New Zealand Rugby today announced the seven cities which will host the British and Irish Lions when they tour the country in 2017. This major sporting series will be the largest that New Zealand has seen since hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2011; 10 matches will be played over the course of about a month in a collection of cities that shows off just how much variety is on offer in the small island nation.
Sports and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman welcomed the announcement, saying that sport in New Zealand is on a high following the ICC Cricket World Cup and the FIFA Under 20 World Cup. He went on to comment: “The NZ Lions 2017 Series is another opportunity for New Zealand to show that we are an excellent host of major international events.”
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler said all the regions are primed to offer visitors plenty to see and do in between matches, enhanced by the legendary Kiwi hospitality. “An important part of visiting New Zealand is to get to know the locals and the Lions tour is one of those occasions when everyone comes together to have a fantastic time while watching some great rugby.”
So how will you spend your time when the boys are off the field recovering for the next big match? Anyone who’s visited New Zealand knows that the best way to enjoy the nation’s multifaceted charm is to pick up a motorhome rental and hit the open road for adventure! To get an idea of what’s in store for you, check out our guide to the seven host cities and discover the wealth of experience to be had in the beautiful country that Kiwis call Godzone.
This is where it all kicks off. The British and Irish Lions undergo a baptism in Kiwi fire when they find themselves up against a Provincial Union XV on the 3rd of June. Visitors to the subtropical have a plethora of incredible experiences at their fingertips, from diving in the spectacularly fish-rich waters of Poor Knights marine reserve to taking the trip up to Waipoua Forest to see the 2000 year old Tane Mahuta: the tallest kauri tree in New Zealand at over 167 feet.
Colloquially known as the City of Sails, Auckland stretches out along an isthmus, giving the whole city a fresh, coastal feel. It’s also New Zealand’s biggest city, boasting a thriving music and theatre scene, fine dining to die for, and several wineries for the discerning oenophile. Auckland will play host to the series final on July 8th, but there’s a couple more big matches on the cards too.
Hamilton is set deep in the heart of the Waikato, the region that Peter Jackson used to portray the bucolic homeland of the hobbits in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Driving across the gentle hills and verdant plains, it’s easy to see why he picked this rural paradise. If you’re more adventurous than serene, the Waitomo Caves are for you - a breathtaking underground cave network with glow worms and black water rafting. Trust me, the experience is one of a kind.
Always a popular choice for tourists, Rotorua is teeming with geothermal activity - bubbling mud pools, sulfur-laced streams and dramatic geysers transform the landscape into an otherworldly spectacle. There’s good fishing in Lake Rotorua too (just make sure you pick up a fishing licence) with fat Rainbow and Brown Trout awaiting your hook. If you’ve got the family with you, take them up the Skyline gondola to enjoy the thrill of the luge - an adrenaline fuelled dash in a cart down a huge slope, with skill levels to suit all ages and stages.
The capital of New Zealand, Wellington is without doubt the cultural hub of the country as well. The bars and nightclubs of Cuba Street are legendary nationwide, the selection of fine international cuisine is superb and live entertainment reaches a higher standard than anywhere else. This certainly is a city that knows how to treat visitors well. Take a stroll along the picturesque harbourside, or if it’s too windy for walking, check out a production at the excellent Circa Theatre.
After suffering a catastrophic earthquake in 2011, Christchurch has bounced back with vigour, relishing the chance to refresh and reinvent itself. Christchurch is known as New Zealand’s garden city, and while much of the architecture once had a distinctly English feel to it, the city is now forging its own modern identity. To relax and unwind try punting down the Avon, the river that flows through the city. If you’re after a bit more excitement, the aerial obstacle course at Adrenaline Forest will get your heart racing as you leap from logs and platforms 65 feet above the ground.
Known as the Edinburgh of the south, Dunedin is rich with Scottish heritage and boasts some of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian structures in the southern hemisphere. There’s far more to Dunedin than history though. For example the steepest street in the world, Baldwin Avenue, is located in this southern city - and every year there is a ‘Jaffa race’ where thousands of round orange confections are rolled down the street. And just a short drive from Dunedin is the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre and & Westpac Aquarium, with over 100 local creatures including the yellow-eyed penguin and New Zealand fur seals.
Dunedin has plenty of campervan rental options on offer but the more popular pick up and drop off location in the south island is Christchurch - head on over and take a look at the hire packages available. If that isn't the location you were after, check out our New Zealand campervan hire landing page.
The Lions Tour 2017 is going to be extremely popular, with previous years drawing tens of thousands of visitors to New Zealand’s shores. Make sure you prepare well ahead of time to ensure that your New Zealand rugby road trip is everything you ever dreamed it could be.