Six major sporting events in the first half of 2018 showcase some of New Zealand's most beautiful regions.
Volvo Ocean Race, Auckland
24 February - 18 March, 2018
Ask Aucklanders for the best-known description of their city and they'll very likely reply: "City of Sails". As the current and former home of the America's Cup, New Zealand's harbourside metropolis is a perfect stopover for the world’s toughest round-the-world ocean race.
For three and a half weeks in February and March 2018 the Volvo Ocean Race fleet will be in Auckland where the sailing-mad city is establishing a race village with a busy programme of celebrations, practice races, seminars and other events.
Among the many free attractions will be dockside displays of Volvo Ocean 65 monohulls, close-up peeks at the preparations for the next gruelling leg of the race around Cape Horn to Itajai in Brazil, and ”The Grinding Challenge”, which lets visitors experience how much muscle is needed to raise a sail. Perhaps best of all, the ”Race Boat Experience” gives landlubbers a first-hand impression of what life is really like on board an ocean-going race yacht. That, plus the attractions of New Zealand's biggest and most vibrant city, make for very good reasons to visit.
Tarawera 100-Miler, Rotorua
10 - 11 February, 2018
Believe or not, there are competitive runners who think that a 100-kilometre race is too easy. So the organisers of the annual Tarawera 100-Mile Endurance Run have made their race hard, with the 100-mile (161km) course being just the start. The Tarawera 100-Miler is restricted to 1250 entrants and comes with demanding fitness requirements so is not for the faint-hearted.
Undaunted, hard-core runners from 50 countries will flock in to compete in one of the most prestigious ultra-running races in the world. Starting at 4am in downtown Rotorua, the course winds through redwood forests, past geothermal features and pristine lakes and along rugged hill tracks and forestry roads. Podium winners usually finish in 14-15 hours; stragglers, who run continuously from day into night and into the next day again can take up to 36 hours. For those wanting less punishment there are 102km, 87km and 62km races.
Whether you're competing or watching, this spectacular race through the thermal wonderland of the Bay of Plenty and the heartland of Maori culture is a scenic treat. At one point, the course passes the site of a huge volcanic explosion in 1886 that created a 17km-long chasm and cleaved a mountain in two. The Tarawera 100-Milers, of course, will take it in their stride.
ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open, Queenstown
1 - 4 March, 2018
There's every reason to shout "Fore!" when you’re surrounded by gorgeous alpine scenery – and to add to the thrill, amateur players at New Zealand’s top annual Pro-Am golf event get to share the course with some of the world’s best golfers.
A cornerstone event of the PGA Tours of Australasia and Asia, the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open has a minimum field of 140 amateurs and 140 professionals who compete for the New Zealand Open and New Zealand Pro-Am Championship titles with a minimum prize fund of NZ$1.1 million.
The two venues for the event underscore Queenstown’s status as a world-class golfing destination. Designed by New Zealand-based Darby Partners, the challenging, 500-acre / 200-hectare The Hills course is laid out across a glacial valley with dramatic elevation changes. No less breathtaking is the 27-hole, championship course at Millbrook Resort which offers similar tests of strategy, composure and skill.
With snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, the four-day New Zealand Open is known around the world as a picture-perfect spectator event. And when the competition's over, New Zealand’s premier alpine destination offers a wealth of active pursuits and the bounty of the world’s southernmost wine region.
17 - 25 March, 2018
Only a passing acquaintance with New Zealand’s geography is needed to understand why it is a mecca for mountain biking. And just a glimpse of the famously gnarly downhill trails at Gravity Park in Rotorua is enough to explain why over a thousand bike-minded competitors and 10,000-plus spectators from around the world descend on the North Island city every March for nine days of two-wheeled madness.
The first annual stop on the famed Crankworx World Tour mountain biking circuit, Rotorua brings the world's best downhill, slopestyle and enduro riders together to show off their unbelievable skills and start the year’s competition for the Triple Crown of Slopestyle and much more. It is also a chance for rising stars to test their mettle and for junior bikers to meet their idols.
Now a major fixture on the New Zealand sporting calendar, Crankworx is a family-friendly affair with Kidsworx competitions and concerts and exhibitions that spill out across the city. If all the dirt tracks, daring and glory aren’t enough, Rotorua offers more active pursuits and cultural attractions than you can point your handlebars at.
Golden Oldies Festival, Christchurch
1 - 29 April, 2018
"Fun, Friendship and Fraternity" is the motto of the Golden Oldies festivals for sportspeople aged 35-plus that are held every two years around the globe. In April 2018, the Christchurch Casino Golden Oldies Sports Celebration will add another word to the list: "First". For the first time in the history of the Golden Oldies movement, all ten of its sports – basketball, cricket, football, golf, hockey, lawn bowls, netball, rugby, softball and squash – will be held in the same city and in the same month.
New Zealand's second largest city and the gateway to the South Island is superbly equipped to handle the month-long event that is expected to attract 9000 participants and about 4000 supporters and officials. Christchurch's long sporting history, which includes hosting the 1974 Commonwealth Games and regular international and world championship fixtures of rugby, cricket, softball, lawn bowls and golf, has given it facilities that rank with the best in the world.
Just as important as the competitions in Golden Oldies festivals is their social side: supporters are encouraged to join in the opening and closing ceremonies and festivities and enduring friendships are made. Together with the wealth of attractions to be found in Christchurch and its hinterland, Golden Oldies 2018 promises to be unique and memorable.
Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay Marathon
12 May, 2018
As any runner knows, there's pain, and there's gain – and an abundance of the latter is a big reason for the huge success of the Hawke's Bay International Marathon. Starting on the oceanside promenade of the city of Napier on the sunny east coast of the North Island, the flat, easy-running 42km course winds through the vineyards, olives groves and quiet country roads of Hawke's Bay's famed wine and food country to the finishing line in the vineyards of Sileni Estates Winery.
As you might suspect, the event has a fun atmosphere, with a half-marathon, 10km run (and walk) and a 3km kids’ run following parts of the course. Afterwards, thousands of local and international visitors stay on to enjoy the world-class food and wine, Art Deco architecture, beaches and wildlife of one of New Zealand's must-see regions.