Queen Elizabeth Park, on the Kāpiti Coast, is an ideal place for a day out. Relax with a picnic, enjoy a swim, or navigate the inland or coastal tracks all in a day out on the coast. Rosalie Willis takes a closer look at one of Kāpiti's main attractions.

Māori history

The history of the park dates far back with the land being a significant site of Māori occupation for hundreds of years until the mid-1800s.

The occupation centred around Whareroa and Wainui villages until European settler numbers grew during the 1830s with European ships regularly taking up moorings between Kāpiti Island and the mainland.

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With the waterway between the island and mainland providing a safe anchorage for European ships and whaling boats, this led to a slow decline in Māori population as the land was taken up by European farmers in the mid-1850s.

Another significant occupation in the history of the park was the mid-20th century US Marines encampment during World War II.

Three camps near Mackays Crossing and Paekakariki Park entrances housed 20,000 troops on land taken from farmers and local iwi from June 1942 to November 1943.

While they only occupied the site for a short time, their presence had an impact as it was then considered suitable land for a regional park.

Grand plans

After this time grand plans for a resort to be built or facilities that could potentially host the Olympics on the land were suggested.

Reports concerning the park in the 1940s led to additional land being purchased to increase the area of the park.

Believing they were dealing with a "gem of national importance", high aspirations for what could be achieved were stated in a report.

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"The committee visualises the ultimate completion of a central resort which the population of New Zealand will be anxious to visit and where facilities of all kinds and descriptions, not excluding first class accommodation … will be provided for the enjoyment of all comers whatever their financial resources may be.

"Undoubtedly this project is a milestone in the history of New Zealand and the committee has approached the problem with this thought in mind."

Part of Queen Elizabeth Park looking up to the hills. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Part of Queen Elizabeth Park looking up to the hills. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Hosting facilities for the Empire Games, if not the Olympics, were suggested by commentators.

However by the mid-1970s only a motor camp, two bowling greens, a children's playground and paddle-boat pool featured in the park, a far cry from the grand plans suggested back in the 1940s.

Name

During the development years of the park, several different names were given relating to its geographical and historical links.

Whareroa Recreation Reserve, Paekakariki Reserve and Marine Park were several names given.

Queen Elizabeth Park was the eventual winner after it was given the name during Queen Elizabeth II's royal visit in 1953.

Given the name to coincide with Queen Elizabeth's visit, and with her officially opening the park, it eventually stuck.

Management

Administered by a board made up of representatives from central government departments and local authorities, soon after the park's official opening by the queen, a set of rather unusual bylaws were passed.

One of the tracks in Queen Elizabeth Park. Photo / Rosalie Willis
One of the tracks in Queen Elizabeth Park. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Featuring the usual ones concerning dogs on leads and lighting fires, the following bylaws were also in place.

Musical instruments: No person shall, if forbidden to do so by any person authorised by the board, use or play any instrument (musical or otherwise) or loudspeaker in the domain, or cause in any way any sound or noise that disturbs or annoys … other occupiers or users of the domain.

Throwing stones: No person shall throw any stick, stone, or other missile within the domain.

Sports and games: No person shall play at or engage in any sport or game in the domain … if he is expressly forbidden to do so by any person authorised by the board.

Now however the park is under the management of the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the tangata whenua of the park are Ngāti Haumia, Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai and Ngāti Toa Rangatira.

Facilities

Today the park is an icon on the Kāpiti Coast.

Despite there being no Olympic swimming pools in sight, the 650-hectare park hosts easy to navigate terrain ideal for walking, cycling, running and horse riding.

Stretching out along the coastline between Paekākāriki and Raumati South, swimming, fishing, picnicking and exploring the rich history of the park can all be done in a day out at the park.

Visit the Wellington Tramway Museum on weekends 11am to 4.30pm, join model aeroplane enthusiasts who regularly meet and fly near Whareroa Beach, attend equestrian events held at Mackays Crossing or camp out at Paekakariki Holiday Park.

Take as little or as long as you want to explore the trails, swim in the sea, chill out with a picnic, to enjoy the perfect summer's day at Queen Elizabeth Park.