The Kapiti Coast, together with the Horowhenua District, has been dubbed the Nature Coast for its untamed shorelines, the wilder parts of their hinterland, and for the wonderful flora and fauna that flourishes in its reserves and sanctuaries.
Loosely, the Kapiti Coast area stretches from Paekakariki in the south to north of Kapiti Island and incorporates many beach-side and plains settlements along the way with lyrical names – Paekakariki, Paraparaumnu, and Waikanae. The area also includes the mysterious, often mist-shrouded, hump of the Kapiti Island bird sanctuary, just a few kilometres off shore. Visitors on the way to and from the capital can stop off to eat lunch at the restaurants and cafés that have sprung up to cater for them, and to walk the long stretches of grey sand that fringe this entire coastline.
Other aspects drawing people to the coast are the dramatic land forms – the steep forest covered ranges swooping down almost to the water’s edge, the flora and fauna that take sanctuary it its reserves, and the passionate and mostly voluntary efforts that the local people go to in order to protect them.
Southward Car Museum: near Paraparaumu sits 350 vehicles in this collection and three aircraft located on Otaihanga Rd. Some of the most viewed vehicles are Marlene Dietrich’s Cadillac cabriolet, Gangster Mickey Cohen’s 1950 ‘gangster special’ Cadillac, and a 1915 Stutz Indianapolis racing car. The museum is set in six hectares of manicured grounds.
Police Museum, Porirua: if the long arm of the law fascinates, you could enjoy this museum in Porirua, which has only been open to the public for the last four years. On display are weapons, some unsavoury looking evidence, and forensics.
Wellington Tramway Museum: at weekends in Queen Elizabeth Park, a fully-restored tram runs through the park. Inside the museum are photographic displays, the tram used for the remake of King Kong and an original Wellington cable car.
Nga Manu Nature Reserve: situated in Waikanaei, 50 minutes’ drive north of Wellington, sits 35ha of coastal wetland. Here is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with New Zealand wildlife in a natural setting, as well as a diverse and very wide range of native plant species.
Queen Elizabeth Park: a 40-minute drive from the capital and a much-favoured recreation area for Wellingtonians, the 650ha terrain, edged by a sandy beach, encompasses the last remnant of natural sand dunes that once stretched the length of the coast.