New Zealand sport: An introduction

Sport is a vital part of New Zealand life. New Zealanders play it, watch it and support all those who wear the silver fern – the symbol of the country’s sporting representatives.

World beaters

New Zealanders are passionate about rugby and avidly support the national team, the All Blacks. The entire country joins in when New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup, and enthusiastically embraces crowds of cricket and football fans whenever New Zealand is the venue for international fixtures. 

In fact, there is probably no sport that New Zealanders don't avidly follow. The country has produced dozens of world champions and winning Olympians in sports ranging from golf, rowing, discus and surf lifesaving to horse riding and sailing.

The canoeist Lisa Carrington was named the 2017 Halberg Sportsperson of the Year, as New Zealand's first female athlete to win multiple medals at a single Olympic Games. She also retained her gold medal and world ranking from the previous Games. Golfer Lydia Ko is the country's first golfer to become world number one, when she was just 17 years old.

New Zealanders don’t just love their international sportspeople succeeding on the world stage – they keenly participate in the many sporting and recreational activities that are available. There are affordable facilities all over the country for people wanting to enjoy sporting activities.

Popular pastimes

Off-road cycling and mountain biking are one of New Zealand’s fastest growing pastimes, largely due to the number of native bush and coastal trails developed to take advantage of New Zealand’s terrain.

World-class mountain biking tracks suitable for all levels of biker have been created in a number of regions around the country.

The New Zealand Cycle Trail Nga Haerenga ("The Journeys") offers cycling trails the length and breadth of New Zealand, many following pathways formed by early Māori and pioneers. There are more than 20 trails, covering more than 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles), with more under construction.

New Zealand also has a long list of exceptional multi-day hiking trails through wilderness regions. These include the famed Milford Track traversing the Southern Alps from Queenstown and ending in Milford Sound.

Luxury golf resorts

New Zealand has a growing number of luxury golf resorts up and down the country that boast championship courses.

International media have rated the golf course at Kauri Cliffs near Matauri Bay in Northland and the Tom Doak-designed course at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay, with unbelievable coastal views, as two of the world’s best.

Other outstanding North Island golf resorts include Gulf Harbour Country Club near Auckland, the thermally active Wairakei International Golf Course in an idyllic park-like setting at Taupo, and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Kinloch – described by golfing icon Sir Bob Charles as the finest course in the country.

In the South Island, Terrace Downs, Clearwater Resort and the championship course at Pegasus Town are stand-out golf destinations near the Southern Alps in the Canterbury region.

Close to Queenstown are the Bob Charles-designed Millbrook Resort, The Hills Golf Course and Jack’s Point, all boasting stunning views.