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Bungy Jump at Kawarau Bridge | © Los viages del Cangrejo/Flickr
Bungy Jump at Kawarau Bridge | © Los viages del Cangrejo/Flickr
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The Adventure Traveller's Guide to New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 13 March 2017
New Zealand is a world leader in adventure tourism. Airborne activities, extreme water sports, underground expeditions; if it gets the heart pumping, travellers will find it on the Kiwi shores. So brace yourselves, as we’re about to take you on a joyride along the country’s best attractions for thrill-seekers and adventure travellers.

Bungy jumping

We’ll kick things off with New Zealand’s best renowned experience. Since its humble beginnings in Queenstown, bungy jumping has become the number one must-do for adventurous visitors. The Kawarau Bridge is the place that started it all and continues to be an industry leader to this day. Other popular spots include the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and the Taupo Jump in the Waikato River.

Bungy Jump at Kawarau Bridge | © Los viages del Cangrejo/Flickr
Bungy Jump at Kawarau Bridge | © Los viages del Cangrejo/Flickr

White water rafting

Rotorua is home to the world’s largest commercially-rafted waterfall, which comes in at 7 metres in height. But that’s not the only place to get your fill of white water rafting. Lake Taupo’s Tongariro River has three sections of tumultuous waters to explore. The Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Queenstown, Christchurch and the West Coast are among the other local rafting hot spots.

Rotorua - Kaituna River Rafting | © eyeintim/Wikimedia Commons
Rotorua – Kaituna River Rafting | © eyeintim/Wikimedia Commons

Caving

New Zealand is an underground paradise for spelunkers (cave explorers) of all abilities. The Waitomo Caves are the most famous, primarily because of their collection of abseiling adventures, black-water rafts and exquisite glowworm tours. Nelson in the South Island is another good spot for caving and this is where you’ll find Harwood’s Hole, which is the largest sinkhole in the southern hemisphere. If you’re heading to the South Island, Fiordland and the West Coast have some interesting cave formations that are worth exploring.

Inside the Waitomo Caves | © Andrew and Annemarie/Flickr
Inside the Waitomo Caves | © Andrew and Annemarie/Flickr

Skydiving

Want to splurge on a heart-stopping experience? Then skydiving will be the thing to do. There are quite a few locations to do it from, all of which will offer you spectacular views of New Zealand’s exquisite landscapes. Wanaka, Queenstown, the Bay of Plenty, Lake Taupo, and Auckland are just some of the popular skydiving places at your disposal.

Tandem Skydiving in Queenstown | © Rob Chandler/Wikimedia Commons
Tandem Skydiving in Queenstown | © Rob Chandler/Wikimedia Commons

Canyoning

Remote mountain locations in Auckland, Waikato, Nelson, Canterbury, and Wanaka offer plenty of opportunities for canyoning. You can leap off the Waitakere Ranges waterfalls, climb up Raglan Rock’s drenched formations, abseil through Abel Tasman National Park’s canyons, or embrace the enormity of Wanaka’s forest pools.

Karekare Falls, Waitakere Ranges | © Robert Linsdell/Flickr
Karekare Falls, Waitakere Ranges | © Robert Linsdell/Flickr

Zip lining

Harness up, hook yourself in, and fly through some of the coolest forest destinations. Waiheke Island leads the way with its uniquely created zip lining tours, and Rotorua’s immersive experiences are quite a hit too. If you’re travelling to the South Island, Queenstown’s zip lines will provide you with awesome views of the Remarkables mountain range.

Ziplining in New Zealand | © Royal New Zealand Navy/Flickr
Ziplining in New Zealand | © Royal New Zealand Navy/Flickr

Zorbing

Rotorua’s one-of-a-kind invention is a true testament to Kiwi ingenuity. Seriously, who would have thought that getting into a large plastic ball and running through a hilly obstacle course, could prove to be such an exciting experience? These days, Zorbing has become a strong player in the country’s adventure industry, and is almost as much of a rite of passage as doing a bungy jump.

Zorbing in Rotorua | © Wikimedia Commons
Zorbing in Rotorua | © Wikimedia Commons

Heli-Skiing

For a pure shot of adrenaline, you can’t go wrong with Heli-Skiing. Even if you’ve never done it before, you can probably guess what it entails; getting dropped down into the powdery slope as you head into a guided tour of the mountains. Intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders have plenty of opportunities to do this in the South Island, Queenstown, Wanaka, and Mount Cook being your main alternatives.

Heli skiing | © Wikimedia Commons
Heli skiing | © Wikimedia Commons

Off-road driving

This is not your typical road trip. New Zealand is lined with back-country roads and tracks, some of which are made up entirely of gravel, others mostly comprising dirt, and a few which are lined with sheep on each side. Where you go off-roading will depend on the type of experience you’re seeking. Northland’s Ninety Mile Beach is lined with awesome sand dunes, the Waikato has some interesting trails for quad-biking and four-wheel-driving, and the Southern Alps in the Canterbury region could make for a fantastic alpine expedition.

Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand | © reginaspics/Pixabay
Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand | © reginaspics/Pixabay

Jet boating

Lake Taupo’s booming Huka Falls are an ideal destination for adventurous boaties. The experience will propel you across the waters at 80 kilometres per hour, with a few 360-degree spins in between, as you pass through the various cliffs and trees surrounding the region. Queenstown’s pristine rivers also provide plenty of exhilarating spins for jet boating enthusiasts. There are operators around the Dart, Shotover and Kawarau Rivers.