Next June, New Zealand plays host to the ‘Red Army’. No, not the Russian military. More of an English fan club really. A fan club with 20,000 members. We’re referring to the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour.
I’m sure we don't need to tell you - but we’ll say it anyway - this ten game rugby tour is kind of a big deal. Each match is scheduled in a beautiful location, and exploring the surrounding area will be almost as good as the game itself. Almost...
Being focused on the rugby, you may not have much time to plan anything else. Luckily, planning is what we do best! So here are our top tips on how to make your rugby holiday more of a spectacular vacation.
This match is located in the ‘Winterless North’ which is (yes, even in midwinter) as great as it sounds. Think white sandy beaches, clear blue waters and mild winter days. Follow the first match of the series with a short drive north to the Bay of Islands.
Possibly one of the most spectacular coastal regions in New Zealand, this area it not only a beautiful - but historical as well. Visit Russell - a former whaling town founded in the 1800’s - and Waitangi, the town where the New Zealand’s founding document the ‘Treaty of Waitangi’ was signed between European settlers and the indigenous Maori.
See Paihia, and cruise the infamous ‘Hole in the Rock’ then take a day trip to Ninety Mile Beach, the very to of the North Island and the country’s only sand highway. Before heading down to Auckland for the next game, be sure to detour west through the Waipoua Forest, home the largest Kauri trees in the world.
This one may be in the heart of our largest city, but there's so much more to see than skyscrapers and city lights. What makes Auckland so special is its vibrant cultural melting pot - a diversity reflected in the cuisine, festivals, art and music. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, it’s known as the ‘City of Sails’ and home to several volcanoes as well as over 800 regional parks.
Explore the suburbs of Parnell and Ponsonby with their upmarket galleries, back-alley wine bars, and trendy eateries. Venture further afield to the rural community of Clevedon and experience delights of this quaint country town, then make time to explore one of over 800 regional parks with deserted beaches, waterfalls and forest walks. We also recommend heading out to the west coast to visit the black sand beaches and rainforests of the Waitakere.
Game three is the first to be played down South in Christchurch, soon to become New Zealand's newest metro area, following a re-build after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that razed much of the city centre. Referred to as New Zealand's Garden City - Christchurch is home to one of the biggest public parks in the country and is also known as the gateway to the South Island. Boasting a plethora of activities both inside and outside the town centre, there are an abundance of things to do while you're down this way.
One such attraction is the International Antarctic Centre, located at the International Airport. From here the bases in Antarctica are replenished and there are unique displays of what life is like in this chilly environment - including native little blue penguins.
Visit Quake City for insight into the devastating Christchurch earthquakes then take in the sights on a city tour. Drive an hour in any direction to whale watch, mountain bike, ski, bungy jump or play golf. Experience the world’s only Cardboard Cathedral and take in the city on one of its historic trams. For a touch of adventure head out on safari though Orana Wildlife park. Roam the Wairarapa Valley to wine taste, or take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa, tucked inside Banks Peninsula. An eclectic mix of British and French architecture, this seaside town has a whimsical charm and is the perfect place to escape. And if you're lucky, you might catch glimpse of a rare Hector's Dolphin.
After this match, take some time to explore the deep south. A heavy Scottish influence marks Dunedin as ‘New Zealand’s Edinburgh’. Surrounded by windswept beaches and rugged coastal plains, this university city is an eclectic mix of imposing architecture and industrial technology.
The historically listed Flemish Baroque-inspired Railway Station gives a ‘gingerbread house’ feel and is one attraction not be missed. Visit the Saturday morning farmers market held within its disused grounds, and sample the local honey and organic produce.
Base yourselves near the centre of town - The Octagon - to experience a thriving hub of restaurants and bars. For the artistically inclined, take a self-guided tour of Dunedin’s Street Art. Spend an hour playing Willy Wonka in Cadbury's Chocolate Factory or take a peek at Dunedin’s history in the Otago Museum. Follow the coast to Larnach Castle or take a trip on the Otago Peninsula, home to the only mainland Royal Albatross colony in the world.
Another must do while you're down this way is Milford Sound - one of the most iconic and beautiful locations in New Zealand. We recommend spending at least two/three days on this one. First, take a three hour drive to Te Anau, and base yourself there before making the spectacular trek to Milford Sound. The road to Milford Sound has countless photo opportunities and short walks. The Mirror Lakes create perfectly clear reflections of the surrounding mountains and glacier formed meadows.
Further along, he Chasm Walk includes two walking bridges over the dramatic Cleddau River, while the surrounding ancient native beech forest creates a fascinating landscape. You'll pass through the Homer Tunnel, an incredible feat of engineering at 1219 metres long. Milford Sound is the only sound accessible by road, making it very popular to visit. Coming into the village you'll be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak which rises spectacularly from the waters up to the sky.
Real Journey cruises can take you out into the sound where you'll receive a wealth of information on how this magnificent area has been formed and experience first-hand the multitude of waterfalls that line the fiord.
You won't be short of post game activities in this town. Located in one of the world’s most active volcanic regions, Rotorua is surrounded by hot springs, steaming geysers and boiling mud pools. And although celebrated for its geothermal activity, Rotorua has an established Maori history and is considered an authority on Maori culture.
Treat yourself to a day of relaxation at The Polynesian Spa, then spend the evening at Mitai Maori Village enjoying a Hangi meal and an authentic indigenous performance. Traditional experiences aside, Rotorua offers a multitude of activities for both the physical and sedentary. Hire a mountain bike and explore the forest trails, test your limits Skydiving or go night lunging at the top of the gondola.
Hop aboard a scenic flight and land on New Zealand’s most active volcano, White Island. Before you go, visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.
Only an hour from Auckland, Hamilton is located in the heart of lush dairy farmland. New Zealand's largest inland settlement, Hamilton is renowned for its agriculture. Visit the Botanical Gardens, set on 58 hectares and one of the most spectacular in the country.
Take a short drive to Cambridge, a bustling little town with an abundance of antique and bric-a-brac stores. The region is also steeped in horse racing history and is home to a number of horse studs - clearly evident as you pass through.
Go a little further south to experience the breathtaking limestone hills of Waitomo - home to the largest network of underground caves in New Zealand. And if you're a Lord of the Rings fan, be sure to visit the actual intact movie set of Hobbiton, on a 45 minute drive away.
Two games are played here in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Home to New Zealand’s centre of government, Wellington has a cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self-described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle brings a cheerful holiday feel.
Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique, fashion wanders through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.
Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. If you're a foodie at heart, a two hour round trip to Martinborough is a must do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For an educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds. Finally, before you collapse in bed, search metro eats for some gourmet dinner inspiration.
For more ideas on what you can do while you watch the 2017 British and Irish Lions, contact one of our experienced travel specialists.