The best outdoor sporting events to combine with your trip to New Zealand

Everyone loves to kill two birds with one stone. It gives us a sense of achievement and sometimes even a slight amount of smugness! Given New Zealand’s distance from the rest of the world, it is the perfect place to combine pleasure with pain, and plan to compete in a sporting event while on holiday. The Southern Lakes area is probably one of the best places in the world to do this; the stunning scenery provides a spectacular backdrop and the community really gets behind both local and international competitors. There are a plethora of events to pick from so chose your poison and jump straight into training!

1. Challenge Wanaka

Held in the middle of summer, this has been described as the most scenic Ironman race in the world, not to mention one of the toughest. The swim takes place in the chilly waters of Lake Wanaka, you will cycle past two alpine lakes surrounded by spectacular mountains, and the run takes place along the Clutha River. This is the biggest Ironman festival in New Zealand, and there are a number of satellite events that happen at the same time, including a junior triathlon for the kids. The next event is 22nd February 2015, so book your accommodation early!

Running Track for Challenge

2. Routeburn Classic

The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ and this race gives you the opportunity to run it instead of taking the usual three days to walk it. Starting on the Milford Road about an hour from Te Anau, the race will take you over snow-capped mountains, past crystal clear alpine lakes, and through luscious green beech forests. The 32km race finishes near Glenorchy, about an hour from Queenstown. To make the event even more special, take an early morning helicopter ride from Queenstown to the start line. The race is limited to only 350 runners so you need to register early to be in with a chance to compete, registration opens in January with the race usually taking place the last weekend of April.

Routeburn Classic

3. Hawea Epic

A 125km mountain bike race around Lake Hawea, this is the longest mountain bike race in New Zealand and definitely one of the most fun. Most of this race takes place on private land that is opened just once a year for the race. You will be riding over high country stations (think sheep, sheep, and some more sheep), through numerous rivers and streams, and will once again be surrounded by mountains (are you starting to see a pattern here??). Highlights include the homemade scones made by volunteers and handed out during the race, and the no-nonsense attitude of the organisers that trust YOU to look out for your own safety. Registration is still open for 2014’s race which is held on the 26th April.

These are just three of many special outdoor events in the area. Stay tuned for part two where we will give you even more options to choose from. You will need to spend a year in New Zealand to experience them all!

Angela Schrider is Director at NZ Snow Tours.

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