Wellington and the Wairarapa Feature


Kapiti Coast and Kapiti Island

A drive up the West Coast from Wellington is not to be missed. State Highway 1 takes you north, and about a half hour out of the city you hit the coast at Paremata. From here you can follow South Highway 1 straight up the Kapiti Coast, so called for the view of Kapiti Island. Alternatively, you can take the longer—but infinitely more scenic—drive around the Pauatahanui Inlet and Bird Sanctuary, following the road along the ridge of the rugged, winding, and windy Paekakariki Hill where stunning views of the coastline and Kapiti Island await you. Both routes lead to Paekakariki (pie-kahk-a-reeky), a small, artsy beach town.

Queen Elizabeth Park. Paekakariki's draw is the shore, but it's also the main entry point of Queen Elizabeth Park, more than 1,000 acres of fields and sand dunes along the coast. The park has a walking trail, horseback riding, mountain biking, and a playground. State Highway 1, Paraparaumu. 04/292–8625.

Kapiti Island. Paraparaumu is the departure point for one of Wellington's best-kept secrets: Kapiti Island. The island has been a protected reserve since 1897 and is a fantastic place to hike. All pests have been eliminated from the island, and birdlife flourishes, including saddlebacks, stitchbirds, and colonies of little spotted and South Island brown kiwi. Don't be surprised if a curious and fearless weka bird investigates your daypack or unties your shoelaces. Climb to the more than 1,700-feet-high Tuteremoana lookout point.

The island's most famous inhabitant was the Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha, who took the island by ruse in 1822. From this stronghold, he launched bloodthirsty raids before he was captured in 1846. He died in 1849, but his burial place is a mystery. Old tri-pots (used for melting down whale blubber) on the island bear testimony to the fact that Kapiti was also used as a whaling station in the late 19th century.

You'll need a permit (NZ$11). Book in advance. Two tour companies provide transportation to the island: and. Boats leave from the beach at Paraparaumu; both companies charge NZ$55 round-trip. Once on the island, you're taken to the DOC headquarters, where you can get trail maps. For more information about Kapiti Island, contact the Wellington Visitor Information Centre or the 04/298–8195.

Kapiti Island Tours (0800/527–484 or 04/237–7965. www.kapititours.co.nz.).

Kapiti Marine Charter (0800/433–779 or 04/297–2585. www.kapitimarinecharter.co.nz.).

Department of Conservation. The Department of Conservation oversees the island and restricts visitors to 50 a day. 18-32 Manners St., Wellington, 6011. 04/384-7770. www.doc.govt.nz.

Paraparaumu Visitor Information Center (04/298–8195. www.naturecoast.co.nz.).

Kapiti Island Tours (0800/527–484 or 04/237–7965. www.kapititours.co.nz.)

Kapiti Marine Charter (0800/433–779 or 04/297–2585. www.kapitimarinecharter.co.nz.)

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