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Kapiti Coast Area Guide

Kapiti Island and coast from
Paekakariki Hill Lookout - ©
With its long sandy beaches, the Kapiti Coast is a favourite weekend getaway and retirement destination for Wellingtonians. The region stretches 30 kilometres along the west coast from the seaside village of Paekakariki, 45 kilometres north of Wellington, past the townships of Paraparaumu and Waikanae, and on to the historic Maori community at Otaki. The railway line and highway north occupy a narrow coastal strip of flat land beside the sea, making the journey north from Wellington by car or train particularly scenic.

Stop at tiny Paekakariki for a walk along the black sandy beach and some fresh sea air, then continue five kilometres north to the MacKays Crossing entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park, where many of the close-up shots of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields for the Lord of the Rings were filmed. The Tramway Museum at MacKays Crossing offers two kilometre long rides on restored vintage wooden trams through Queen Elizabeth Park to the beach, or try horse trekking from the adjacent Stables on the Park.

Paraparaumu is the largest settlement on the coast. Turn off the highway to get to Paraparaumu Beach for trips out to the pristine Kapiti Island nature reserve, a sanctuary for many native bird species that are rare or extinct on the mainland. Look out for kaka or bush parrots, which may land on your head or shoulders, cheeky weka, brightly-coloured kakariki (parakeets), melodius tui and bellbird, playful fantails, tubby wood pigeons, lots of robins, and the rare, flightless takahe. Access to Kapiti is strictly controlled and visitors must obtain a permit in advance from the Department of Conservation in Wellington.

Just off the highway north of Paraparaumu is the Lindale Centre, a countryside tourist complex with farm shows at weekends, giving children and children-at-heart a chance to try milking a cow, watch a sheep being shorn, and bottle-feed a lamb in spring. Lindale has a collection of specialty food shops selling the region’s best olive oil and honey, and delicious Kapiti ice-creams.

Continue past Lindale to Waikanae, home of the 15-hectare Nga Manu Nature Reserve, a bird sanctuary with easy walking tracks through remnants of original lowland coastal swamp forest. The nocturnal house provides an opportunity to see kiwi and the native New Zealand owl, the morepork.

For a true wilderness experience on the Kapiti Coast, drive inland before reaching Otaki to Otaki Forks, the main western entrance to the Tararua Forest Park. The Otaki Gorge Road was used to portray the Hobbits' journey to the border of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings. The 19-kilometre road is narrow and unsealed for the last five kilometres. At the end of the road, try the 20 minute Otaki Forks walk which leads over a swing bridge, or picnic by the river.