New Zealand Sport

The New Zealand sport article contains information on some of the most popular NZ sports, including rugby, golf, cricket and netball.

For New Zealand, sport defines us as a nation. Find out about some of the most played sports in New Zealand, from the rugby field to the cricket pitch, the netball court and the golfing green.

With spectacular scenery, a temperate climate and easy access to mountains, surf and wide open spaces, it’s no surprise that in New Zealand, sports in New Zealand are such a popular pastime. Our land is filled with outdoor enthusiasts and sports nuts, but even for those who aren’t actively involved in sport, there are plenty of New Zealand sport events to watch and Kiwi achievements of which we can all be proud.


Of all the sports at which New Zealand has excelled, rugby is the game which is widely accepted as our ‘national game.’ In the 19th century, New Zealand rugby was established as an important sport within New Zealand, with many clubs forming in towns and rural districts before the year 1900. Competitions were held between provincial teams and against visiting teams from Australia and Britain. The All Blacks, our national rugby team, traveled on tour to Britain in 1905 and again in 1924. Today, the sport has the largest number of spectators and followers of any sport in New Zealand, and the All Blacks boast the highest winning rate of any team in the world.


Netball is the most popular game for women in New Zealand and is played widely by women of all ages. Over 120,000 registered members and an additional 80,000 social players compete in netball matches nationwide. The Silver Ferns are the national netball team and have achieved excellent results within international competitions, including holding the World and Commonwealth champion titles, and winning the gold medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games.


Cricket was the first organised sport to be played in New Zealand, with matches being played as early as 1835 and formation of a national team in 1894. Receiving test status in 1929, the New Zealand team would have to wait until 1956 for their first test victory, in a test match played against the West Indies. Today, the national cricket team is known as the Black Caps. The Black Caps are governed by New Zealand Cricket, the organisation that is also responsible for overseeing domestic cricket in New Zealand. Domestic teams represent Auckland, Canterbury, Central Districts, Northern Districts, Otago and Wellington.


Recreational fishing has long been a popular pastime, whether we’re fishing in rivers and lakes, from jetties and rocks, or from boats at sea. New Zealand now enjoys a reputation as a destination for both salt and fresh water fishing. In salt water fishing, you can try your hand at surfcasting, rock fishing or fishing from one of the many charter boats on offer. Salt water fishing tours and self-guided charters are available in Marlborough Sounds, Auckland, Doubtless Bay, the Bay of Plenty, the Bay of Islands and Southland.

For fresh water fishing, there are many opportunities in the rivers and lakes of both the North and South Islands. Brown Trout were introduced to New Zealand rivers in 1860. From the 1880’s, other species of trout and salmon were also introduced. Chinook salmon were brought to the rivers of South Canterbury in the early 1900’s, where they now thrive and give the region a name as a salmon fishing destination.

Skiing And Snowboarding

With stunning alpine scenery, New Zealand is popular for its skiing and snowboarding opportunities during the winter months. Snow sport seasons vary, but in the South Island the season usually runs from early June until early October, and in the North Island from late June until mid-November. Ski fields offer treeless, open slopes with both undefined areas and marked trails. New Zealand has various ski areas, with options ranging from the resort style experience of Queenstown ski fields to the backpacker experience of club owned ski areas in Canterbury.


There are a wide selection of New Zealand golf courses nationwide, many with spectacular views and wide open greens. Most golf clubs in New Zealand welcome visitors and will allow casual players to book a playing time either during the week or on the weekend. You will have to pay a fee for either 9 or 18 holes. With over 400 courses in New Zealand, there are plenty to choose from. The US publication Golf Magazine listed two New Zealand courses in its biennial list of the world’s top courses: Kauri Cliffs in Northland was ranked 27th, while the Hawke’s Bay Cape Kidnappers golf course was given a ranking of 58th from the 100 courses chosen. Set on 6,000 acres, the Kauri Cliffs golf course offers views of the Pacific Ocean, with some holes being played alongside cliffs which plunge down to the sea.  Both Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers can accommodate golf players of any level.


As an island nation, the sea has always been a significant factor in the lives of New Zealanders. From the time of European settlement, sailboat racing and rowing were popular pastimes. In 1995, New Zealand shot to yachting glory by winning the coveted America’s Cup. Having successfully defended the Cup in 2000, when the regatta was held in Auckland, the New Zealand team lost in its 2003 defense. The winning team, Alinghi, hailed from Switzerland and was skippered by Russell Coutts, an expatriate Kiwi. Recreational yachting in New Zealand can be enjoyed in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, Wellington’s Port Nicholson, Lyttelton Harbour close to Christchurch and Otago Harbour near Dunedin. Charter boats are available and sailing is best during the summer months (from December through to February).