Kapiti Island Nature Reserve
When visiting New Zealand’s beautiful Kapiti coast, beaches and towns you can’t help but notice (on clear days) the 10Km long rectangular Kapiti island.
The island lies 5km off the West of the North Island, 1 hour from Wellington, and you need a permit to visit it from a DOC approved tourism company. We visited with Kapiti Island Eco Experience, a great company that can ferry you to and from the island from Paraparaumu and grant Island permits.
Kapiti island was predator free for decades. All the rats were eradicated through a relentless programme of intervention. However it is a never-ending campaign; all bags are checked of visitors travelling to island and there are numerous predator-free traps around the island. Even with this in place the island still gets unexpected visitors a pregnant stoat swam the 5km stretch across the sea (without a permit) and gave birth to her young. All of this work means that visitors are able to see native endangered New Zealand plant and bird life including the kiwi, kākā, kōkako, takahē, hihi and many more.
Our boys loved the tractor on ‘stilts’ which tows the purpose built boat into the sea at Paraparaumu, we had a bumpy crossing but made it to the island just in time before we felt too seasick! We were given a brief on what to look out for and a map of accesible walking tracks. There is enough time on the day trip to explore the Rangatira side of the island. The lower part of the island is teeming with bird song, an opportunity to see and hear some birds only found in New Zealand.
We took the well signposted track to climb up the summit of Tuteremoana, the highest point on Kapiti Island at 521m above sea level. The path climbs and offers glimpses back towards the North Island, a feeding station is a great place to pause if the kids can keep quiet. Our most exciting encounter was closer to the summit, seeing a baby flightless Weka walking out of the bush to receive food from its mother. The tramp was around 1 hour 45 minutes and we were rewarded with spectacular views of the island, sightings of lots of birds, and sweeping panoramas of the mainland.
After a picnic lunch at the top we still had time to walk down the hill and have a swim in the sea, avoiding the gull colony and see even more birds. It was much quicker going back down the track towards the beach, less than an hour. The isolated beach housed some beautiful shells and clear waters, a swim was chilly but irresistible.
Before it was time to return to the North Island a ranger helped us to catch a glimpse of the once thought extinct Takahe creeping through the bush. The ride back was calmer, the captain expertly drove the boat straight back onto the submerged trailer, we were then towed back up the beach to the carpark still sitting in the boat! A fantastic day out.