Wellington: Adventure holidaying in NZ without the ambulance
I AM not cut out for high adventure if it means having an ambulance on standby.
Finding a rush or a thrill shouldn't mean putting yourself in mortal danger, so I gave Wellington, NZ, four days to prove this office-dweller could feel undaunted and free.
Wellington is the central point in New Zealand - the southern edge of the northern island and the major gateway to anything you'd like to do in the country.
Jump off the plane and prepare for a climate similar to Melbourne's but with an angrier nautical spirit. The long white cloud throws tantrums here but embrace it as part of the experience.
Terrain is everything here - mountains you can hike or ride up slope back down into the sea so quickly it's easy to pack an ambitious itinerary into just a few days.
On my first full day there I swung out to the southernmost tip of the island to mountain bike and hike along the coast while meeting the local seal population.
I'm a dedicated road-cyclist and Palliser tempted me to the off-road side. Tackling this terrain isn't challenging but covering that much ground makes a huge difference when the elements are right there and so raw.
The whole southern region is a wine-tourer's fantasy. It's not hard to see why there are so many corporate retreats around here.
The second day belonged to Wellington itself. Olympic kayaking gold medallist Ian Ferguson has a shop down on Queen's Wharf in the CBD where you can hire a kayak to join a guided tour of the harbour.
Halfway through our tour we were hit by an unexpected rain squall, and while I'd been enjoying the paddle before, this turned it into an utter riot. It's worth saying again - play along with the weather.
That afternoon I grabbed a rather expensive-looking mountain-bike from Mud Cycles and, with the help of my guide Ash, headed up Makara Peak to enjoy its biking trails.
Makara is to wheels what Perisher is to skis. It's eye-wateringly pretty at the same time as it's trying to give you a heart attack.
The tracks are only as wide as an adult's shoulders and often involve tricky switchbacks - just for the beginner trails. Ash, a veteran of the sport, told me of one trail that involved a vertical drop down a dry waterfall.
The peak is about a kilometre above sea-level, but the view of the surrounding hills and the city below is one that if you can manage it, you should.
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Queenslanders are learning to be wary of quad bikes, so when I spent my last day on one blasting along the ridgelines and flats along the coast near Wellington I couldn't help but stop for a breather, and a picture.
It wasn't all shock-junky play in primordial terrain and nature. Wellington's dedication to you experiencing something new, comforting or exciting to eat and drink is absolute.
This is especially true of Cuba Street. Not only is it where you'll find the night markets, it's also where you'll find the densest concentration of restaurants and eateries.
Wellington is concentrated and fun enough to give the well-planned traveller however much of a break or an escapade as they want without causing culture shock.
* The writer was a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism
- Grey St, Wellington
- Average nightly rates begin at $334 for two adults
- See Intercontinental.com/Wellington
- Karori, Wellington
- Bikes available for hire from $35 for a half day.
- See mudcycles.co.nz for details.
- Queen's Wharf, Wellington
- Kayaks available for hire from $20 for an hour.
- Tours depend on availability.
- See fergskayaks.co.nz for details.
Green Jersey Cycle Tours
- Bike hire starts at $40 per person per day, tours start at $110 per person. Kids rates available.
- See greenjersey.co.nz for details.
Quad Bike Expeditions
- Tours from four hours to two days are available starting at $229 per person.
- See wellingtonadventures.co.nz/quad-biking for details.