Experience Māori history, culture and hospitality on Kapiti Island
Perched just off the coastline, Kapiti Island is more than a nature sanctuary, with history, culture and surprises waiting to be discovered
There’s a point as you drive north along the Kāpiti Coast, just after Pukerua Bay, when Kapiti Island comes into view. Glowing green with native bush, the gentle silhouette of the island draws your eye and captures your imagination.
Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand's oldest and most important nature reserves, and a place rich in Māori history. The whānau family Māori | Noun based at the north end of Kāpiti have mana whenua on the island; their ancestors arrived and settled in the 1820s and the family continue to live on the island to this day.
The Barrett whānau follow the line of their whakapapa (descent) through Te Rangihīroa, a Ngati Toa chief who signed the Treaty of Waitangi back in the 1840s and travelled to Kapiti with the famous chief Te Rauparaha.
In the early 2000s, the Barrett whānau began Kapiti Island Nature Tours to share their mātauranga knowledge Māori | Noun and whakapapa descent and family history Māori | Noun , and ensure all visitors to the whenua land Māori | Noun leave with a strong sense of manaakitanga hospitality Māori | Noun .
Kapiti Island is reached by a 20-minute boat ride from Paraparaumu Beach, across the waters of Rau ō Te Rangi to Rangatira Point, the middle part of the island. Visitors can spend a day exploring the island or opt to stay overnight - there’s the option to go glamping or stay in a cabin for an authentic Kiwi lodge experience. A night tour is included with a night stay, where you might get to spot one of 1,400 little spotted kiwi who call Kapiti Island home.
Spend the day exploring the island with your guide and learn about how the Barrett whānau work with the Department of Conservation to keep the island free of introduced predators – while in the background you’ll hear native birds including kākā, kererū, kokako living their best lives in this safe paradise.
It’s a steep climb to the summit of the island but it’s worth it for the incredible views out over the ocean – plus there’s a delicious kai food Māori | Noun waiting for you after your walk. Manaaki and the team whip up a feast that will make you think it’s Christmas Day. The menu features fresh fish, paired with delicious salads that’ll keep you going back for seconds, thirds and maybe fourths.
You won’t want to leave, but before the boat returns to take you back across Rau ō Te Rangi, there might be time for a sit on the beach or even a swim or one last selfie with a cheeky kākā.
The accessible reserve can be visited through two tourism operators Kapiti Island Nature Tours and Kapiti Island Eco Tours both offering visitors with the opportunity to explore the two parts of the island – with or without a tour guide.