and Adrian Lopez – who was sporting a head bandage after colliding with Morison earlier in the game – saw Wigan give away an indirect free-kick and it was tapped to Andrew Surman, who bent the ball over the bar.
Sammon headed over before Norwich brought on Leon Barnett for Whitbread with a little under 20 minutes to go as Leon Barnett came on for Whitbread. Debutants Elliot Bennett and Anthony Pilkington followed soon after for Surman and Morison.
A counter-attack saw Norwich surge forward but Grant Holt could not keep his header down before the battle-weary Lopez came off for Ronnie Stam
Watson almost won it with five minutes remaining but his effort came back off the post, and Moses and Rodallega then had shots blocked by some last-ditch defending as Norwich hung on for the draw.