Get to Know Your Lions Tour Host Cities
1 June 2017

Get to Know Your Lions Tour Host Cities

One of the most exciting sports events happening in New Zealand this year is the Lions Tour. It isn’t just an amazing rugby event for athletes and fans, it actually gives the Brits and the Irish an opportunity to see both islands of New Zealand and the many wonderful places within.

Here are some of the highlights of your host cities for each game:

Whangarei

Game 1: Saturday, 3 June. Match v Provincial Union XV. The Toll Stadium
Whangarei is known as an aquatic playground with over a hundred beaches, harbours and surrounding islands. It is also home to a thriving arts community, interesting cafes and bars. Enjoy some good walks among the abundance of of natural beauty.

What to see and do while in Whangarei: 

  • Whangarei Falls has been called the “most photogenic waterfall in New Zealand”
  • Mount Parahaki is the highest point in the city and was once the site of a Maori Pa (fortified village)
  • Adventure Forest offers high-adrenaline activities with its tree-top high wire circuits.
  • The Town Basin – this international yacht marina has a number of restaurants, cafes and specialty shopping places, art galleries and the Whangarei Art Museum Te Manawa Toi.
  • Claphams National Clock Museum has over 1400 working clocks – one of the largest collection in the Southern Hemisphere

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Waitangi – Where the “Treaty of Waitangi” was signed in 1840
  • Russell – former whaling town and home to Duke of Marlborough, the first licensed bar in New Zealand.
  • Ninety Mile Beach on the tip of North Island
  • Waipoua Forest home of the largest Kauri trees in the world

(Auckland CBD – © Francisco Anzola, Flickr)

Auckland

Game 2: Wednesday, 7 June. Match v Blues. Eden Park
Game 7: Saturday, 24 June. First Test v All Blacks. Eden Park
Game 10: Saturday, 8th July. Third Test v All Blacks. Eden Park
Auckland is known as the “City of Sails” which has more boats per capita than any other place in the world. This is owing to its location around two large harbours and the passion of the locals for the water. The diverse city is where you’ll find the highest man-made structure in New Zealand: the Sky Tower. It is also home to several volcanoes and 800 regional parks. The city centre is surrounded by native bush, rainforests and beaches. Auckland has been ranked the third most livable city in the world for the last three years by Mercer Quality of Living Survey.

What to see and do while in Auckland: 

  • Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Mission Bay to see some cool marine life
  • Mount Eden for a fantastic view of the city and harbours
  • Take the harbour cruise from Viaduct in the city centre
  • For an extreme adventure awaits at the Harbour Bridge where you can take a walk or actually jump off – with a bungy cord, of course
  • Visit the upmarket suburb of Parnell and dine in one of the restaurants at Parnell Village

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Waiheke is a beautiful island with a relaxed restaurant culture and plenty of wineries open for tasting sessions.
  • Waitakere Ranges is a chain of hills around 40-minutes’ drive from the city centre. The area is famous for its black sand beaches and sand dunes for sandsurfing – visit Piha, Muriwai and Karekare. The Kitekite track leads to waterfalls, streams, pools and native bush.
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island is a 75-minute scenic ferry ride from Auckland via the Hauraki Gulf. This protected sanctuary for rare, endangered birds is a relaxing retreat for nature lovers.

Catherdral Square, Christchurch – © Ben Flickr

Christchurch

Game 3: Saturday, 10 June. Match v Crusaders. AMI Stadium
Often called New Zealand’s Garden City, it is home to one of the biggest public parks in the country. The Botanical Garden was founded in 1863 and features the finest collection of exotic and indigenous plants.   Christchurch is also New Zealand’s oldest city and is regarded as one of the world’s most unique, where you’ll find a mix of historic elegance and modern culture. While the shadow of the devastating 2011 quakes will always be looming in the city, it has recovered quiet well and is now a thriving, vibrant place.

Between the months of June and August, Christchurch is a winter wonderland with alpine spa villages and natural thermal pools that provide ample heating. Whale-watching is also a known activity during this time of the year.

What to see and do while in Christchurch: 

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Wairarapa Valley is a great place for wine tasting
  • Akaroa French Settlement is a seaside town with an eclectic mix of architecture

 

Dunedin

Game 4 – Tuesday, 13 June. Match v Highlanders. Forsyth Barr Stadium
Dunedin is often called “New Zealand’s Edinburgh” due to the strong Scottish influence in the area. It is home to the country’s oldest university and is known for being one of the most well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Aside from the fascinating architecture, nature also provides a feast for the eyes with dramatic hills, a picturesque harbour and access to the wildlife-rich Otago Peninsula.

What to see and do while in Dunedin: 

  • Railway Station – this is a historical attraction that shouldn’t be missed. The Flemish-Baroque inspired railway is said to look like a gingerbread house.
  • Royal Albatross Centre is the only place in the world where you can view the only mainland Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat
  • Emerson’s craft brewery
  • Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s top visitor destinations for its sheer beauty. It sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu with dramatic alpine ranges as its backdrop. It is also well -known for adventure activities such as bungy jumping, sky diving, canyon swing, jet boating, river rafting and more.
  • Found in the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is accessible from Dunedin. It offers breathtaking landscapes with cliffs rising from the water, mountains that seem to touch the sky and waterfalls that plunge towards the Earth at the height of 1,000 meters.

Rotorua

Game 5 – Saturday, 17 June. Match v Maori All Blacks. Rotorua International Stadium
Rotorua is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world with plenty of natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools and erupting geysers. The distinct sulfur aroma would probably be the first thing that will strike you when you get to the area – show just how powerful the geothermal character of this region is.

Rotorua does justice to New Zealand as an adventure capital of the world with activities like luging , zorbing, mountain biking, whitewater river rafting, jet boating, sky diving and more.

What to see and do while in Rotorua: 

  • Polynesian Spa for an indoor hot pool and mud massage experience
  • Mitai Maori Village, Tamaki Maori Village, Te Puia and New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute for the authentic Maori cultural experience. Some offer performances and a meal of hangi.
  • Witness nature’s raw power at Hell’s Gate, Wai-o-Tapu, Whakarewarewa or Waimangu to see geysers erupt, mud pools boil and bubble and hot springs steam.
  • Whitewater raft down along Kaituna River, on Tutea Falls, the world’s largest commercially rafted waterfalls.
  • Walk through (or mountain bike) through The Redwoods
  • Enjoy a leisurely stroll around Lake Rotorua
  • Visit the Rotorua Museum

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Lake Taupo where you can take a cruise to Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings by boat or kayak or just have a picturesque lunch by the shore.
  • Huka Falls where you can take a leisurely boat ride and get up-close pictures with the powerful falls or go on a heart-stopping ride on the Huka Falls Jet.
  • Mount Raupeho’s Whakapapa snow fields is great for testing your ski and snowboard skills.
  • Bay of Plenty is about an hour’s drive away and has some stunning beaches and New Zealand’s only active marine volcano

 

Hamilton

Game 6 – Tuesday, 20 June. Match v Chiefs. FMG Stadium Waikato
Hamilton is New Zealand’s largest inland settlement. It is known for its agriculture and lush dairy farmlands. The city is nestled on the banks of the Waikato River. It is known for its walks, gardens and cafes. It is also the perfect jump off point to the town of Matamata which houses the Lord of the Rings’ Shire.

What to see and do while in Hamilton: 

  • Hamilton Botanical Gardens is one of the most awarded in the world. It is set on 58 hectares of land. Not many people know that it is built on the city’s old rubbish dump.
  • Casabella Lane for unique New Zealand-made items and boutique stores.
  • Waikato Museum and ArtsPost – Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
  • Hamilton Zoo which has a walkthrough free flight aviary

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Matamata for Hobbiton, the original set of Lord of the Rings. You can enjoy a pint in the Green Dragon while you’re there.
  • Waitomo for the glowworm caves
  • Raglan is a surf town with the longest left hand breaks in the world

 

Wellington (© Simeon W, Flickr)

Wellington

Game 8: Tuesday, 27 June. Match v Hurricanes. Westpac Stadium
Game 9: Saturday, 1 July. Second Test v All Blacks. Westpac Stadium
Lonely Planet calls Wellington “the coolest little capital in the world”. It is, of course, where you’ll find New Zealand’s government centre. The hip city on the southern end of North Island is also often afforded the title “craft beer capital of New Zealand” where you’ll find rich stouts, strong ales and smooth pilsners. The city nestled between a harbour and rolling green hills is known for its arts, heritage, culture and natural beauty.

What to see and do while in Wellington: 

  • Te Papa Tongarewa Museum offers 6 floors of New Zealand’s rich history, natural finds and art work for the curious mind.
  • Ride the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay , the only running funicular railway in New Zealand
  • Go vintage store shopping at Cuba St
  • Oriental Bay is Wellington’s inner city beach
  • Mount Victoria is a196-metre high mountain to the east of central Wellington. It offers panoramic views of the city, the harbour and the ocean.
  • Zelandia is only 10 minutes from downtown and is the world’s first fully fenced eco-sanctuary housing over 40 types of endangered birds
  • Weta Workshop Tour – the Oscar Award winning design studio by Peter Jackson. It is the magic behind Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Avatar

Other must-see places in close proximity:

  • Martinborough – a two-hour drive gets you into wine country with over 20 boutique wineries.
  • Kaipiti coast is north of Wellington offering beautiful beaches and wilderness. It is also home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest collection of antique and unique cars.

There’s much to see in New Zealand and an adventure for everyone. We highly recommend that rugby fans pack as much into their itinerary as they can – spending the hours between matches sightseeing and taking in the local culture.

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