The Kapiti Coast stretches from the hills of Paekakariki to the undulating land of Otaki, with dramatic coastal vistas along the way.
The Kapiti Coast is a 40km drive from Wellington, but the climate is warmer than the city, with the hills providing some shelter from southerly winds. More on a par with Nelson for sunshine, this is the place many Wellingtonians escape to for a beachy bach break.
Safe swimming beaches, beachcombing, quirky beach communities, trams, trains and automobiles, Paraparaumu Golf Course, a 14-metre-high statue of the Virgin Mary and of course the view of Kapiti Island.
Coming north from Wellington, the road first hits the Kapiti Coast at Pukerua Bay, where there is safe swimming, rock-pools, and blue penguins occasionally. There’s a right hand point break, best for skilled surfers. Take a walk from Pukerua Bay to the point past wind sculpted shrubs and nesting bird colonies to views of the South Island and nearby Mana Island.
Paekak’ (as the locals call it) is a great place to stop for a coffee and visit the gallery, craft shops and the friendly Paekakariki Station Museum. Attached is a second-hand bookstore, run by locals (no EFTPOS).
Raumati Beach is safe for swimming, and fishing and there are cafes and restaurants at Raumati Village. Marine Gardens is a great playground, with a water play feature, rose gardens and miniature railway. The sculptures dotted about Raumati by renowned local artist Bodhi Vincent, second-hand shops and other quirky features make this an interesting place to explore.
The most populated part of the Kapiti Coast, where Paraparaumu airport bringing national visitors, and the Coastlands Mall and most other outlets are located. Parararaumu Beach feels a little like a very early Gold Coast of Australia, but with just one high-rise condominium-style apartment block (Kapiti Coast District Council passed a law to prevent buildings above 3 stories being built).
Paraparaumu Beach has safe swimming, playgrounds, cafes, fish and chips (we highly recommend the Maclean Street Fish Supply).
Waikanae Beach is safe for swimming, and there’s a boatclub, tennis courts, playground and cafes. The Waikanae Pool complex at 52 Ngarara Road is open from the beginning of November to the end of March; it has an outdoor pool, toddlers’ pool and a hydroslide.
Peka Peka and Te Horo
Just north of Waikanae Beach are the less populated beaches of Peka Peka and Te Horo. Peka Peka was briefly internationally famous when a young emperor penguin, nicknamed Happy Feet, appeared on Peka Peka beach in 2011.
Otaki Beach is safe for swimming and surfing - there are lifeguards on duty through the summer. Take walks on the sandy beach, fish, dig for pipi and cockles, or try whitebaiting between August and December. Head along to the Waitohu Stream for a splash around in fresh water. There are great tramping tracks in the Tararua Forest Park, or go mountain biking, hunting or kayaking. There’s an entrance to the park at Otaki Forks.
Nature reserves and parks
Just north of Paekakariki lies Queen Elizabeth Park, a 650 hectare expanse of duneland, with sandy beach for swimming, fishing and walking, along with lots of space for cycling, horse-riding, running, picnics and barbeques. The area has interesting history to explore; there were pa sites at Whareroa and Wainui, and 20,000 US marines were based here during the World War ll. Stables on the Park offer horse treks and riding lessons. There are wetlands and walking tracks through the park, or at weekends, catch a vintage tram from the Mackays Crossing entrance, for 2 kms through nature down to Whareroa Beach and playground area.
Kapiti Island lies 5km off the coast, a predator-free environment where native flora and fauna flourish. Island visitors are strictly limited to 50 per day. Take a nature tour and see some of the great number of native birds that make their home on the wind-blown, forested island, including kiwi, Takahē, Kākā, Bellbird (Korimako), Saddleback (Tīeke) and Kererū. It’s also possible to visit overnight, when, if you’re lucky, you’ll see the odd Kiwi, blue penguin, and hear the little spotted kiwi calling in the quiet of the night. The ferry takes 15 minutes each way and departs from Paraparaumu Beach. The best time to visit is between October and April.
Nga Manu Nature Reserve at Waikanae provides a compelling glimpse into local conservation, with its recovery programme for kiwi, brown teal, blue duck and tuatara. It also offers opportunities for walks through the bush and wetlands and for feeding eels.
The 330ha Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve provides plenty of native bush walks as it protects one of the largest areas of kohekohe forest. Overlooking Waikanae, the reserve has several walking tracks catering for most fitness levels.
Paekakariki Station Museum has some fascinating train memorabilia, alongside local Maori, whaling, and WWII history (20,000 American troops were camped at Mackays Crossing from 1942 to 1944 in between Pacific campaigns) - fascinating and free!
The Lindale Farm and Cafe closed its doors in February 2015, but the nearby Nikau Palm Reserve offers a nice shady valley walk through nikau forest to some lovely views with a few seats and a picnic table at the top. Turn off SH1 at the Lindale turnoff (north of Paraparaumu) and the reserve is on your left with a car park before the road swing round underneath SH1.
Another local attraction is the Southward Car Museum, which was designed and built by the late Sir Len Southward, a wealthy car enthusiast. The museum houses over 400 automobiles and other exhibits, including Marlene Dietrich’s 1934 Cadillac Town Cabriolet. There’s also a cafe, theatre and six hectares of grounds to stroll around.
There are plenty of good cafes throughout the area; The Beach Road Deli and The Perching Parrot at Paekak’ are popular weekend hangouts and The Raumati Social Club is a favourite among locals. A funky new cafe is being constructed from train carriages on Ruahine Street at north end of Paraparaumu.
Visit the Paraparaumu Beach Market every Saturday morning on Seaview between Maclean and Howell Streets for Kapiti coffee, freshly baked bread, jams, and other tasty offerings.
FoodiegemsofWellie recommend the Olde Beach Bakery in Waikanae Beach for mouth-watering breads and pies and also suggest you you also try the Independent Burger Company foodtruck on Paraparaumu Beach.
Tuatara Brewery is one of the success stories of New Zealand craft brewing. You can visit Tuatara at 7 Sheffield Street, Paraparaumu and sample their beers along with good food at the Tasting Room, or book in for the Tasting Experience, to learn more about the ingredients and processes they use to make their unique beers, which have won a slew of national and international awards.
Join the locals for a long walk, run or horseride along the beach. Start at the QEII Park and head north to follow the boardwalk to Raumati Beach shops for a coffee or meal.
The Kapiti Coast Cycle route links several of the shared tracks and reserves from Paekak’ to Peka Peka Beach. For the more adventurous mountain bikers there are the Mt Thompson MTB trails in the Tararua forest park behind the Manakau township.
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is famous for one of the great links courses of the Southern hemisphere. The 18 hole course has hosted the NZ Open 12 times, and Tiger Woods has played here, so you’ll be following in some illustrious footsteps as you head around the undulating course - there’s often a fair bit of wind to add to the challenge.
Most Romantic Spot?
Take the drive (or a gut-busting bike ride) up Paekakariki Hill Road and enjoy the sunset and panoramic views of the Kapiti Coast.
Arts, crafts, culture
Kapiti Coast is home to many artists, writers and craftspeople. The Kapiti Arts Trail in November tours artist’s studios and galleries. See below for more information. Beautiful stone sculptures by Raumati artist Bodhi Vincent are to be found all around Raumati Beach and the Kapiti are, including a wall installation at Paraparaumu Airport, in collaboration with local school children.
Fly to Paraparaumu airport, with daily flights from Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Queenstown. It’s an easy drive up from Wellington, or visitors can catch a train on the Kapiti Line, trains run from Wellington at 14 minutes and 44 minutes past the hour during much of the day.
The main road north, currently State Highway 1, is undergoing a major reconstruction with new sections of expressway being built alongside the existing main road between Transmission Gully and Waikanae River. The road will eventually form a 110km, four-lane expressway between Wellington Airport and Levin. While it does cut a swathe through some nature reserves, bypassing long haul traffic, should greatly improve the safety of local roads and return the heart back to these Kapiti Coast communities. With so much to do and shorter driving times from Welington, this is an area well worth visiting.
Where to stay
What to do
Head to the Paekakariki cafes and the Station Museum and learn about the local history
Visit Queen Elizabeth Park and ride a horse, or a tram
Take a day trip - or a night trip - to Kapiti Island
Perch yourself on a hill and enjoy views from the tip of the South Island to Mt Taranaki
Explore the Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve
Admire the sleek vintage automobiles at the Southward Car Museum
Head for the MTB trails at Mt Thompson
Follow the Kapiti Arts Trail (Nov)