Sunset on the Kāpiti Coast. © Justin Bretherton

Loved by the locals: Kāpiti

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1. The wheel thing

Quite apart from the other delights of Queen Elizabeth II Park on the Kāpiti Coast – and there are many – you can take a trip to the beach and down memory lane all at once by riding the tram from Mackay’s Crossing our to the dunes. It’s a sedate, two-kilometre journey aboard a lovingly restored tramcar that used to ply the streets of Wellington. And if you’re seized by a sudden passion for rolling stock, there’s a miniature railway up the road at Raumati Marine Gardens that just happens to be conveniently located to both the beach and an excellent playground.

Sunset. Don't see that often on the 'gram do you? #kapitiisland

A post shared by therodfather (@rodbardsley) on Mar 19, 2017 at 12:08am PDT

2. For the birds

Most people content themselves with enjoying the silhouette of Kāpiti Island, available from a Kāpiti coast beach near you. But the island itself is fast becoming a major attraction, since the eradication of introduced species in the 1980s and the relocation of a number of endangered birds. You can take a self-guided day walk, but it’s better to avail yourself of the services of a local guide, who will be able to enhance your appreciation of the natural and historical points of interest.

Better yet, you can stay overnight at the lodge and go out at night to spot kiwi and get a different perspective altogether of the mainland, across the strait.

3. Split personality

I know of one small person who was bereft when recent seismic activity brought down a hillside and closed the access road to Ōtaki Forks, and she won’t have been alone. Ōtaki Forks is one of the Kāpiti District’s best-kept secrets, a casual campground (basic facilities) adjoining a truly magical stretch of river. There are deep swimming holes and rocks for jumping off, and the water is a gorgeous, pounamu green. The Forks are also the starting point for the Southern Crossing, a legendary tramp across the Tararuas to Kaitoke north of Upper Hutt and hunters favour the river terraces up in the foothills for deerstalking. 

4. Catch a crab

It’s a love-hate thing, the experience of having your toe tweaked by a decent pair of pincers as you’re breasting the surf at beautiful Waikanae Beach.

For reasons known only to themselves and selected marine biologists, the waters here are home to big crabs, which aren’t shy when it comes to giving your extremities a nip.

But fear not: you can have your revenge. A little inland from Waikanae at Reikorangi, Waikanae Crab processes crabs caught off the coast for serving in seafood restaurants throughout the lower North Island and even as far afield as China. That’ll learn the nippy little critters.

5. Car blimey!

People come from all over the world to look at Sir Len Southward’s car museum at Ōtaihanga, just north of Paraparaumu. Sir Len’s life was in cars, and the very first car in his collection was a Tin Lizzie, a Model T Ford. It takes pride of place along with over 400 others in one of the world’s largest private collections. Besides the Ford, there are all sorts of exotic and glamorous stuff (a 1915 Stutz racing car, a Cadillac that belonged to Marlene Dietrich, an armoured saloon complete with bullet holes that belonged to Meye ‘Mickey’ Cohen). And besides the cars, the museum has function facilities and hosts regular events. 

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