Key Points:

By the time you read this, my bottom should have stopped hurting. I've just spent two hours having my lower regions chafed by a sharp bit of carbon fibre masquerading as a bike seat.

Fortunately, the scenery is so spectacular that I ignore the pain and it's only afterwards I realise the extent of my injuries.

We're in Eastbourne, a delightful wee town that, if the traffic is kind, lies about half an hour from central Wellington.

Many New Zealanders will know of this pinprick on the map because
Katherine Mansfield, in her story At the Bay, wrote about the childhood
holidays she spent here.

And even though I've spent a large chunk of my life in the capital, I've never dallied in Eastbourne for long. Or, to my shame, caught the ferry that plies the harbour between the CBD and Days Bay, stopping on the way at Matiu/Somes Island.

It takes a mere 15 minutes to arrive at Somes Island, a lump of rock that appears to have been plonked smack-bang in the middle of Wellington
Harbour.

Now firmly under Department of Conservation control, this rodent-free island has, in its lifetime, served many purposes: an animal quarantine station, a POW camp, a lighthouse site and a defence post.

Since 1980, it has been a refuge for the world's smallest penguin - the little blue penguin - and a site for fostering native reptile populations such as the tuatara, kakariki and the green gecko.

On arrival we're greeted by Jo, the ebullient DoC ranger, who gives us a
rundown of the island's colourful history and asks us to check our bags for mice and seeds. We're also warned to watch out for the southern black-backed gulls that are nesting and prone to dive-bombing visitors.

It takes 45 minutes to walk round the island, not including stops for photos. Then it's time to head back to the ferry for the short
ride to Days Bay Wharf.

By now, the golden orb is high in the sky - and my desire for carbs is starting to overwhelm me. Thank goodness for that Eastbourne institution, the Chocolate Dayz Cafe, within stumbling distance of the wharf. New owner Brandon has just returned from five years in Rome, so along with the sinfully good kedgeree and crostini, we get to play the "When I was in Italy" game.

Then it's time to work off the rich food with a 14km bike ride along what is arguably Wellington's best such track. Our host for the afternoon is British import Pete Carter, who offers guided kayak and bike trips from Burdan's Gate along the coast.

Because heights and I are not friends, I end up with what looks like a
child's cycle, but for a non-biker like me it's easy to use and before long we're off on our scenic route to the Pencarrow Lighthouse.

Thankfully, there are no hills but, this being Wellington, there's a swift southerly blowing and several times it threatens to lift me off my seat.

It's oddly comforting playing the tourist in your own backyard: you get to navigate the landscape without having to overcome language or culture
barriers. You also discover things that were right under your nose.
Like the Pencarrow Lakes - Kohangapiripiri and Kohangatera - which are
about as far south as you can go without falling into Cook Strait.

Tucked behind the headland, the lakes are part of New Zealand's last
remaining relatively unmodified wetlands and were formed at least 7000
years ago when earthquakes raised the beach ridges, causing the valleys to fill with water. We skirt Lake Kohangapiripiri, where about 100 black swans ignore us and carry on doing whatever it is swans do.

At the base of the hill, we leave the bikes and walk up to the Pencarrow
Lighthouse. Made in England and shipped to Pencarrow Head in 1859, this was New Zealand's first permanent iron tower lighthouse, and was run by a person thought to be this country's only woman lighthouse keeper.

Today, it provides spectacular views of Wellington harbour and across to the snow-capped mountains of the South Island.

Munching on home-made brownies and apples, we make our way back to
the bike shed; thankfully, the wind has dropped and before long Pete is dropping us at the Eastbourne Seagull Homestay.

It's hard to believe that Anne and Harvey Reid only recently opened their boutique bolthole to visitors - they're natural hosts and
just being here is a tonic for the soul.

We spend what seems like hours sitting on the deck, perched high about
the bush, taking in the expansive sea views and enjoying the slower pace of life.

Our self-contained room, downstairs from the main residence, is so luxurious that I'm tempted to pull up a chair and watch the lights of
the capital come on. But there's food to be had, so we venture to the Lifeboat Tavern, where Andrew, the entertaining maitre d', makes us glad we roused ourselves from our slumber.

One Thai seafood curry, a fish of the day and a bottle of Martinborough's finest later, and we settle back with a few of the locals to scream at the TV as the Phoenix football team lose a vital game. As if we haven't consumed enough food this weekend, the next morning we sit on our private deck and eat fresh fruit salad, home-made muffins and muesli, and drink litres of coffee until it's time to
investigate the shops at Eastbourne village.

Here leafy streets and chic homeware shops located in gracious old
villas remind me of the Hamptons on America's East Coast, but thankfully, prices here are a little more realistic.

There's time for a quick brunch at The Beach, the appropriately named cafe a sunhat's throw from the water's edge, before the ferry whisks us - and our bruised bottoms - back to the capital.

East by West Ferries: www.eastbywest.co.nz

Chocolate Dayz Cafe: www.chocolatedayzcafe.co.nz

Pete's Kayaks and Bikes: www.cityboatandbike.co.nz

Eastbourne Seagull Homestay: 29A Totara St, Eastbourne,
(04) 562 6330

Lifeboat Tavern: 5 Oroua St, Eastbourne, (04) 562 0007

The Beach Cafe: 16 Rimu St, Eastbourne, (04) 562 8924