With the RBS 6 Nations currently whetting the appetite of eager fans, some are already planning a trip to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand this September. Kristina Khoo tackles the tournament's host cities.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Hamilton
Situated on the banks of the Waikato River, pretty Hamilton is a fast-growing, multicultural city in the heart of one of New Zealand’s greatest rugby-playing regions. The North Island province is home to the Maori royal family, the vast Waitomo cave system and the Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings) film set; providing something for all tastes. Just a 15-minute walk from central Hamilton, Waikato Stadium is a world-class venue and will host a number of group stage matches, including New Zealand against Japan and two Wales games.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Auckland
Auckland, a bustling, cosmopolitan city, is complimented by a wealth of luscious forests, secluded islands and pristine beaches on its doorstep. With its unique urban outdoor lifestyle, the ‘City of Sails’ mixes the buzz of casinos and clubs with relaxing island getaways and wildlife experiences. Eden Park, where the Rugby World Cup began in 1987 (at which New Zealand were victorious), is currently being redeveloped into a 50,000-seat stadium in preparation for the tournament, where it will host a number of games including the curtain-raiser and the final. The smaller North Harbour Stadium, located 19km (12 miles) from Auckland in Albany, will host current world champions South Africa in two group matches.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Rotorua
Rotorua offers visitors a chance to experience a range of attractions and activities such as geothermal reserves, mineral spas, walking trails and world-class mountain biking. Located 10 minutes from the heart of the city, Rotorua International Stadium has a capacity of 26,000 and has staged New Zealand opera icon Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as well as the Raggamuffin Music Festival during its 100-year history. The stadium will host Ireland, who take on Russia in their third group game.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Whangarei
Surrounded by unspoilt coastline, Whangarei is famed for its first-rate diving and semi-tropical climate, which attracts an abundance of luxury yachts. Situated halfway between Auckland and New Zealand’s northern tip, this region is a melting pot of Maori and European heritage. The ITM Rugby Stadium, once the home of Northland rugby, was replaced by the sparkling new Northland Events Centre last year; which will host two of Tonga’s group matches.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: New Plymouth
Situated midway between the major metropolitan centres of Auckland and Wellington, New Plymouth is a modern city set against a stunning backdrop that stretches from the wild Tasman Sea to imposing Mount Taranaki. Thunderous waves, which pummel the coastline around Surf Highway 45, make the area a prime destination for surfers. Stadium Taranaki, half an hour’s stroll from the city centre, has undergone major redevelopment for the tournament, with its 25,000 spectators able to watch Wales and Ireland in action.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Wellington
New Zealand’s capital city is nestled between rolling hills and a striking harbour, which provides a gateway to the South Island through the pictureque Malborough Sounds. Wellington houses a plethora of top-quality cultural attractions and nightlife, coupled with fantastic gourmet and wine experiences. Wellington Regional Stadium, home to Wellington Lions and the Hurricanes, is a short walk from the central Wellington Railway Station and will host two quarter finals as well as Wales’ contest with South Africa.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Napier
Widely-regarded as one of New Zealand’s most attractive cities, Napier is located at the south of the Hawkes Bay; about 20 minutes from its neighbour Hastings. Also known as the ‘Art Deco City’, the city has the most comprehensive collection of inner-city art deco buildings in the world. The McLean Park stadium is a short walk from Napier’s city centre with a capacity of 15,000. The stadium has been given a stunning new stand, complete with a corporate entertainment complex and will host two matches during the tournament.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Palmerston North
Palmerston North showcases Mother Nature at her best, from short walks in splendid native bush to hikes through the spectacular Manawatu Gorge, and tramping in the breathtaking Tararua Ranges. Just a seven minutes stroll from the centre of ‘Palmy’ is Arena Manawatu, which boasts 33 individual indoor and outdoor venues within a 44 acres (18 hectares) site. The complex’s rugby stadium will host two group matches.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Nelson
An artists’ paradise, Nelson is an interesting blend of lifestyle and landscape in the northwest corner of the South Island. The city is a haven for culture vultures, with a number of art galleries showcasing New Zealand works as well as local artists’ studios. A short trip from Nelson is the stunning Abel Tasman National Park, where a number of outdoor activities can be explored. Trafalgar Park stadium, which will host two of Italy’s group matches, is a five-minute walk from Nelson’s city centre and has a capacity of 18,000.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Dunedin
Dunedin, New Zealand’s oldest city, possesses a unique combination of cultural riches, fine architecture, and world-renowned wildlife reserves on the Otago Peninsula. The isthmus is home to the yellow-eyed penguin (one of the world’s rarest penguins), and various species of seals, sea lions and pelagic birds. A short distance from Dunedin’s city centre is the 29,000-seater Carisbrook stadium, which once hosted crowds as high as 42,000. Works are currently taking place to improve the stadium in time for kick-off, when it will host matches involving Scotland, England and Ireland.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Christchurch
New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch is situated on the east coast of the South Island, bordered by the turquoise Pacific Ocean to the east and the pancake-flat Canterbury plains to the west. It is known as the ‘Garden City’ for its expansive parks and tranquil public gardens, but sport is also at the heart of the city’s identity. Four minutes from the city centre is Stadium Christchurch, home to the Canterbury Crusaders rugby team. The stadium’s major upgrade has generated a permanent capacity of 40,000, making it the country’s second largest stadium; a venue fit for two quarter-final matches.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup: Invercargill
From cultural attractions to busy city life, Invercargill is the gateway to some of the country’s most beautiful destinations, with vast nature reserves, excellent shopping and lively restaurants and bars. The recently redeveloped Rugby Park, a 20-minute walk south from central Invercargill, has a capacity of 17,000 and will host Scotland’s opener against Romania.
*Check out fantastic offers on holidays to New Zealand with Bridge the World.