Kapiti is the meeting place for two major sea currents – it is where the cold Southland current meets the warm, d'Urville current – hence the original Maori name for the district is Ko to Waewae Kapiti o Tara Raua ko Rangitane (the meeting place of the boundaries of Tara and Rangitane).
To the east the Kapiti coast is framed by the mighty Tararua Ranges which cover 3,168 square kilometres from the Manawatu Gorge to the Rimutaka Range. To the south, behind Paekakariki, the District connects to the Akatarawa Ranges.
The Coast, as we know it today, was created by a gigantic earthquake about 200 million years ago. This severed a 1965 hectare-10km-long block of rock from the mainland creating Kapiti Island. Only 5.6km from the mainland Kapiti Island is a central focus for the District and is an internationally recognised nature reserve protecting some of the world's rarest and most endangered birds in New Zealand.
Kapiti Island is the only large sanctuary for birds between the Hauraki Gulf, in the north, and the most southern outlying islands of New Zealand. As such, it is one of the country's most valuable nature reserves and, a significant part of the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, which also includes the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve on the adjacent mainland.
Two large rivers intersect the district, the Waikanae River, which flows from the western foothills of the Tararua Ranges, through a diverse landscape of regenerating native bush, mature forest, and coastal sand dunes before entering the Tasman Sea between Waikanae and Paraparaumu and the 45km Otaki River, which runs from the eastern Tararuas, flowing west to enter the Tasman sea near Otaki.
The key influences on our environment have come from both tangata whenua and Pakeha, the opening of the North Island Main Trunk Line, connecting Wellington with the Manawatu in 1908, and the development of State Highway 1, which enabled far more intensive settlement and economic development.