The Rugby League World Cup kicks off in New Zealand and Australia on 27 October when the world’s top rugby league players will look to claim the ultimate trophy.
New Zealand will host seven matches including two quarter finals and a semi-final when the tournament visits Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. The Kiwis will be joined on home soil by visiting teams from Samoa, Tonga and Scotland.
While rugby league will be top of mind for fans following the event around the country, New Zealand is a great place to explore in between matches. The Rugby League World Cup Game Plan will guide visitors to some of New Zealand’s best spots so the action continues long after the final whistle is blown.
Following New Zealand’s opening game against Samoa on 28 October at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, sub-tropical Northland awaits. Head north up the west coast following the ancient kauri trail stopping at the Waipoua Forest to pay respect to Tane Mahuta – ‘the lord of the forest’ one of the oldest and largest trees in the world at 51m high and with a girth of 13.8 metres. Continue further north to Cape Reinga, the tip of New Zealand and the spot where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. Head back down the east coast passing through the Bay of Islands and stopping at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds experiencing Māori Culture in the birthplace of New Zealand. Before returning to Auckland swing by Tutukaka, (a 30-minute drive from Whangarei), take a boat out to The Poor Knights for an incredible diving experience - described by Jacques Cousteau as one of the best dive sites in the world.
Auckland – City of Sails
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, will host the Kiwis first game of the tournament as well as a semi-final. Auckland city is set on the magnificent Waitemata Harbour and for some of the best views the Harbour Bridge Climb is a great bet. Clip on to one of Auckland’s most recognisable landmarks and head to the top for some great photo opportunities. The Auckland Domain is a beautiful park to visit and home to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Take a stroll around the park’s gardens before heading into the Museum to learn about New Zealand’s history from Māori culture, to military and natural history.
Hamilton Waikato – underground marvels
Hamilton will play host to Tonga during the Rugby League World Cup hosting two of their matches. While the footy action takes place above ground, some of the Waikato region’s gems are nestled down below. Nearby Matamata is home to the Hobbiton Movie Set where famous faces Bilbo and Frodo Baggins set up home in the hillside of a picturesque Waikato farm. Or, head south to Waitomo for a massive underground experience at Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. Float serenely beneath millions of tiny glow worm lights or set off on a thrilling black water rafting experience through the pitch black corridors of this incredible limestone cave system.
Central North Island – A real hotspot
Rotorua is New Zealand’s oldest tourist destination and one of the best places to experience Māori culture and geothermal attractions. Tick both off with a wander around the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, experience a traditional feast and marvel at geysers. Just off the eastern Bay of Plenty, the active marine volcano of White Island is a helicopter flight from Rotorua or Whakatane – you can also take a boat from Whakatane. This alien landscape is a surreal experience that’s both educational and inspiring. One hour south of Rotorua, Taupo sits on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake - the perfect spot to send out a lure and try your luck for a big fat trout.
New Zealand’s capital city makes an appearance at the business end of the tournament playing host to a quarter-final. Famous for craft beer, a visit to one of Wellington’s small independent breweries is the best way to whet the whistle. Take a craft beer tour to sample a few of the best and visit some of the city’s secret beer destinations. Not only famous for beer, Wellington or ‘Wellywood’ also has major stakes in the film industry. Take a tour of Weta Workshop and see how this incredible team brought Middle-earth to life.
Top of the South
Christchurch will host the Kiwis when they take on Scotland as well as a quarter-final. The second largest city in New Zealand is the gateway to the South Island and everything it offers. While in town visit the International Antarctic Centre, see little blue penguins and learn about the mysterious ice continent. From Christchurch, head north to Kaikoura for year-round whale spotting with Whale Watch Kaikoura, before travelling on to Marlborough via Hanmer Springs. Famous for its Sauvignon Blanc wines, Marlborough is also home to the lesser known Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, a spectacular facility where Sir Peter Jackson keeps his collection of aircrafts and artefacts. Nelson Tasman is a great destination for foodies and peddling the Tasman Great Taste Trail is a delicious mix of cycling, food and wine.
Wild West Coast
The South Island’s West Coast is rugged, raw and above all beautiful. Home to two of New Zealand’s most famous glaciers the Franz Josef and the Fox, the West Coast is a great place for a heli-hike. Take to the skies, land on a glacier, explore and take in the incredible landscape. The West Coast town of Greymouth is where Monteith’s beer was born. Arguably New Zealand’s first craft beer, the team at Monteith’s take visitors on a brewery tour before sampling some of the hoppy creations.
Dunedin & Queenstown- life on the wild side
For the Scottish fans travelling to the South Island, a visit to Dunedin before or following the match will be ideal for those feeling a little homesick. Dunedin is a city with a proud Scottish heritage and a monument for Edwardian architecture. Away from the city limits the area is famous for wildlife such as the royal albatross, yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions that frequent nearby Otago Peninsula. Visit the Royal Albatross Centre to see the world’s only mainland breeding colony of magnificent Royal Albatross.
Just a 3.5 hour drive from Dunedin is Queenstown, New Zealand’s most famous tourism hot spot. Swapping wildlife for a wild life there are endless options for thrills in Queenstown like throwing yourself off a bridge on a bungy cord or speeding down shallow braided rivers on a New Zealand-designed jet boat or a four wheel drive journey deep into the heart of Lord of the Rings country.