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Lions 2017: What to do when touring New Zealand

Face off: The All Blacks perform the haka in front of the Lions in 2005. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

Tips for fans travelling to New Zealand for the 2017 Lions tour

Jul 8, 2016 1:50 PM EDT

It all started with me jumping off the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Okay, that’s not quite true. First there was an incredible lunch at The Sugar Club at the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower with former All Blacks John Kirwan and Bryan Williams – and fabulous views of the city. Then there was a quick visit to Eden Park, venue for two of the three British & Irish Lions Tests against New Zealand next summer, before returning to the tower to do the SkyJump.

Sadly the weather had taken a turn for the worse but stepping off a ledge 192 metres high and falling for a little more than ten seconds was somewhat exhilarating – once I’d actually made that step off of course. Your whole body is telling you, ‘No, this is not a good idea’ but once you make the move it really is a thrill. In fact, I wish it had lasted a little longer!

High rise: The Sky Tower dominates the Auckland skyline. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World
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So what was this all in aid of? Well, the idea was to show journalists the sort of things Lions fans could do in the Land of the Long White Cloud during next year’s tour – and it turns out there is plenty.

Enjoy getting out on the water? Take a boat trip around the Bay of Islands, a little further north from where the tour kicks off in Whangarei. I was lucky enough to see dolphins up close the day that we ventured out from Paihia Wharf – and I’d highly recommend a meal at Charlotte’s Kitchen or The Duke of Marlborough. There’s also the opportunity to find out more about New Zealand’s history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Before watching the Chiefs v Lions game, stroll around Hamilton Gardens. Built on the city’s old rubbish dump, the transformation is phenomenal with a series of enclosed themed gardens as well as acres of grounds to walk around. Hobbiton is also a short drive away if you want to see where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed.

Mini house: Hobbiton offers a chance to see one of the Hobbit film sets Rugby World

Rotorua has geysers galore and is the place to learn more about Maori culture. A group of us were actually taught to do the haka but the less said about our efforts the better – I doubt it would have scared a group of schoolchildren let alone an international rugby team.

Wellington is the capital – although many Aucklanders are begrudging of this – and the culinary offerings are varied. A fine meal was had at Ortega while Hippopotamus restaurant at the Museum Art Hotel is famed in the city. Te Papa museum is running an incredible exhibition on Gallipoli while a wine-tasting in nearby Wairarapa is a must for any vino aficionados.

And that’s just the north island – the Lions play in the southern cities of Christchurch and Dunedin too. So there’s little chance of being bored if you make the trip south next summer.

For more information on visiting New Zealand, visit newzealand.com

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