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Pedal across the Tasman to the “coolest little mountain bike capital in the world”

October 28, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Hugged by harbour and hills, you’d be hard pressed to find a city in the world that’s easier to get around than Wellington, New Zealand. It also happens to have 350km of mountain bike trails, all within close proximity of downtown, serving up stunning views where the hills meet the harbour and the city.

A creative, cosmopolitan city with more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York, you’re never far away from a brunch spot, great coffee or craft brew. One of the city’s mountain biking trails just happens to end right at the cellar door of the legendary Garage Project brewery. The perfect end to an exhilarating day’s ride.

You can fly to Wellington in about three hours from the East Coast – less time than it takes to bust out a Hobbit movie, (another thing they’re known for across that way). You can arrive at your airport in the morning and be biking the hills overlooking Wellington Harbour by lunchtime. Too easy. 

Harbour & hills

Warm up on the Mt Victoria trails, just above the CBD, and take in views of the harbour, city and attractive waterfront precinct.

Then go a little harder on the hill suburb trails like Te Aro’s Transient to really get your tyres dirty.

For some of the best single-track riding in the world, head for the day to Makara Peak Mountain Biking Park, a dedicated playground for riders that swoops through the lush New Zealand bush. From the top you can look back towards the city, and on a clear day even spot the mountains of the South Island across Cook Strait. 

Valley, mountains and plain

Across the harbour is Petone, site of the first European settlement in the region. From this historic foreshore suburb, now home to cafes and boutique shopping, you can follow one of New Zealand’s official Great Rides, the Rimutaka Cycle Trail.

The RCT, as it’s known, is a 2-3 day ride that starts with a riverside cruise through Hutt City parkland, before heading up into the forested Rimutaka Ranges. Following an old rail trail, this section features seven tunnels before a downhill takes you to the big sky farming country of Wairarapa.

From there you can follow the trail south to the rugged southern coast or head just north into wine country. Cycling the flat country lanes ofMartinborough, calling onto vineyards and olive groves to sample the wares is a deliciously relaxing way to spend an afternoon. 

Strait to adventure

The short Interislander ferry cruise from Wellington to Marlborough is one of the world’s most scenic, and the crew welcome cyclists and their gear on board. This sunny region is home to the famous Queen Charlotte Track, which winds around the spectacular Marlborough Sounds. With 70km of coastal ridgelines and bush bashes, it’s a favourite with riders, not least because of the resort and first-lodge accommodation options. You can’t beat a spa treatment to sort out those trail aches.

Also famous for its world-class sauvignon blanc, Marlborough is another great spot for vineyard rides, with some 48 cellar doors available. In March they host the South Island’s largest cycling event, the Forrest GrapeRide, a road ride through picture postcard surroundings. Go long on the ‘Magnum’ course (202km), the standard 101km course, or take it easy with the ‘Taster’ (42km). All riders finish up at the festival event for food, music and an epic old-fashioned grape crushing. 

All geared up

Whether you need a bike with a basket and a soft seat for a vineyard cruise, a water taxi to a remote trail section or a couple of new inner tubes just in case, we’ve got you covered. There are a ton of local guides who know the trails and have everything you need to make the most of your two-wheeled holiday.

Around Wellington, Bike Wellington and Mud Cycles will sort you out. March Hare know their way around the vines of sunny Wairarapa, andGreen Jersey Cycle Tours can lead you down some more adventurous trails.  When heading to Marlborough, hit up Pacific Cycle Tours,Explore Marlborough and Bike 2 Wine for their local insight.

Cyclecity, N.Z.

When you’re done riding for the day, you couldn’t be in a better spot to relax. Hose off the mud and head into Wellington, the city that’s made for weekends. Full of culture, cuisine and character with none of the hassles of a massive metropolis, it’s not surprising Vogue called it ‘the coolest little city in the world’.

Whether you’re a hardcore dirt demon, casual cruiser or somewhere in between, Wellington is your gateway to an unforgettable ‘off-road trip’ with your favourite friends.

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