The British & Irish Lions will kick off their 2017 tour of New Zealand at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium in the Northland region on 3 June.
A Provincial Union XV will take on the Lions at the re-developed stadium setting the scene for the New Zealand series which takes place once every 12 years. No stranger to big events, the 18,500 capacity stadium has recently played host to four FIFA U-20 World Cup games. Japan and Tonga played a Rugby World Cup pool game at the venue in 2011 which was the catalyst for a stadium upgrade.
Home to the provincial side Northland Taniwha, this proud rugby region has produced some All Black greats including Ian Jones – ‘The Kamo Kid’, a 1.98m lock originating from the Kamo club in Whangarei. Jones played 105 matches for the All Blacks including 79 tests, and is now a popular sports television presenter.
Northland is also home to New Zealand’s rugby-famous “Going” family. Sid Going or “Super Sid” played 86 matches, including 29 tests for the All Blacks between 1967 and 1977.
Steeped in history
Northland, is the birthplace of New Zealand and a region steeped in history and culture – being the site where Māori and Europeans came together to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
The brand new Museum of Waitangi – formally named Te Kōngahu – sits on the historic site recognised as the birthplace of the nation of New Zealand. The museum is open to the public and a great place to learn about the formation of New Zealand.
The Bay of Islands, on Northland’s east coast, is one of New Zealand’s most popular coastal resorts. Northland’s sub-tropical climate and close proximity to the sea make it an attractive year-round destination which is reflected in everything from what you can do to what you eat. Citrus fruit grows in abundance and a wide variety of fresh seafood enriches the menu.
There’s an array of activities from swimming with dolphins, to walking through ancient forest and discovering endless beaches. The historic lighthouse standing at the tip of Cape Reinga is one of New Zealand’s most iconic sights and a place of deep cultural significance to Māori.
The Poor Knights Islands, a group of small islands just off the coast of Whangarei, offer some of the best sub-tropical diving in the world.
Uninhabited since the 1820s, the islands are a marine reserve. Crystal clear waters offer divers the chance to view a variety of unusual and unique wildlife and experience the beauty of this untouched, underwater world. Tourism companies like Dive! Tutukaka offer dive lessons and tours all year round where all equipment is provided.
Sail the day away
Visitors don’t have to get wet to experience the Poor Knights, instead they can sit back, relax and enjoy a luxurious cruise.
A ‘Perfect Day Ocean Cruise’ offers the ultimate experience of the world-renowned islands and gives visitors a choice of various activities including snorkelling and kayaking. A rich array of marine wildlife including dolphins, whales, seals and rare bird life may also be encountered on the cruise.
With its close proximity to the sea, Whangarei is the place to enjoy a spot of fishing. There are plenty of options for chartered fishing trips out on the Tutukaka Coast and Whangarei Heads to choose from.
Most charters take from 4-8 people on board and visitors can expect to catch the likes of snapper, tarakihi and hapuka - the best fresh fish New Zealand has to offer.
Out and about in Whangarei
The beauty of Whangarei doesn’t just sit out at sea, there are plenty of walks and activities that offer equally spectacular views of the area.
Walks range from easy 20-minute tracks that arrive at unspoilt beaches to more varied terrain that takes in waterfalls, panoramic views and sweeping vistas. Many of the walks around Whangarei Heads sit on DOC conservation areas (Department of Conservation) and form part of Te Araroa - a walking trail that stretches the full length of New Zealand.
The Town Basin in the centre of Whangarei is home to an international yachting community and is a popular place with locals to grab a bite to eat and watch the world pass by.
Visitors wanting a further taste of the north can take a trip to Northland’s Waipoua Forest to encounter one of New Zealand’s most accessible natural treasures - Tane Mahuta. This giant kauri tree holds court over the ancient forest and is said to be around 1500 - 2000 years old.
On the eastern coast, visitors can enjoy the marine paradise of the Bay of Islands. Learn about the history of the country at The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, often referred to as the birthplace of the nation.
Tane Mahuta - at 51m high - is the tallest kauri tree and largest by volume in New Zealand.
The kauri tree Te Matua Ngahere is 16.44m around its girth.
90 Mile Beach, one of New Zealand’s longest beaches, is actually only 55 miles or 88km long.
Twin Coast Discovery highway visits all highlights on both east and west coasts.
Whangarei is a 35-minute flight from Auckland or an easy two-hour drive. Whangarei is the largest city in the Northland region and is the gateway to the upper North Island.