Going to the Lions Tour? This is how to do it!

At Cloud Travel, our aim is to give you a personalised tour of New Zealand that gives you more than a hop-on-hop-off bus would. We go below the surface of tourist traps and dive down into a black market of local only secrets.

So if you're coming over for the Lions Tour or even just thinking about it (you're running out of time), here's our comprehensive preview package of some of the things you could be getting up to.

Fon-ga-ray. It's okay, we knew you were struggling with that one. Whangarei is a northern city that's three hours from Auckland in a car or 35 minutes by plane. Newzealand.com suggests that it's a laid back place to watch boats and relax at a quayside café which is all well and good but you can relax at a café anywhere in the world right?

We suggest you try something a little more authentically New Zealand, something your friends will be surprised to hear about when you get back and they'll be both jealous and impressed.

The Abbey Caves are a series of three main, limestone caverns that have been naturally sculpted by natures spatula, 4km from the heart of Whangarei city centre.
They're unguided – you've been warned – and it will be winter – you've been doubly warned – so you'll need an extra pair of socks and a good pair of shoes but it'll be worth the trouble. We promise.

The climb down into the caves is the hardest part but once you're down in the water, which is about ankle to thigh deep, you might be lucky enough to see some eels or fresh water crayfish. (Don't worry, eels are perfectly safe here).
Keep walking and you'll come to the aptly named Organ Cave, the largest of the three because of its 50ft high cavern. Give yourself some time to marvel at the overhanging stalactites, which look a lot like church organ pipes but not for too long because you'll soon spot the speckled sea of glow worms lighting up the roof. This is where you can test the real quality of that new smartphone you just bought!

The Abbey Caves have two other main caves, the Middle Cave and Ivy Cave. The latter has some entertaining graffiti from the nineteenth century but each cave is home to thousands upon thousands of glow worms that paint a starry night sky on the caves' ceilings.

With no guide, there's no gift shop to exit through but there's also no entry fee and no need to queue behind hundreds of other tourists – you only need to leave the caves the same way you found them, which isn't too much of a stretch. Once you've climbed back out, the water gets deeper and the floor is mud but it's still easier than getting in, you can head back to your hotel, motel, backpackers, airBnB or regular BnB and rest up before the game, maybe with a pint or two. You've earned it.

Other games in Auckland include:

Game 7 – Saturday June 24
The Lions vs The All Blacks

Game 10 – Saturday July 8
The Lions v The All Blacks

So you've left cosy Whangarei and the next game is back in Auckland. If you've been to New Zealand before, you've likely spent time in Auckland and even if it's your first time, you won't escape the city.

It's New Zealand's version of a big city. The population of Auckland is the same as the entirety of the South Island (we know it's not much by your standards, but to us it's huge). It has a Sky Tower you'll likely recognise.

Unfortuently, most tourist who are doing a huge world trip will stop in Auckland for a few days and see this as the only representation of New Zealand – which we're totally not. But as far as urban goes, this place is pretty unique!

We love the Elliot Stables, a food court brimming with different smells, sounds and life from the different cuisines and restaurants. If you feel like Italian but your partner feels like Mexican and your best friend feels like Japanese, it all goes once you've got a table number.

Auckland offers what any big city offers. Great shopping, great food and drinks, a lot of culture and bustle, but there are days when that's not what you're after when the buzz of the city wears thin.

That's where Cloud Travel comes in, we've got recommendations for day trips and things to do outside of Auckland city just for you.

One of our favourites is Rotoroa Island – not to be confused with the sulphuric town Rotorua.

A one-hour ferry trip from downtown Auckland and you step off the boat onto a small island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Depending on your schedule, the ferry usually runs on weekends only due to the weather. We recommend checking first but if it's a no go there, we can help book other transport similar to these options: http://rotoroa.org.nz/visit/other-transport.aspx

The island was initially used as an alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre in the care of the Salvation Army. For 100 years they essentially sent people here to dry out. The island is steeped in that history and it now provides a landscape for heritage, art and a conservation sanctuary.

You should visit the award-winning museum and exhibition centre or the original buildings including the original school house and jail.

If the day you're there isn't too cold, you should pack a picnic and head to one of the four sandy beaches after walking the trails among Rotoroa's regenerating bush – Look out for the Chris Booth sculpture on the island's southern headland, it's kind of a big deal.

Auckland Zoo is currently establishing a wildlife sanctuary on the island and more than 20 species of native animals will be introduced over the next decade.

If you don't think you can cram all that into one day or Auckland city life is getting a bit weary, Rotoroa has three holiday homes for rent. You'll be at a game in Auckland twice, just go for it.
We want you to have a moment. Close your eyes. Throw all preconceptions of Christchurch out the window. Okay, that's better.

Christchurch deserves more than to be dismissed by natural disaster conversations, it's not the centre to the end of the world by any means.

Instead the city is going through a major rejuvenation process and that's something to be excited about, the inner city will look different to when we're writing this and we can't predict what café, restaurant, cocktail lounge or shop will pop up next.

We can, however, recommend things in the city that are here now and will be here when you visit.

If you're missing home, missing the pub and missing the lads/girls that weren't lucky enough to come on the trip, we have the perfect place for you.

Pomeroys Pub has 31 beer taps with a selection of different craft beers and ciders every time you go. It has live music, the best food, a foosball table and that old English pub vibe we know you love and New Zealand secretly wishes they had more of.

There are rugby jerseys lining the wall, you'll feel right at home.

Christchurch is a place to boast great pubs and another in the central city is Smash Palace.

An outdoor bar run from a bus. The whole venue is outdoors, in winter? Never fear, they have a selection of seasonal mulled wine and cider and hot water bottles to keep the chill off your breath. When you sit in the courtyard of Smash Palace you are accompanied by Christchurch's past. A glimpse into what was and what will soon be with ruined, old colonial buildings sharing space with brand new, Scandinavian styled buildings.

Our last beer based recommendation is Dux Central, which before the February 22, 2011 earthquake was known as the Dux de Lux. A frequent watering hole for NZ & Australia's largest bands.

After their building was wiped out (it's still there but behind fencing and scaffolding), the Dux took time to come back to the city but now it's back, it's a cornerstone of Christchurch culture once again.

If anything you have to stop by for one pint and try a ginger tom, you won't be disappointed.

Now that you're sick of beer and likely have a hangover, at Cloud Travel one of our little known secrets in Christchurch is Horse Power.

It might not be the best for that hangover but Horse Power gives you the rare opportunity to get involved in a little action on your trip and literally be a part of horse racing.

You're sitting in the back of a sulky being pulled around at full speed by a thoroughbred, it's safe to say you don't get the chance to do that very often.

In between checking out what's new in Christchurch city, walking Hagley Park and having a pint in the sun at Pomeroys, you can send a picture of yourself in the back of a modern chariot winning the cup.

If none of that takes your fancy, Christchurch is blessed with world class golf courses (Pegasus for example) and is hugged by the French town of Akaroa. Christchurch has been frequently labelled as the gateway to the South Island, and this gateway is one huge, fun, vibrant stop.
From Christchurch, drive or fly to the most southern part of your trip to Dunedin, it's the closest and largest City to Antarctica – be warned, it'll be a bit chilly in June.

Dunedin describes itself as 'New Zealand's best kept secret' and you'll never meet a 'Dunners' local who disagrees. At Cloud Travel we'll try and help you discover just what that secret holds.

One of our recommendations for your trip to Dunedin is Tunnel Beach.

To get there first you have to take a 2km short walk through an excavated tunnel with gorgeous post-card and Instagram worthy scenery on your way. Once you're through you'll come to some possibly slippery steps, be careful, and a secluded beach, likely all to yourself at this time of year.

Take a moment. Look out. That's the real beauty of New Zealand's coastline. If you take anything other than your new Super Dry jacket, it should be some binoculars. You may be looking for three things; Orcas, Great White Sharks or a few Albatross.

Another great thing about Dunedin is if you've got a bit of time, it's close to everything. Head to Queenstown, Milford Sound, Wanaka - the South Island really beholds some beauty that we can help you discover.

Wanaka, although not known for its Rugby is very well known to host a selection of legendary All Blacks and the odd celebrity. Oprah was there recently. Richie McCaw has a house there and got married there last month. Tom Cruise used it as the location to identify his wife in Mission Impossible 3. It's heaven on earth.

A beautiful fifty-minute drive from there is Queenstown. This place is the adventure capital of the world. So, if that's what you're in to, get there. If you're not up for jumping off a 100ft bridge, the shopping is world class while the views are 80% of what you've seen in Lord of the Rings (minus all the fire and orcs).

But before you leave Dunedin for all these wonderful places, you'll need to watch the game and what a venue it is. You're in for a treat with Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The stadium is New Zealand's largest and the only permanently covered natural turf stadium in the world. It hosts rugby, entertainment, conferences, beer festivals and everything in between.

When you're in there you'll notice one really obvious aspect of the stadium, SPOILER ALERT, the whole thing is made from recycled materials and the walls are simply an industrial version of cardboard and plastic. It's extremely versatile and has hosted both Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and your very own England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
We hope you've spent the few days between the last game checking out the South Island and now you can make your way back north for the last leg of the trip.

Rotorua was the one we were warning you about before – it's not the small island in the Hauraki Gulf but a town in the middle of the North Island.

We'll get it out of the way right now, Rotorua smells. Literally.

The town is famous for its sulphuric mud pools and while they might smell a bit funky, they make for a really relaxing holiday, including one of our favourites, Kerosene Creek.

Kerosene Creek hot spring is a small stream that flows downhill through dense native bush. There's a small corrugated iron changing shed for your privacy and bathers have excavated smooth rocks to form their own hot pools.

To get to this hidden hot pool, you have to follow these very specific instructions.

  1. Head out of Rotorua towards Taupo and take a left just past a small bridge – the signpost says Old Waiotapu Rd.
  2. Trip your odometer at the start of this forestry road and stop exactly 2.2m down the road
  3. Pull over to the grass verge on the right.
  4. Follow the path down a couple of hundred metres beside the stream to the pull itself
  5. Relax, thank us later.

We know it sounds complicated now but it's really worth the special effort to get out of the mud pools filled with tourists and locals, this place you'll have all to yourself to defrost from the cool winter air before the game.

Chances are that you're wondering what the difference is between the Maori All Blacks and the regular All Blacks? Without pointing out the obvious, they are a representative team very similar to the Barbarians. Although it wasn't always the case, to be selected for this team you must be Māori whakapapa, (genealogy). All players have their ancestry verified before selection in the team and it's considered one of the highest honours to be selected. Our advice for watching these guys? Get ready for one of the most impressive Hakas you've ever seen!

It's not a long drive from Rotorua up to Hamilton for the next game but the middle of the North Island holds some of the most spectacular views in the country.

There's volcanoes, desert, massive lakes – you name it you can see it within the one drive.

To the locals, Hamilton is known as the Tron and is New Zealand's largest inland city.

By all means explore the city, find some of Hamilton's hidden gem cafes, bars and restaurants but we've got a place you have to visit and it's just a short drive out of town.

Kawhia hot water Beach is one of New Zealand's best kept secrets – according to its website anyway.

Once you head down to Ocean Beach in Kawhia at low tide and make your way over the dunes, you can find a spot and start digging for an instant hot water spa to beat the winter chill.

Now we're in Wellington, there's a long list of 'must-dos' in the nation's capital. Chances are, this will be one of your last stops in NZ, so let's make it count.

First things first, Wellington has some incredible weather. You'll hear the locals say religiously that "you'll never beat Wellington on a good day", that's because it has so few of those, sorry.

Wellington sits in the Cook Straight (as shown on Google Maps). For around 175 days a year, the wind smashes 75kmh plus. Wellington has mornings where it's raining on par with the Amazon and beach weather like something from Fiji by lunch, so be prepared.

This city is famous for a few things, Weta Workshop, Government buildings and its wind. But, there are some gems you need to know about.

Mount Victoria is the lookout you'll see from wherever you are in Wellington, everyone else sees it too and they'll all be up there. You can get there for sunrise and still be surrounded by 20 other tourists. That's why you need to get to Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout (also known as the Town Belt).

The lookout is worth getting up early for. The sun will rise right in front of you across the whole city, and we promise you'll be alone! In fact, we filmed the opening scene of our ad there, just to prove it!
The Town Belt overlooks the Stadium you'll be in shortly. It's the closest one to it, so easy to find. There are multiple paths throughout the hill, so no rules here, just go up! Climb to the top and head towards the city, or left in other words. When you reach the lookout, go back down the road which will lead you to our amazing Botanic Gardens.

It's likely breakfast time. We've got you sorted! Grab a cheap Uber onto Cuba street (New Zealand's trendiest street) and ask for Southern Cross (this could also be your lunch spot), if you need some healthy food for a change though, head North on Cuba one block and on your left, is a Vegan/Vegetarian Café called Havana 178 Cuba, the Nachos are incredible.

Next, head towards the Harbour down Cuba and you'll hit the awesome waterfront. Turn right, you're looking at Te Papa, our largest, most popular museum. Although fun it's going to be busy, so head there when the weather isn't too bad.

If you carry on round the bay, you'll head towards Oriental Parade. Keep your eyes out on your right for Beach Babylon, a trendy, hidden food joint and a few beaches to sit on.

Your last few options for Wellington is Zealandia, an incredible sanctuary where you may find yourself a Weta beetle or native Parrots within a landscape similar to Jurassic Park and still so close to the city. Or the Weta Workshop, although popular with tourists, it's very controlled and an opportunity to bring out your true 'nerd' thanks to our very own Peter Jackson.

If like most Rugby fans here, Cricket is your thing, The New Zealand Cricket Museum is located in Wellington's iconic Basin Reserve, you'll have seen it at least on telly when the Black Caps have been playing at home.

Finally, for your game night you'll probably feel like it's miles away, when in fact you could walk all of Wellington in a day. This could be one of your last nights here in NZ, so let's top it off. You've got two objectives: 1) head around the stadium towards the side facing closest to the water and the railway and you'll start to see a secluded carpark and doorway parallel to the road, if you're up for meeting some All Blacks and Lions stars, here's where you'll find them leaving the grounds – a great place for Autographs.

You've had a long day though, time for a night cap…really high up!

Dirty Little Secrets (http://dirtylittlesecret.co.nz/) is another CBD beaut. Sitting a ridiculous 14 or so flights up, it's got near panoramic views of the city and beyond. Located behind a lift you'll find to the left of the larger Five Stags bar, look for the bouncer who will show you up and enjoy your last few hours of the day.

To conclude...

The Lions tour is one of New Zealand proudest events. Like the Rugby World Cup in 2011, Kiwis were so excited and ready to welcome other nations to our unique and fragile country. If you're coming here for the tour or just for a holiday, we'll show you what the locals go and do, not what tour agencies expect you to do. You deserve a trip of a lifetime…especially after all those losses to the All Blacks you'll have to deal with!


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