Part of Greater Wellington, but feeling like a world away, the Kapiti Coast is a varied and often stunning stretch along the coast north of the capital. It is home to around 60,000 people, who live in a scattering of small settlements and towns either on or branching off from State Highway 1. It’s a great place for a weekend escape, only 1-2 hours drive from Wellington, and parts are accessible by train.
It is best known for epic beaches, usually driveable with the right vehicle. A classic example is Waitarere Beach, where a small community lives alongside a lengthy stretch of sand, with beautiful sunsets.
The more obscure Koko Beach is a favourite of mine, only ten minutes drive from State Highway 1, with zero facilities but quite stunning dunes and reflections on an unusually still day.
On the same lovely day I visited Lake Horowhenua, accessed via Muaupoko Park, close to Levin.
Kimberly Reserve was less exciting but I can imagine it coming to life during the summer with campers.
Nga Manu Nature Reserve is a wonderful 14 hectare sanctuary for native wildlife, established in 1974 to protect the largest remaining coastal lowland swamp forest on the Kapiti Coast.
Hokio Beach was another beautiful spot, quite good fun to drive around despite my reservations about cars on beaches.
Queen Elizabeth Park is one of the largest protected areas on the Kapiti Coast, a 638 hectare coastal park with numerous walking and cycling paths, Whareroa Beach, former pa sites, Wellington Tramway Museum, and a memorial to US Marines based there during WW2.
I spent a weekend at Te Horo Beach, a tiny community by another impressive beach. The highlight though was watching a giant full moon emerge from behind the hills.
Kapiti Island looks quite different by day and night.
One of the best, and certainly best known walks on the Kapiti Coast, is the Paekakariki Escarpment Walkway, an at time steep 10km track between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay (both of which have train stations), which offers good exercise and spectacular views as the track rises high above State Highway 1 below.
I’ve covered Kapiti Island in detail in another post. It is of the most successful offshore sanctuaries, home to a large number of native species, and makes for a great day trip from Papaparaumu by boat.
To finish with somewhere that isn’t technically part of the Kapiti Coast but is only a short drive north. Himatangi Beach was my first experience of this sort of community and beach, and another stunning sunset.