Kia Ora: Kaukapakapa

Around New Zealand Elisabeth Easther finds a rural idyll where all the locals know each other.
The Kaipara has glorious sunsets. Photo / Getty Images
The Kaipara has glorious sunsets. Photo / Getty Images

Origin of name: Kaukapakapa is Maori for "to swim with much splashing".

Population: Close to 3000.

Get this: The Rodney district is the largest lump of land in Auckland area with the lowest population density, and those close-set Rodney towns are sometimes described as being like "30km of beads on a necklace".

Old news: Heritage fruit trees have been grown here for more than 150 years and there's a pear tree growing by the river at Punganui Bridge (between Kaukapakapa and Helensville) that's thought to be more than 140 years old - and it's still fruiting today.

Famous locals: Tony Woodcock (the All Black prop who scored the only try in the Rugby World Cup final of 2011) and Clint Brown (former TV3 newsreader).

Former All Black Tony Woodcock. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Former All Black Tony Woodcock. Photo / Brett Phibbs


Infamous locals: Kaukapakapa is home to a mixed bag of artists, actors, musicians, organic lifestylers, horse people, young families and retired city workers - society's more colourful members seem to find their way to the west.

Best website: kaukapakapa.org.nz.

Big business: Farming is still the main occupation. Other businesses are based around tourism and the forest and bush.

Source of pride: The strong community has enjoyed a renaissance since the motorway extended to Silverdale - imagine enjoying a truly rural lifestyle just 20 minutes from civilisation.

Town fiestas: Kaukapakapa Markets, on the third Sunday of each month, are fun for eating, drinking and people-watching.

Productive society: The Kaukapakapa Crop Swap meets every Saturday morning, at the Kaipara Coast Garden Centre; bring your excess produce and enjoy a coffee while trading produce.

Here for a short time: Visit the Sunday markets for great coffee and shopping. Head to the phenomenal Kaipara Coast Sculpture Park or head a little further north to visit the historic Mataia Homestead near Mt Auckland, not only is it home to a private kiwi sanctuary, their gardens are highly starred by the NZ Garden Trust. Visit by appointment unless you're a guest at the B&B.

Kids love: Exploring and getting into nature and, in the not-too-distant future, there'll be an all-ages adventure playground behind the hall in the middle of village.

Best walks: Mt Auckland is a hearty three-and-a-half-hour hike or visit Omeru Falls for light strolls, stunning scenery, three substantial waterfalls, swimming holes and a barbecue area.

Best view: Kaipara Harbour Lookout will always impress, or watch the world go by from the veranda at the Kaukapakapa Hotel.

Best swim: Omeru Reserve and Falls is a wonderful spot with a long history, those rock pools are super cool for summer swimming.

Old times: The sweet historic library next to the hall was originally built by the Henley family. They stocked the library with books from their extensive collection and some of those original books are still there today. On market days, the old stories are often read aloud to the children.

Photographic proof: Look for the historic photos on the walls of the library, the dairy and online.

Cultural outings: Explore the district's historic buildings. Henley House and St Cuthbert's Presbyterian Church are officially listed by the NZ Historic Places Trust and the second Methodist Church, the cemetery, the public hall and the library are all rated historically significant.

Berry nice: In summer, visit Passionberry's little stall in Waitoki for delicious strawberries and a bottle of strawberry syrup.

Yummy food: Brett and Julie from Shark and Tatties - the temporary takeaway place on the old village green, innovatively made out of three shipping containers - serve fish and chips and their burgers are famous: 15cm high and full of goodness. Plus they make delicious pies, their bacon and egg is legendary and their cakes rule. Shark and Tatties will soon be moving to the recently renovated old vet (formerly the original butchers) in the main street and the new cafe will offer a lot more than takeaways.

Wet your whistle: Kaukapakapa Hotel recently changed hands and has been gussied up with a talented new chef making it ideal for a light meal and a cool drink and in the bar they offer thin crust pizzas.

Best adventures: If you're feeling frisky you could take on the Rodney Coast Challenge multisport event, held each October. Or grab your kayak and paddle up the Makarau River and imagine how, back in the day, the barges would float up river at high tide whereupon local farmers would send their cream in cans back to the city and exchange mail. Or launch your tinny from the Jordan's Rd boat ramp and go out through the channel cut in the mangroves to try your luck at fishing.

Wildlife: Aside from the flourishing kiwi at Mataia Homestead, there is phenomenal birdlife around here including flocks of kereru, kotare (kingfishers), tui, wax-eyes, grey warblers, piwakawaka and pukeko. In September, tiny welcome swallows arrive for the summer then, at the end of March, those intrepid aviators fly back to the Solomons. A few kaka have also made their way over from Tiritiri Matangi, and there's resident population of kookaburra, thanks to Governor Grey and his avian follies.

Safety warnings: Everyone knows each other so you won't get away with getting up to mischief in this village.

The verdict: A right rural delight.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT?

In the Rodney district, 51km northwest of Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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