The Kāpiti Coast

Douglas Paul
Oct 28, 2020

The Kāpiti Coast is to the north of Wellington, and is best known for Kāpiti Island, now a large bird sanctuary. However, it also includes the outer Wellington suburbs of Pukerua Bay, Raumati, Paraparaumu and Waikanae, which are well worth a stop and stay for a few days, even if you aren’t visiting the Kāpiti Island.

The beaches range from relatively long and sedate in front of Paraparaumu (as they’re sheltered by the island), to the incredibly wild Pukerua Bay, which is more like Makara Bay.⁠

Pukerua Bay

Pukerua Bay is on the main highway north, on the top of a hill above Plimmerton. It’s claim to fame is as the location for Peter Jackson’s early film Bad Taste – otherwise it’s a quiet, local beach with one nearly secret caravan cafe just off Rawhiti Road.

The setting is dramatic, with soft sand on the north end of the beach and a south end strewn with stones and driftwood. There’s also a huge boulder with an arch that you can walk through. These photos were taken over a few days to capture the drama of the coast’s weather.

You can get to the beach from Pukerua Beach Road, or there’s a small parking area on the left with a walk down just after you start down the hill towards Paekakariki.

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Paekakariki has a more village-like feeling, with cafes, a museum, a second hand bookshop at the railway station and a cool artist co-op. The beach itself is calm and lacks the drama of Pukerua Bay – it’s really the south end of the long sweeping bay in front of Kapiti Island.

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Queen Elizabeth Park

This huge park sits between Paekakariki and Raumati – we drove in from the motorway off-ramp when we saw the sign. Queen Elizabeth Park is known as the site of a US Marine Corps base from the Second World War, and there are plenty of tracks for walking, biking and horse riding, plus access to the beach.

There’s also a reestablished lagoon just beyond the marine memorial, which had fabulous reflections and dozens of swooping pikawakawa (fantails) when we visited.

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Paekākāriki Hill

You can hike up the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track, or if you’d like the amazing views without the three to four hours of effort, you can drive up the road to the viewpoint on the top of the hill. The view takes in the entire coast, Kapiti Island and the South Island.

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Raumati is the next beach suburb after Paekākāriki, and definitely has less of a bohemian feel. The beach is a continuation of the sweeping bay that starts at Paekākāriki, and is lovely with a nice walkway above the road. It’s the perfect spot for views up and down the coast and of the open Tasman Sea.

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Paraparaumu is the largest town in the Kapiti Coast region, and has benefited from the early motorway bypass that moves the main highway away from the town. The beach is a continuation from Raumati but is very different in character, being very wide and with views of Kapiti Island. There is a fair bit of development by the beach with walkways, parks and eateries.

On a nice weekend, people park their cars on the beach and push their boats out, so it’s the ultimate Kiwi lifestyle for many. From here you can also get a boat to visit the Kapiti Island eco sanctuary.

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Waikanae Lagoon

This is a must-do short walk at sunset. The locals have been busily planting natives around the lagoon for many years and it’s simply gorgeous, even in bad weather.

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Kapiti Island

We’ll spend another day on the island itself, but here’s a view of how Kapiti Island looks at different times of the day from the coast.

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