The perfect weekend getaway
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.
Sunrise at Kāpiti Island
New Zealand’s dinosaur descendant, the tuatara at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve