Waikanae activities you can’t miss!
On Wellington’s coastal district of the Kapiti Coast, Waikanae is deemed the “garden and bird capital” of the Kapiti Coast. This small town boasts a fine balance of nature activities, such as bush walks and wildlife reserves, and culture with galleries, museums and spectacular cafe culture. If you are in the area around the end of January, don’t miss the Waikanae Lions Super Garden Trail where the most beautiful private gardens open their gates to the public for this must-visit event! However, if you are visiting Waikanae during other times of the year, check out the list below of the top things to do in Waikanae for plenty of activities to keep you busy!While the list below shows all the best things to do in the town of Waikanae, be sure to explore further afield by using our tips in our 10 Must-Dos on the Kapiti Coast and Kapiti Coast Guide for Backpackers.
1. Walk in the Hemi Matenga Reserve
Head to the hills behind the town of Waikanae for walks and epic views from 500m high. The Hemi Matenga Memorial Park Scenic Reserve holds the most extensive area of kohekohe forest left in New Zealand making the bush walks a must-do! The Kohekohe bushwalk can be done in 30 minutes, while the Parata track leads to an awesome lookout with views overlooking the Kapiti Coast. Combine it with the Te Au Loop for a 3-hour hiking experience.
Location: Accessed via Tui Crescent.
2. Check out the Mahara Gallery
For a bit of culture in your life, visit the Mahara Gallery. The Mahara Gallery is the public art gallery for the Kapiti Coast making it a great place to experience the culture of the Kapiti area. There are about six different exhibitions displayed throughout the year. The free gallery is open Thursday to Saturday 10am-4pm and on Sundays 1pm-4pm. For more galleries and museums in the area, check out the 7 Best Art Galleries & Museums on the Kapiti Coast.
Location: 20 Mahara Place.
3. Go to Waikanae Beach
The Kapiti Coast has over 40km of beaches to enjoy, including the beauty of Waikanae Beach. Not only is the beach itself a great place to go for a stroll or a swim, but it’s also home to its own little beach-side village with some great places to eat! Check out more awesome beaches in the region with our 10 Beaches in Wellington You Can’t Miss.
Location: Access to the village and beach is via Te Moana Road.
4. Visit the Kapiti Coast Museum
Learn about the heritage of the Kapiti Coast settlements with relics on display from the pioneer era. The museum is based inside the quaint old post office which is a sight in itself! The museum is open weekends 2pm-4pm. Otherwise, you can learn about the history of the town on the interpretation panels down Elizabeth Street.
Location: 9 Elizabeth Street.
5. Take a dip in the Waikanae Pool
When summer hits, don’t miss the outdoor Waikanae Pool! The 33.3m lane pool is heated to a comfortable 29C and the toddler pool is around 32C with a hyroslide! The pool is open November to Easter every year.
Location: Ngarara Road, Waikanae. On the edge of Waikanae Park.
6. Shop at the Waikanae Market
Every Saturday morning, Waikanae Park is bustling with activity at the weekly Waikanae Market. Get local fresh produce, souvenirs for home and experience a classic Kiwi farmers market! The market runs from 9am to 12pm.
Location: Waikanae Park, Corner Park Avenue and Ngarara Roads.
7. See wildlife at the Nga Manu Nature Reserve
Watch the eel feeding, see the “three-eyed lizard” the tuatara, and many native birds in the Nga Manu Nature Reserve. The reserve is set in the largest remnant of coastland lowland swamp forest in Kapiti making it the perfect habitat for New Zealand wildlife. You might even be lucky enough to visit while there are some kiwi in the nocturnal kiwi house. This is a great affordable activity in Waikanae for under NZ$20. Learn more about the New Zealand wildlife in 10 Things You Did Not Know About New Zealand Wildlife.
Location: 74 Nga Manu Reserve Road.
8. Walk along the Waikanae Estuary
For more bird-spotting, take a walk in the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve. It’s home to more than 60 bird species including the banded dotterel, pukeko, dabchick, and variable oystercatcher.
Location: Manly Street North, Paraparaumu Beach.