Think of some adrenalin pumping, heart-thumpingly scary outdoor adventure activities and the chances are you can probably do it somewhere in New Zealand, possibly in many places. Additionally, New Zealand has a fair sprinkling of some activities which you might never even have heard of and several which were either born in or totally unique to New Zealand.
Whether you want to leap off or climb up something gut-wrenchingly high, race along rivers (underground and over-ground), dive beneath the ocean with sharks or learn to ride waves, New Zealand can deliver the goods. You can be catapulted, rolled, suspended, swung, dropped or just plain scared out of your wits.
If this is the type of holiday thrill you are looking for then have a read through the following options to find the perfect activity for you. Where specific operators have been listed then be aware that, in some cases, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You may find many more and, with adventure activities being such a big part of New Zealand tourism, there are new ones springing up all the time.
… But first a word about Queenstown
Queenstown, on the South Island, is widely considered by many to be the outdoor adventure capital of not just New Zealand but the world. If you are in search of thrills and spills but are not sure where to start then head to Queenstown. Here, most of the adventure options are all available within very close proximity to each other. www.queenstownnz.co.nz tells you all you need to know.
What to expect: Strapped to an expert instructor you will jump from an aeroplane from 9,000 to 16,000 feet where you will then free-fall at 200 km/h for around 45 seconds before floating peacefully to the ground under a parachute.
Many of the companies give you the option of having photos or videos taken of your exploits.
Where: All over New Zealand including Queenstown, Abel Tasman, Bay of Islands, Te Anau, Wanaka and Fox Glacier.
With who: NZone, Skydive Fox Glacier, Skydiving NZ and many more.
Price: From NZ $249 upwards
What to expect: You will be strapped into a harness with a glorified piece of elastic attached to your ankles and then leap off a ledge/bridge/Auckland Skytower/cable car etc from heights of 47 to 192 metres. Your adventure price usually includes a t-shirt.
Where: Taupo, Auckland (bridge and SkyTower), Queenstown, Rotorua.
With who: A.J. Hackett Bungy (the originals), Taupo Bungy, Agroventures, Skyjump (this is actually a cable controlled base jump).
Price: From NZ $95 to $375
What to expect: In these highly manoeuvrable boats you will be raced along, spun through 360° and utterly convinced you are going to crash head first into cliff faces before your jet boat pilot executes a last minute turn and has you racing along once more.
Where: Queenstown, Canterbury, Rangitaiki, Whanganui and Waikato rivers.
With who: Shotover Jet, New Zealand River Jet.
Price: NZ $129 upwards
What to expect: Squeeze through impossibly small holes and crevices, swim underground lakes, watch the glow worms twinkling, slide down waterfalls, dangle on ropes, climb and scramble, marvel at stunning limestone formations, abseil in or while underground – all in the pitch dark (or it would be if you didn’t have a head torch). You are usually equipped with hard helmets and dry suits and experiences can be as tame or as extreme and as wet or as dry, as you want.
Where: Waitomo caves, north-west Nelson, Greymouth, Fiordland.
With who: Cave World, Dragon Blackwater Cave Rafting, Green Glow Eco-Adventures.
Price: From about NZ $110
Learning to surf
What to expect: Your expert instructor will equip you with wetsuit and surf board and take you into the ocean’s white water to get you up, riding and experiencing the thrill of surfing. Some operators offer multi-day deals and include photographs and videos.
Where: Gisborne, Curio Bay, Raglan, Taupo, Auckland and all over the North and South Islands.
With who: Raglan Surfing School, Catlins Surf, Ratso’s Lion Rock Surf School, and many more.
Price: From NZ $50 for 90 minutes
Canyon swings/giant swings
What to expect: Harnessed and rigged you will release yourself from a 160m high canyon river platform, free-fall for about 60 m and then swing in a 200m+ arc at a speed of 120 km/h, backwards and forwards a few times (head first, backwards, upside down, in tandem – you decide). When your pendulum swing finally stops you will be left dangling above the canyon floor and then winched back to the platform.
With who: Shotover Canyon Swing, A.J. Hackett.
Price: Around NZ $160 per person for a tandem swing.
Black water rafting
What to expect: Often done in combo with caving, black water rafting is about floating along (usually somewhat more serenely than with white water rafting) on a large inner tube enjoying the glow worm displays as you go.
Where: Waitomo, Greymouth.
With who: Black Water Rafting Company, Dragon Blackwater Cave Rafting.
Price: From around NZ $107
Heli-hiking and glacier hiking
What to expect: Hikes on the glacier, exploring ice caves and ice formations, lasting from a few hours to days long, are on offer and designed to suit all levels of ability and fitness. Heli-hikes bring you in and out by helicopter and usually take you to the remoter glacier parts. More challenging ice climbing is also possible.
Where: Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier.
With who: There are many operators at both the locations listed above – www.glaciercountry.co.nz takes you through the options.
Price: Hikes from NZ $115 and heli-hikes from NZ $399.
Learning to scuba dive
What to expect: If you want to get the basic qualification then expect at least a 3 day course with pool and ocean dives, at the end of which you will be able to dive anywhere in the world with your PADI certificate. If you don’t want a formal qualification you can opt for a ‘try dive’ experience where you will be drilled in some basic safety issues and then taken into the ocean for about an hour’s dive.
Where: All over the North and South Island.
With who: www.divenewzealand.com lists all New Zealand operators and what they offer.
Price: Try dives from about NZ $149 or full PADI Open Water Courses from about NZ $495.
What to expect: Think rolling and bouncing down a hill inside a giant transparent hamster ball. For a wash cycle experience you can add some water to this bizarre Kiwi invented experience.
Where: Rotorua and Queenstown.
With who: Zorb Rotorua.
Price: Around NZ $44
White water rafting
What to expect: Trips ranging from an hour long to several days take you down rivers offering milder adventures up to white knuckle Grade 5 categorised rivers complete with strong rapids, stomach lurching drops, waves, holes and obstacles.
For something a little different try white water ‘surfing’ or body-boarding, sometimes known as ‘sledging’ – a more up to date alternative for the white water riding thrill seekers.
Where: Rotorua, Queenstown, Taihape and many more places.
With who: Wet n Wild Rafting, River Valley, Kaitiaki Adventures, Frogz.
Price: From NZ 95 white water rafting and NZ $109 for sledging.
And if you still haven’t found what you are looking for there is more:
Abseiling; Heli-skiing; Off-roading; Hang gliding; Shark cage diving; Zip rides … and the list goes on.
Many of the companies offer multiple adventure activities and buying a combo package can often work out way cheaper than doing things separately. Combos are available in almost endless variations so if there is more than one thing you want to do then be sure to check out what’s on offer. For further advice about what to do in New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown, please contact me directly here at What To Do In Wellington.
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