The Waikanae River Trail and estuary is a nationally significant area. Native birds use it as they travel between the Tararua Ranges and Kapiti Island. Part of the national Te Araroa Trail, it winds along the Waikanae River beside established willows, young native planting, and lagoons. It offers wide gravel paths suitable for wheelchairs, buggies, and families.
The trail can be walked or cycled as a full loop, crossing at the old SH1 bridge at Otaihanga Domain. Shorter loops can be planned, crossing at the Kāpiti Expressway or the Te Arawai footbridge. Horse riding is also welcome along the trail, following the blue track markers to cross the river in shallow areas.
There are plenty of safe swimming areas, including a popular swimming hole opposite the side track to Otaraua Park. You can also take the track down to the sea and swim there.
Begin this walk at the Otaihanga Domain on Makora Road. Otaihanga is approximately one hour’s drive north of Wellington. Here there are toilets, car parking, and picnic areas. You can begin your walk either by heading east (upstream) along the south bank or cross the bridge and head along the north bank. If you want to walk to the lagoons, go over the suspension bridge and head West to the sea.
Horse riders can begin the trail on the northern bank. Greenaway Road has a car park with plenty of space for horse floats, and there are mounting blocks at the entrance to the trail. There is also access for horses off the old State Highway 1, beside the river, with a stile and mounting blocks.
Trains from Wellington depart for Waikanae regularly, and there are bus stops on Te Moana Road, Barrett Drive, and Manly Street.