The per­fect week­end get­away

Go Travel New Zealand - - Kapiti Coast - writes Jen­nie Gutry

Just a 45 minute drive from Welling­ton lies an area of spec­tac­u­lar sea vis­tas, breath­tak­ing sun­sets, un­touched na­tive for­est and dra­matic ranges,

Kapiti con­sists of a se­ries of vil­lages and towns spread along the 40km of coast­line, each with its own char­ac­ter and charms. The south­ern­most vil­lage, Paekakariki is an au­then­tic kiwi sea­side vil­lage re­garded as the cre­ative hub of the dis­trict with many ac­tors, dancers, mu­si­cians, ilm-mak­ers and artists mak­ing this town their own. Vis­i­tors are warmly wel­comed to this lit­tle vil­lage which boasts its own ra­dio sta­tion (88.2FM), cafes, a bar, mo­tel, book­shop, 24 seat lux­ury cin­ema, monthly mar­ket, li­brary, ten­nis court, or­ganic green­gro­cer and other spe­cialty shops. It is not un­usual to have a na­tional mu­si­cal act like Dave Dob­byn play­ing on a Satur­day night in the vil­lage hall. Back­ing on to Queen El­iz­a­beth Park, the whole area o ers won­der­ful walks, cy­cle paths and more chal­leng­ing tramps like the Paekakariki Es­carp­ment Track, fondly re­ferred to as the ‘Stair­way to Heaven’. Part of the na­tional Te Araroa walk­ing trail, this 10km walk­ing track clings per­ilously to the hill­side over­look­ing the Kapiti Coast with swing bridges and steep steps. Most tram­pers walk from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay and then train back and en­joy a co ee and slice in Paekakariki vil­lage.

Rau­mati vil­lage is close to Rau­mati Beach and has a sur­pris­ing ar­ray of up­mar­ket, spe­cialty fash­ion and in­te­rior shops. Here you can buy New Zealand and in­ter­na­tional la­bels not avail­able any­where else. Add in a scrump­tious French Patis­serie mak­ing tra­di­tional French cakes, slices, bread and pate; a wide choice of eater­ies from restau­rants to take­aways, two bars and co ee op­tions ga­lore and it is easy to spend a lazy morn­ing shop­ping and eat­ing here. Close by, the Marine Gar­dens is a mecca for fam­i­lies in the sum­mer with its free splash pad wa­ter park, play­ground and minia­ture ride-on train.

Para­pa­raumu Beach is the largest of all the sea­side vil­lages and has a wide range of shops, cafes, restau­rants, and a thriv­ing Satur­day mar­ket which has been the birth­place of many suc­cess­ful food prod­ucts, in­clud­ing Thor­ough­bread de­li­cious pa­leo and gluten free breads, which are still sold at the mar­ket to­day. Para­pa­raumu Beach

is also the gate­way to Kapiti Is­land, New Zealand’s old­est na­ture re­serve and home to some of our rarest and most en­dan­gered birds, which you can see in their nat­u­ral habitat. Here you can ex­pe­ri­ence New Zealand as it was, be­fore man ar­rived, when the birds de initely ruled the roost. Day trips and overnight Kiwi spot­ting tours can be ar­ranged with Kapiti Is­land Na­ture Tours. There is also a stun­ning Marine Re­serve around the is­land with ex­cep­tional div­ing and snorkelling op­por­tu­ni­ties. “Kapiti Is­land was the high­light of my time in New Zealand. I saw more birds in a day there than I have in my en­tire life!” Hana, Lon­don Close by, Para­pa­raumu Beach Golf course is one of only twelve mar­quee cour­ses in New Zealand and is re­garded by many as one of the great­est links cour­ses in the south­ern hemi­sphere. The course has hosted more New Zealand Opens than any other club and was the lo­cal course for Steve Wil­liams who learnt his cad­dy­ing skills here.

Kapiti Is­land was the high­light of my time in New Zealand. I saw more birds in a day there than I have in my en­tire life! Hana, Lon­don

The next town along the coast go­ing north is Waikanae which can lay claim to be­ing the gar­den and bird cap­i­tal of New Zealand. Waikanae Es­tu­ary is a bird lovers’ par­adise with 77 species of birds found here in­clud­ing royal spoon­bills, na­tive dabchicks, banded dot­terel and scaup (ducks). Waikanae is also home to Nga Manu Na­ture Re­serve, a beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral set­ting where vis­i­tors can see na­tive birds in walk-through aviaries, as well as tu­atara (New Zealand’s only na­tive rep­tile) and long- inned eels. Waikanae won New Zealand’s most beau­ti­ful town in 2015 and a drive through the res­i­den­tial ar­eas will show you why. The tem­per­ate cli­mate here lends it­self to sus­tain­ing beau­ti­ful

gar­dens and many Waikanae res­i­dents are pas­sion­ate about their quar­ter acre plots; a part of Waikanae is even known as the ‘Gar­den Area’. As well as the town cen­tre, there is a laid back beach set­tle­ment at Waikanae Beach. Don’t let the re­laxed feel fool you though; Waikanae Beach has some up­mar­ket eater­ies with in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned chefs, in­clud­ing Waimea, Long Beach and Front Room restau­rants. The most northerly town is Otaki which has three di er­ent parts. State High­way One has spe­cialty and out­let stores which are pop­u­lar with Welling­to­ni­ans. Main Street, Otaki is the civic cen­tre of the dis­trict and Otaki Beach is a glo­ri­ous un­spoilt beach with a surf school and surf life­sav­ing club but lit­tle else. Otaki is the ear­li­est set­tled part of Kapiti and used to be a dis­trict in its own right with its own Mayor and Town Hall. It is the cul­tural cap­i­tal of Kapiti with a strong Maori iden­tity and his­tory. It is com­mon to hear lo­cals speak te reo Maori on the streets here and there

are plans to make Otaki the irst bi-lin­gual town in New Zealand. Otaki has a cou­ple of unique at­trac­tions—the only Maori Rac­ing Club still in ex­is­tence in New Zealand, and Ran­giatea Church which com­bines English and Maori de­signs. Otaki is also the gate­way to the Tararua For­est Park, the largest con­ser­va­tion park in the North Is­land. It o ers an out­stand­ing va­ri­ety of tramp­ing, hunt­ing and walk­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in a wild, nat­u­ral land­scape. Even those who can’t walk far can en­joy the short walk­ways from Otaki Gorge and the beau­ti­ful river scenery. A week­end is the per­fect time to ex­plore all the Kapiti set­tle­ments and en­joy the con­trast­ing and vi­brant feel of each place.

Photo: Kapiti Is­land Na­ture Tours

Sun­rise at Kāpiti Is­land

Photo: Mark Coote

Paekākāriki Mar­ket

Photo: Mark Coote

Paekākāriki Look­out

New Zealand’s di­nosaur de­scen­dant, the tu­atara at Ngā Manu Na­ture Re­serve

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