Air NZ's top 10 picks for the Kapiti Nature Coast

Dramatic beginnings for Kapiti nature coast

According to Maori legend, it was the explorer Kupe who 1,000 years ago raised his club and with one mighty blow cut off the land which forms the island that marks the popular Kapiti Coast in the lower north island. 

Geologists tell us that Kapiti Island was in fact formed two hundred million years ago by gigantic earthquakes which split a 10 kilometre long piece of rock from the Tararua Ranges depositing it five kilometres away in the Tasman Sea.

Whatever its origins, Kapiti Island forms a natural barrier from the prevailing winds for Paraparumu and the other settlements along this ‘nature coast’. It is an increasingly popular place to live and offers visitors a wide range of activities.

Our top 10 picks include:

  • Kapiti Island – experience the magic of seeing birds that are either very rare or absent from the mainland on this island bird sanctuary. You need to get a permit from the Department of Conservation to visit and access is only via tour operators or boat charter

  • Manawatu Estuary, Foxton Beach – see more birdlife in this Wetland of International Importance estuary which is home to an amazing 93 species including godwits and knots who journey here every year from Alaska and Siberia

  • Tararua Ranges – take a day walk or a longer hike into the Tararua Ranges, the massive mountains which shelter the coast on the land side

  • Beaches – make the most of the wide open stretches of beach as you swim, fish or just walk. Look out for the Queen Elizabeth Park beach reserve which includes pa sites and reminders of the 20,000 US marines who camped here in WW2

  • Gliding – experience the thrill of gliding by taking a trial flight with one of the instructors at the Wellington Gliding Club which bases itself at Paraparumu Airport

  • Southward Car Museum – see over 350 vehicles up close in this extraordinary collection which has been the lifetime hobby of Sir Len and Lady Vera Southward

  • Paekakariki Rail & Heritage Museum – get a feel for the historic importance of the railway system to Paekakariki in this trust administered museum. Steam Incorporated which restores New Zealand Railways locomotives to meet the standards of mainline operation and runs excursions is also part of the complex

  • Food – taste the Kapiti Coast in the produce which comes from the market gardening, horticulture and farming endeavours in the northern areas. The coast inspired the highly successful Kapiti range of cheeses and ice cream and is home to award winning olive oil and one of the country’s most popular cooking schools (Ruth Pretty’s). It also has a series of farmers markets which are a great place to meet the producers and taste their wares

  • Art – visit artists in their studios (an Arts Guide is available from the visitor information centres)

  • Golf – play on what is regarded as one of the greatest links courses in the Southern Hemisphere at the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course. The course was designed by former Australian Open champion Alex Russell


Air New Zealand flies between Paraparaumu and Auckland connecting it with 25 other destinations on the domestic network. For information and to book flights to the Kapiti Coast visit