Paraparaumu is the departure point for one of Wellington's best-kept secrets: Kapiti Island. A protected reserve since 1897, the island is a fantastic place to hike. All pests have been eliminated from it, and birdlife—including saddlebacks, stitchbirds, and colonies of little spotted and South Island brown kiwi—is abundant. Don't be surprised if a curious and fearless weka bird investigates your day pack or unties your shoelaces. Climb to the Tuteremoana lookout point, which is more than 1,700-feet high, for stellar views.
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.
The reserve is 5 km (3 miles) from the mainland. Sign on with a tour operator for the boat trip out; all depart from the Kapiti Boating Club, Paraparaumu Beach. Crossings are weather dependent.