Less than an hour north of Wellington, the Kapiti Coast offers the perfect antidote to the city. With broad sandy beaches, laid-back towns, quirky museums and nature by the bucket load, this area is definitely one of the country’s hidden gems.
Driving Across Kapiti Coast New Zealand
Pacific culture and flavour
Begin your Kapiti Coast New Zealand coastal road trip at the little town of Porirua. Visit on a Saturday, which will enable you to take full advantage of one of New Zealand’s most colourful weekly markets. Recently relocated to Waitangirua Shopping Mall, it’s a busy market with a distinctive Polynesian flavour. You’ll need to get up early, as the market starts in the wee small hours, but it’s worth it to experience ethnic food, clothing, Pacific Island crafts and music. The town is also home to the Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures with a gallery specialising in Maori and Pacific art.
Ride a vintage wooden tram
From Porirua, I’d suggest making your way north to the little seaside village of Paekakariki, strung out along a strip of black sand. Queen Elizabeth Park, right by the beach, is the perfect place to walk or cycle; if the weather plays ball, it’s also a good place to bring a picnic or have a refreshing dip in the ocean. Within the park and just north of Paekakariki itself, the Tramway Museum features a host of restored wooden trams that once serviced the transport needs of nearby Wellington. You can even ride one of the trams – the park features a 2km stretch of track.
From vintage trams to vintage cars
Further north still, this time to Paraparaumu, you’ll find the Southward Car Museum makes for a fascinating and worthwhile stop. Set up by the late Sir Len Southward, the museum houses the southern hemisphere’s largest private car collection. This eclectic treasure trove contains over four hundred classic and vintage cars including Marlene Dietrich’s 1934 Cadillac Town Cabriolet and a 1915 Stutz Indianapolis race car. The museum is open daily and charges a very reasonable $17 entrance fee for adults and $3 for children under 16.
Dominating the coastline offshore from Paraparaumu is Kapiti Island. Largely open to day visitors, the island, once an important centre for whaling, has been a protected reserve since 1897. Free from predators following an extended government-sponsored campaign to rid the island of imported mammals, birdlife thrives on the island. Now, its most famous resident is the little spotted kiwi, together with a range of other native birds including the colourful kakariki (parakeet), kokako (wattlebird) and kereru (pigeon). Reserve in advance as visitor permits are strictly limited.