PIC­TURE PER­FECT Kãpiti

A week­end is the per­fect time to ex­plore the charms of each of the Kāpiti set­tle­ments

Go Travel New Zealand - - Kapiti Coast -

The stun­ning Kāpiti coast is a clus­ter of charm­ing vil­lages and at­trac­tive towns less than an hour from Welling­ton. Per­fect for a leisurely break, Kāpiti of­fers abun­dant out­door ac­tiv­i­ties: swim­ming, cycling, golf­ing, horserid­ing, pic­turesque coun­try­side, stun­ning bush and birdlife – plus all the in­dul­gence you want with boutique shop­ping, ex­quis­ite arts and crafts and de­li­cious lo­cal food and hos­pi­tal­ity.

Stretch­ing along a net­work of ex­pan­sive white sand beaches, Kāpiti is named for the beau­ti­ful and iconic Kāpiti Is­land, vis­i­ble through­out the district. With a mild cli­mate, it of­fers year-round re­lax­ation, or more ad­ven­tur­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, all within easy reach. The south­ern­most of the cen­tres, Paekākāriki is an au­then­tic kiwi sea­side vil­lage con­sid­ered the district’s creative hub. Ac­tors, dancers, mu­si­cians, film-mak­ers and artists make the vil­lage home and it has a laid-back, quirky vibe with per­son­al­ity-packed cafes

and a bar, boutique cinema and week­end mar­ket in the her­itage vil­lage hall.

Nes­tled be­tween the hills and the sea, it has a great swim­ming beach, the ex­pan­sive Queen Eliz­a­beth Park and won­der­ful walks and cy­cle paths. If you’re look­ing for a real ‘high’ try the Paekākāriki Es­carp­ment Track, de­scribed as the ‘Stair­way to Heaven’. Part of the na­tional Te Araroa walk­ing trail, this 10km track clings to the hill­side pro­vid­ing its con­querors with knock­out views over ma­jes­tic Kāpiti Is­land.

Rau­mati vil­lage is close to Rau­mati Beach with de­light­ful boutique shop­ping in­clud­ing up­mar­ket fash­ion and in­te­rior de­sign stores. Spend a cruisy morn­ing shop­ping and brunch­ing and stay on for a meal at one of the lively cafes or bars.

Close by, Marine Gar­dens is a mecca for fam­i­lies with its splash pad water park, play­ground and minia­ture ride-on train.

Para­pa­raumu Beach is the largest of the sea­side vil­lages with shops, cafes, res­tau­rants, and a thriv­ing Satur­day mar­ket, buzzing with pas­sion­ate ven­dors and their flavour-packed pro­duce and del­i­ca­cies.

It is the gate­way to Kāpiti Is­land, one of the coun­try’s old­est na­ture re­serves, home to some of our most beau­ti­ful, rare and en­dan­gered species. The award-win­ning re­serve of­fers a magic com­bi­na­tion of na­ture im­mer­sion with rich his­tory and so­phis­ti­cated hos­pi­tal­ity.

You can visit the Is­land for a day, or ex­pe­ri­ence all it has to of­fer with a stay at the lodge. Take one of the fa­mous night Kiwi spot­ting tours and hear sto­ries from the hosts whose fam­ily have been as­so­ci­ated with the Is­land since 1820.

Sur­round­ing Kāpiti Is­land is a stun­ning marine re­serve with ex­cep­tional div­ing and snorkelling.

For se­ri­ous golfers, and also those who en­joy a few holes as part of their hol­i­day mix, close by is the im­pres­sive Para­pa­raumu Beach Golf Club, re­garded as one of the great links cour­ses in the south­ern hemi­sphere.

The next town along the coast head­ing north is Waikanae. Abound­ing in de­light­ful gar­dens, it is home to the serenely beau­ti­ful Ngā Manu Na­ture Re­serve and bird sanc­tu­ary. See na­tive birds in walk-through aviaries and our old­est rep­tile the an­cient tu­atara, and feed sleek long-finned eels.

Waikanae has an ap­peal­ing town cen­tre with the district’s art gallery Ma­hara, and an in­trigu­ing her­itage mu­seum. Waikanae Beach con­tin­ues the ex­pan­sive white sand beach of­fer­ing and there is a laid-back beach set­tle­ment. Don’t let the re­laxed feel fool you – up­mar­ket eater­ies, such as Waimea, Long Beach and Front Room have in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned chefs.

Me­an­der­ing north from Waikanae you find the small beach set­tle­ments of Peka Peka and Te Horo epit­o­mis­ing the Coast’s pic­turesque mix of ru­ral and beach scenery and mar­ket gar­dens sell­ing de­li­cious pro­duce.

The most northerly set­tle­ment is Ōtaki. With a strong Māori iden­tity, many lo­cals speak te reo Māori and the town is home to the bur­geon­ing Māo­ri­land Film Fes­ti­val held in March each year. Ōtaki’s rich his­tory can be seen in some fas­ci­nat­ing and beau­ti­ful early New Zealand ar­chi­tec­ture re­flect­ing the strong re­la­tion­ship be­tween lo­cal Māori and Pakeha set­tlers. There is the renowned Rangiātea Church com­pleted in 1851, de­stroyed by fire in 1995 and painstak­ingly re­built; and the orig­i­nal St Mary's Catholic Church flanked by Māori meet­ing houses and a French de­signed colo­nial pres­bytery.

A town of three parts – State High­way One has spe­cialty and de­signer out­let stores punc­tu­ated with great cafes; Main Street has a clas­sic New Zealand small town charm also of­fer­ing some great eat­ing op­tions – and Ōtaki Beach is a glo­ri­ous sprawl­ing beach with its own surf school and a fab­u­lous kite fes­ti­val in late sum­mer. A week­end is the per­fect time to ex­plore the charms of each of the Kāpiti set­tle­ments. Re­lax and en­joy — you will be very wel­come.

KĀPITI COAST Ma­jes­tic Kāpiti Is­land watches over 40 kilo­me­tres of shel­tered white sand beaches.

Lazy din­ing and mouth­wa­ter­ing lo­cal pro­duce are on of­fer across Kāpiti.

Kāpiti’s stun­ning nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment is rich in na­tive wildlife: From top left, our di­nosaur de­scen­dant the tu­atara at Ngā Manu Na­ture Re­serve; and na­tive gecko and ruru on Kāpiti Is­land.

Buy unique art and crafts from lo­cal de­sign­ers and artists in­spired by Kāpiti’s breath­tak­ing land­scape.

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