Rugged Romanceby Tiana Templeman

When it comes to romantic escapes, most guys prefer cold beer and a swim to champagne and bubble baths. With most ‘romance packages’ aimed at women, planning a weekend getaway with your man in mind requires creative thinking. Is it is possible to combine “manly pursuits” with enough luxury to make his heart (and yours) beat faster? ??Thankfully the answer is a resounding “Yes!”.

Why not get his motor running in five star luxury at a Formula 1 race, watch the sparks fly at an active volcano or go for a sunset swim in your own private paradise? Romance is sometimes rugged, but the following getaways are anything but.

??Hot stuff in Vanuatu
Rocks fly through the air as the earth trembles and lava sprays towards the heavens with a resounding boom. A tour of Yasur volcano, located on the island of Tanna in the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, comes with guaranteed bragging rights, and makes the average fireworks display look like a glorified sparkler. Yasur is monitored by a team of scientists, and tours are popular and professionally run. Most include at least one night in a romantic thatched bure at the White Grass Ocean Resort overlooking the Coral Sea, where you can cool off when things get a little steamy.

Lazy Daze in Auckland
While the Lazy Daze package wasn’t created with men in mind, it sounds like the stuff of fantasy for most guys. Stamford Plaza Auckland eschews champagne for a six pack and serves up hot buttered popcorn plus a couple of action flicks (or any other two in-room movies of your choice) together with valet parking, two 30-minute massages and a three-course room service dinner. Two signature Stamford house-coats, personally embroidered with your names, are yours to take home. If you’ve ever been tempted to souvenir a bathrobe, now is your chance.

??Feel the need for speed in Singapore
Formula 1 returns to Singapore in September, and race lovers the world-over will be glued to the action. So will guests at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, but they’ll be looking out the window, not watching the coverage on television. This luxurious hotel is ideal for watching the only night time Formula 1 race in the world, overlooking the track and in close proximity to the Paddock Club which offers members access to the circuit, an open bar and pit lane walkabouts. Back at The Ritz-Carlton Club, there’s unlimited Moet and an in-lounge chef who whips up complimentary duck pancakes or spicy laksa as the sun goes down. Suites offer stunning views of the Singapore Flyer and a bathtub overlooking the South China Sea. This hotel is a hot-spot for official F1 events, and a favourite with drivers and their crew. Don’t be surprised if you bump into the likes of Michael Schumacher in the lobby!

Make tracks on Fraser Island
World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and a mecca for four-wheel-driving enthusiasts. Kingfisher Bay Resort offers an all-inclusive full day package with a ranger-guided 4WD tour, fishing clinic and unlimited guided walks. Adventurous types can make tracks in their own 4WD with a gourmet hamper and find their own romantic picnic spot. Private ranger tours are also popular, and can be customised to include anything from champagne and a sunset swim at Lake McKenzie to hiking up Indian Head to spot migrating whales and manta rays.

??Back a winner in Melbourne
Race books flutter in the breeze and the crowd lets out a mighty roar as horses fly out of the starting gate and ‘the race that stops a nation’ begins. Flemington Racecourse has a vibe that’s as colourful as the fashions on the field and offers entertainment galore on Melbourne Cup day. Most racegoers have to join the heaving crush of other punters, but sipping champagne in a private enclosure is a much more civilised option, and cheaper than you might think. While the majority of these exclusive enclaves are ‘invitation only’, some marquees accept paying guests. The easiest way to gain entry is to purchase an accommodation package which includes transfers and admission. Hotel choices range from the elegant Crown Towers to cheap and cheerful digs in a winning location.

Size counts in Western Australia
What is 12 metres long, weighs 20 tonnes and cruises the coastal waters off Western Australia from March to October? No, it’s not the latest megayacht; it’s a whale shark. These gentle giants glide along, allowing divers and snorkellers to swim alongside them like shuttle craft hovering around an enormous mother ship. Ningaloo Reef is world-renowned as one of the best places to swim with the world’s largest fish, and offers the ultimate experience for guys who like ‘big things’. Novotel Ningaloo is an ideal base for exploring Australia’s largest fringing reef, with whale and dolphin spotting available from the balcony, and a chilled glass of WA wine within easy reach.

Remarkable romance in Queenstown
Your quintessential ‘Southern Man’ will feel right at home on this ‘camping trip’ from Remarkables Lodge. So will you. After spending one night at the lodge, a helicopter transports you both to the splendid isolation of Cascade Hut, your rustic accommodation surrounded by snow dusted mountains in the heart of the Southern Alps. You’ll be met by the housekeeper and a charming ex-army Special Forces guide who is on-hand to lead private hiking trips, fly fishing adventures or to simply carrying your backpack. The housekeeper plies you with refreshments and fluffs the pillows ready for your return. Spend 24 hours enjoying what must surely be the ultimate camping experience before returning to Remarkables Lodge where a deep claw footed bath tub big enough for two awaits.

FACTS:
Tanna Island package by creative Holidays, w: www.creativeholidays.com, 3-night package including accommodation at the white grass ocean resort, volcano safari tanna tour, continental breakfast daily, free return airport transfers from NZ$800 per person.

Stamford Plaza Auckland, 22-24 Albert street, Auckland, New Zealand, t: 09 309 8888, w: www.stamford.com.au, Lazy Daze package from NZ$375 per room.

The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore, t: +65 6337 8888, w: www.ritzcarlton.com, F1 rates start at NZ$1900++ per room per night.

Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island, Queensland, t: + 61 7 4194 9300, w: www.kingfisherbay.com, 2 nights accommodation, breakfast and marine transfers from NZ$310 per person. All-inclusive adventure bundle from NZ$205, 4wD hire from NZ$360 per day.

Melbourne Cup Carnival packages, w: www.travelpoint.com.au, 2 nights twin share accommodation, breakfast daily, race book for each guest, transfers to and from hotel to racecourse, racecourse admission and admission to private enclosure from NZ$1050 per person.

Novotel Ningaloo Resort Exmouth, t: +61 8 9949 0000, w: www.novotelningaloo.com.au, 3 nights accommodation for two, complimentary breakfast and limousine airport transfer including refreshments from NZ$2090, whale shark swim available in-season from NZ$510 per person.

Remarkables Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand, t: 03 442 2720, w: www.remarkables.co.nz, 3 night package including helicopter transfers to and from Remarkables Lodge, the first and third nights at Remarkables Lodge, second night at Cascade Hut, all meals and a private guide and housekeeper at Cascade Hut from NZ$2600 per person.