THE Perfect weekend getaway
Kāpiti is home to spectacular sea vistas and breathtaking sunsets
Just 35 minutes’ drive from Wellington lies an area of spectacular sea vistas, breathtaking sunsets, untouched native forest and dramatic ranges.
As you enter the district and see the magnificent Kāpiti Island and 40kms of unspoilt beach stretching along the coast, a more relaxed, chilled vibe takes over. But don’t let that fool you. Kāpiti is not just a laid-back beach community. The stunning landscape attracts artists and entrepreneurs who help make it a vibrant, creative area.
Whatever you like to do, Kāpiti has something for you. Some of the best walks, tracks and cycle paths in the North Island can be found here, from the breath-taking Paekākāriki Escarpment Track nicknamed the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to challenging tramps through the Tararua Range and Forest Park. There is no shortage of adventures to be found for the active visitor but those who enjoy less strenuous activities will find plenty to see and do.
Kāpiti is home to hundreds of artists working in home studios. Their artworks may be homemade but we are not talking homely crocheted slippers. Internationally acclaimed exquisite pieces are made here. To see the best of Kāpiti art, visit the Artel Gallery and Store in Mahara Place, Waikanae. They display and sell predominately local art works including ceramics, jewellery, paintings, sculptures, glass, wood and high quality traditional and contemporary Māori carved pounamu (Jade).
Just visiting the gallery is an experience by itself and gives you a real flavour of the Waikanae community. Milo the cat often adorns the counter. She is a local celebrity after having gone missing for weeks and a town-wide search undertaken, only to be found 60km away. Owner Maude Heath is an artist herself, working in mixed media. Maude sets the unpretentious, welcoming atmosphere of the gallery. Her father, Eric Heath, was the editorial cartoonist for the Wellington-based Dominion Post newspaper for 29 years and is a
Over 60 species of birds can be spotted here including the kākā, hihi ( stitchbird), kōkako, takehē, weka and tīeke ( saddleback).
prolific illustrator and artist. Originals and prints of some of his works can be found in the gallery. Open seven days a week, Maude and her team will happily organise shipping internationally for anything you fall in love with on your visit.
For car buffs, Kāpiti has a must visit, Southward Car Museum, which is just south of Paraparaumu township. Housing the largest private car collection in the southern hemisphere, Southward boasts over 500 cars and other vehicles. Highlights include Marlene Dietrich’s 1934 Cadillac Town Cabriolet and a 1950 heavily armoured Cadillac that belonged to gangster Mickey Cohen (and sports some bullet holes from one of his many altercations).
A visit to Kāpiti would not be complete without a trip to Kāpiti Island, New Zealand’s oldest nature reserve and home to some of the rarest and most endangered birds which you can see in their natural habitat. Here you can experience the beauty of New Zealand as it once was when the birds ruled the land. Just 10km long and 2km wide, Kāpiti Island was made a bird sanctuary in 1897. Today, the island is one of the most important sites for bird recovery. Over 60 species of birds can be spotted here including the kākā, hihi (stitchbird), kōkako, takehē, weka and tīeke (saddleback). Visitors to the island frequently say they have seen more varieties of birds here in one day than they have in their lifetime.
Beware of the mischievous and clever kākā (mountain parrot) who will swoop down and open the zip on your bag with its beak in search of food, and the flightless weka who seems to work in cahoots with
the kākā. The weka is a master at swiping things from your bag if you leave it on the ground.
Seeing kiwi in their natural habitat is an experience not to be missed. Kāpiti Island is home to over 1,200 little spotted kiwi, making it the densest population of kiwi in New Zealand. Visitors can stay overnight and go kiwi spotting with Kāpiti Island Nature Tours. There is a choice of accommodation from basic comfy cabins to luxurious glamping in the heart of the bush. Visitors enjoy genuine
Māori hospitality, delicious meals which often include locally caught fish and maybe a taste of the unique Kāpiti Island manuka honey.
Kāpiti is the birthplace of many greats including Sir Peter Jackson who started his film making career at Kāpiti College and used Kāpiti as a location in several of his films, including King Kong and Lord of the Rings. Many Kāpiti entrepreneurs say the scenery and atmosphere of Kāpiti inspired them. After a weekend away here, maybe you will be inspired too.