One of the highlights of the sporting calendar is set to kick off, as the the Rugby World Cup starts in New Zealand. Teams from around the world including England, Wales and Scotland will battle it out with other teams including the mighty All Blacks and Australia.
The Rugby World Cup only takes place once every four years, so it is always a special occasion and captures the attention and imagination of rugby fans all over the world. Martin Johnson and his troops have already arrived in New Zealand but the serious business of the test matches does not get under way until 9 September, with England playing Argentina on 10 September. Various venues will host games including Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
New Zealand is guaranteed to prove a hospitable venue for players and fans alike. It has a marginally larger land area than the UK, but its population is just four million. As a result, the country is delightfully tranquil, with mile after mile of impressive coastline, mountain ranges and fiords to take the breath away.
There are 14 national parks and 19 forest parks, containing a wide variety of untouched landscape and vegetation. More than 5 million hectares – a third of New Zealand – is protected in parks and reserves.
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is found at the southern tip of the North Island, and boasts a beautiful harbour. It is also small in size, just two kilometres wide, so it is easy for tourists to explore on foot.
Wellington is considered to be the arts and culture centre of New Zealand, and the Te Papa, situated on the waterfront, is the national museum. The city is surrounded by beautiful green hills and it is possible to talk walking tours and coach tours to explore the surroundings more fully. The top of Mount Victoria provides stunning views across the city.
Wine enthusiasts will content themselves with trips to the country’s top wine regions, such as Marlborough and Wairarapa, both within range of Wellington. A more recent tourist development is the Lord Of The Rings tour, which allows you to visit the locations that were used during the epic film trilogy.
Auckland, situated towards the north of the North Island, is fondly known as the City of Sails. The city is a launch pad to explore so much. Within half an hour, you can reach beautiful beaches, walking trails or holiday islands, or content yourself with the city harbours, fine restaurants and Maori culture.
You can go up the impressive Sky Tower, 328 metres high, for stunning views of the city, and you can even enjoy a spot of dinner up there too. A visit to the National Maritime museum is worthwhile, or you can learn more about the city at the Auckland Museum. Music lovers can also check out the Joshua tree that inspired the naming of the famous U2 album.
Christchurch, on the South Island, is another city where there is plenty to do to satisfy most tastes. For those seeking to do something more on the relaxing side, you can visit thermal pools, punt down the river, go hot-air ballooning or enjoy the wealth of culture and wildlife on offer.
But if it is action you are after, then you will not be disappointed. You can take your pick from adrenaline activities such as jet-boating, white water rafting, skydiving, bungy jumping, or in the winter skiing and snowboarding.
Elsewhere on the South Island, the Southern Alps provide a number of glaciers, the biggest being the Tasman glacier, visible by making the short walk from Mount Cook village. The most famous glaciers are the Franz Josef and Fox, on the West Coast. They are easily accessible to walkers and mountaineers, and quite spectacular
The Fiordland area, in the south-west of the South Island, is another example of stunning natural beauty. Hundreds of lakes fill the landscape, including Lake Hauroko which is 462m deep. There are 14 fiords, running from Milford Sound in the north to Preservation Inlet in the south. The most popular for tourists are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
In total, New Zealand has some 15,000 kilometres of varied coastline. The north of the South Island has some great beaches, while the coastline around the rest of the South Island tends to be wilder. Views from the coastal road are superb, a visual treat waiting around every headland.
Intererested in a holiday to New Zealand? Call Global Holidays the UK travel agent for tailor-made holidays worldwide.