Kapiti Island - national treasure for bird lovers

Kapiti Island is home to an internationally famed nature reserve protecting some of the world’s rarest and most endangered birds.

Free from introduced predators, the island is one of New Zealand's most important nature reserves - an area of uncontrolled natural forest regeneration and a centre for native bird recovery programmes.

It is the only large island sanctuary for birds in the lower North Island.

History of Kapiti Island

For over 800 years, Kapiti was inhabited by people and their history survives through the stories and legends told by their ancestors, and through historical sites and artefacts.

Many tribal groups have left their mark on Kapiti Island during a long and colourful history, as well as European interest from Captain James Cook, foreign trading ships, commercial whalers and immigrant farmers.

Interpretation of the flora and fauna, and local history and customs is delivered by local Maori guides.

Two destinations

Day visitors to the island can choose between two destinations - Rangatira or the northern end - and walks of varying difficulty.

Built with a gentle gradient, the north end track is a 4km track that provides easy walking access to a variety of landscapes from coastal areas to mature forest.

Beginning in the Okupe Valley, hikers journey up the ridgeback to cliff tops overlooking Cook Strait, before looping back down the valley.

"It offers a new perspective on Kapiti Island, one of our national treasures. The landscape and views at the north end are very different to those of the nature reserve at Rangatira," Department of Conservation (DOC) Kapiti Area manager Ian Cooksley says.

The diverse cross-section of landscape on the track offers visitors the potential to view a selection of rare and protected birds such as little spotted kiwi, kokako, saddleback and stitchbird.

Okupe Lagoon

The freshwater Okupe Lagoon is the habitat of royal spoonbills, herons and the rare brown teal, while around the seasonal coastal track shags, white-fronted terns, reef herons and oystercatchers can be viewed.

Further inland, takahe, weka, kakariki and the North Island robin live in shrubland: tui, bellbirds, kaka and kereru are seen and heard in the regenerating five finger and mahoe forest, or denser mature kohekohe and tawa bush.

Kapiti's adjoining marine reserve provides a unique mix of protected marine and land environments.

Permit system

The recently constructed loop track and visitor facilities, including a shelter, toilets and lookout, are operated under a DOC permit system allowing groups of up to 18 people per day to visit the island's north end.

The permit system is designed to safeguard the island's conservation values, while enhancing the visitor experience.

Visitors can book permits though the Department of Conservation's Wellington Information Centre.

Guided tours and overnight stays can be booked through Kapiti Island Nature Tours.