The Kāpiti Coast offers sandy beaches, spectacularly varied landscapes, and friendly people — all just a short drive north of Wellington. Back in the 1800s, visitors referred to ‘taking the sea air’, when traveling to the region. It took a day to thread through the hills from Wellington. Today, you can cover the 50km journey in less than an hour by road or rail.
First things first: leave your jacket at home you probably won’t need it. The Kāpiti Coast’s climate is temperate, and often a few degrees warmer than Wellington.
Secondly: bring an appetite. Thanks to Kāpiti Coast’s fertile soil, there are orchards and market gardens aplenty. Enterprising locals have funneled these goodies into everything from cheese and olive oil to craft beer, chocolate and ice cream. In turn, these products have found their way onto the menus of local cafés and restaurants.
The proximity of the beach has influenced the Coast’s eateries, many of which have a relaxed feel. The food and drink, however, is taken very seriously. Helen Turnbull worked under Gordon Ramsay in Tokyo before setting up 50-50 Restaurant at Paraparaumu Beach. Olde Beach Bakery does a gourmet pie with some of the best most buttery, flaky pastry you’ll eat. If craft beer is what you’re after, try Tuatara, Duncan’s and North End Brewery. Once you’ve filled your belly, it’s time to explore.
There are many wonderful walks to choose from on the Coast. If you have a few hours spare (and aren’t afraid of heights), walk the 10km Paekākāriki Escarpment, soaking up incredible views of the region and Kapiti Island. Once you’ve seen it from afar, you’ll want to take a boat across to visit Kapiti Island. This nature reserve is a mecca for endemic species like hihi (stitchbird), kōkako, takahē, and kororā (little blue penguin). Watch out for cheeky kākā, which are known to unzip visitors’ backpacks to look for food.
If you can’t get to Kapiti Island, the Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae offers an up-close look at nature. Meet kiwi in the nocturnal house, feed long-fin eels and wait to see if the tuatara will move. Don’t leave without seeing one of the 400-year-old kahikatea. This species is the tallest of all native trees in Aotearoa.
Whether you come for the beaches, sun, walkways, nature reserves, or kai (food), the Kāpiti Coast will be welcoming.