The vineyards, shops and awe-inspiring landscapes of South Wairarapa are well known to most. The rugged coastline, rich in history and wildlife, is not so familiar to many. Things Wairarapa reporter Piers Fuller was invited to try a new multi-day bike adventure package taking into account the multiple experiences of the wild south of the North Island.

Carole Stapleton and Tim Nicholson walking through Palliser Ridge Farm with Lake Wairarapa and the Remutaka Range in the background.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Carole Stapleton and Tim Nicholson walking through Palliser Ridge Farm with Lake Wairarapa and the Remutaka Range in the background.

Adventure without difficulty is my favorite genre.

When the guys at Green Jersey Explorer Tours asked me to try their new multi-day Cape Palliser Coastal Explorer Tour package, I couldn’t have been more prepared.

Having reported in Wairarapa for 17 years, I thought I knew the place well, but I also knew that there were always more hiding places around the corner.

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I skipped all three days of the six day tour knowing there would be some great walks to do, but it’s all the “extras” that made it such a special experience.

Some of the treats I didn’t expect were hearing about the Maori story of the local iwi, seeing farmers turn their wool into charming products, throwing a party by the sea. swimming on the south coast with a gregarious host and throwing golf balls off an incredibly scenic tee overlooking the Cook Strait.

A pasta-making session at the Tora Farm Kitchen on the south east coast of Wairarapa.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

A pasta-making session at the Tora Farm Kitchen on the south east coast of Wairarapa.

Other experiences such as participating in a real Italian pasta-making session, an evening of exploring the heavenly night sky, and an introduction to the region with a mihi whakatau have been seamlessly integrated into the itinerary.

The trip was a mix of fully guided and self-guided horseback riding. On a day like this, for example, Stuart Edwards and his van would meet us at various points during the trip, give us directions, fill us with refreshments, and serve lunch at a predetermined destination.

Green Jersey Explorer Tours founder Stuart Edwards points out some features of the Palliser Ridge Farm landscape.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Green Jersey Explorer Tours founder Stuart Edwards points out some features of the Palliser Ridge Farm landscape.

Before I joined them, the group had spent a few days touring the southern towns of Wairarapa, Martinborough, Featherston and Greytown, doing vineyard work and riding the famous Remutaka Incline.

They were greeted by hospitality specialists such as Lacewood at Tuhitarata Estate, The White Swan Hotel in Greytown and Coney Wines in Martinborough.

Departing from Lacewood on Tuesday morning, we made a 10 mile jaunt along Lake Ferry Road to the sleepy country village of Pirinoa.

Although these would be considered main roads by local standards, there was very little road traffic.

Sue Nicholson starts off for Palliser Bay.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Sue Nicholson starts off for Palliser Bay.

We quickly made our way inland to one of South Wairarapa’s main sheep and oxen stations, Palliser Ridge, where host Lisa Portas explained to cyclists how their wool was made into boutique items such as as scarves, hats, plush toys and jackets.

We then made our way to the farm terraces and enjoyed a breathtaking 180 degree view of Palliser Bay which spans Ocean Beach, the Remutaka Range, Ōnoke Lake and east towards from Cape Town.

A nice little addition was the chance to hit golf balls up the side of the hill to try and win a bottle of wine by landing one in a waterer at the bottom.

Going down a few miles we found ourselves on the main road to Cape Palliser and headed for the Pinnacles of Putangirua, made famous as the Lord of the Rings site.

Horseman Tim Nicholson was eager to see the Putangirua Pinnacles monument that featured in “The Lord of the Rings”.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Horseman Tim Nicholson was eager to see the Putangirua Pinnacles monument that featured in “The Lord of the Rings”.

After a delicious lunch with tablecloths and cutlery, a few of us did the 90 minute loop to see the precarious stacked rock formations.

From the Pinnacles we headed east towards the Cape along a wild, lonely and charming road.

We stopped at Waimeha Camping Village on one of the less populated sections of the coast and were treated to an oasis of hospitality.

John Priest of Waimeha Camping Village on the south coast of Wairarapa was overnight accommodation on the third day of the tour.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

John Priest of Waimeha Camping Village on the south coast of Wairarapa was overnight accommodation on the third day of the tour.

Host John Priest was such a character and turned a relaxing evening in the nautical themed cafe / bar / lounge into a real party.

Our individual cabins faced the coast which meant we were all greeted with a wonderful ocean view to start the day.

Green Jersey co-owner Joe Howells was our guide for the next two days, taking us along what I would consider one of the most exciting and unspoiled stretches of the Wellington Coast.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse is an icon of the coast.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Cape Palliser Lighthouse is an icon of the coast.

Joe clearly had a passion for geological, Maori, and Pākēhā history that went far beyond what was required as a guide.

We had special permission to pass through private farmland, Maori land, and conservation department estate north of the cape which was a real privilege.

Rugged rock outcrops, vast scree fans to traverse, a few small gnarled rocky hills made this one the slowest sections, but also one of the most enjoyable.

Seals from the southeast coast of southern Wairarapa were a highlight of the tour.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Seals from the southeast coast of southern Wairarapa were a highlight of the tour.

One of the main sources of entertainment along the entire southeast coast were seals, seals and more seals.

From the southernmost tip of the island, the bewitching scent of blooming lupines often gives way to a loud seal explosion that floats inland.

Marine mammals have gathered in great numbers in particular places, and at this time of year we were fortunate to see juveniles, pregnant mothers and males all gathered.

While some basked like cats in the sun, others constantly moved, barked and scrambled for territory.

Tim Nicholson carrying his bike across a ford in Stonewall near Cape Palliser.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Tim Nicholson carrying his bike across a ford in Stonewall near Cape Palliser.

My group included an adventurous couple from Tauranga who had traveled extensively and who rode high-quality, specialized dual-suspension mountain bikes, and a few dynamic women in their sixties who rode on converted e-bikes with no rear suspension.

I was on my mountain bike without a dual suspension motor which was perfect for my fitness and abilities.

Facing a headwind, I could hide behind the e-bikes and be safe from the worst while they creaked with a decent clip.

The great thing about e-bikes is that they make riding easier and extend your range considerably. If the legs start to tire, simply increase the level of assistance.

The Cape Palliser Coastal Explorer Tour takes cyclists along the southeast coast of Wairarapa via White Rock.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

The Cape Palliser Coastal Explorer Tour takes cyclists along the southeast coast of Wairarapa via White Rock.

I tried the Specialized eMTB and was able to instantly see how it would take the bite out of hills or headwinds and keep you enjoying the trails for longer.

The days included between 35 and 55 km of driving over several hours with many stops. I recommend that you spend a few hours in the saddle before your trip to acclimatize your legs and butt.

Stopping at Tora and staying in the old farmhouse kitchen for a few nights was also unforgettable.

One evening, Becky Bateman of Greytown’s Under the Stars gave a talk on the famous brilliant night sky of South Wairarapa. She brought binoculars for everyone but Wednesday was overcast so while it wasn’t a good night for stargazing her speech was captivating.

Author Piers Fuller has never lost his sense of direction.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

Author Piers Fuller has never lost his sense of direction.

The next day was considered a day of rest where people could choose activities. Most of the group opted for a 40 km round trip north along the coast.

Mainly through coastal farmland, Joe showed riders new parts of the ever-changing coastline with not another soul for miles.

Others took the opportunity to relax with a book and the ocean view from the kitchen.

A pasta-making session in the Tora farm kitchen.

PIERS FULLER / Stuff

A pasta-making session in the Tora farm kitchen.

That afternoon Lucia went out and showed everyone how to make pasta from scratch and make an authentic dish of Italian fettuccine lasagna.

The final day brought cyclists back along the Tora and White Rock roads to Martinborough, no doubt with a whole new appreciation for the southern gems of the North Island.

Tim Nicholson from Tauranga said they were very impressed with the inaugural tour package that Green Jersey has put together.

“The scenery was fantastic, the driving was fantastic. It was easy – pretty much anyone can do it. Probably better on an e-bike because it’s easy to ride and takes away the wind element.

Nicholson said the trip was well organized and they enjoyed it immensely.

“It was exactly as they said it was going to be. The accommodation was good, a bit rustic, but absolutely fine, and the food was excellent.

The writer was hosted by Green Jersey Explorer Tours. See: greenjersey.co.nz

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