The most famous New Zealand adrenaline rush is bungy jumping. In 1988 the world’s first commercial bungy jump opened at the Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown, and now visitors can experience this activity all over the country. Shweebing (human-powered monorail) and globe riding (participants are strapped into an air-cushioned ball and rolled downhill) are other unmissable adventures invented in New Zealand. Visitors can also try canyon swinging, sand tobogganing (Ninety Mile Beach in Northland is a highlight!), caving (in the Waitomo Caves, for example) or skydiving. Jump sites are located all around the country. Beginners can immediately take a tandem jump, while the dedicated can take lessons and jump solo. Adventure activity operators in New Zealand must abide by the strictest safety standards.
Adventures on the Water
Invented right here in New Zealand, the jet boat is a powerful machine designed to traverse rivers at high speed. Riding in one is an unforgettable thrill and there are options to suit all types of traveller – from sedate family-friendly jet boat tours to adrenaline-pumping adventures that include 360-degree spins! Queenstown and Taupo are particularly well-known for their jet boating operators.
A mix of currents from the Antarctic and the tropics results in a remarkable diversity of species in New Zealand waters. Combine this with clear water and it’s little wonder that New Zealand is a popular diving location. The Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, off the Tutukaka Coast in Northland, is considered to be one of the world’s top dive sites. Instruction and certification programmes are available, while experienced divers should bring their Diver’s Certification Card. [www.divenewzealand.com]
Horse trekking adventures range from half- to multi-day trips, and horse trek operators cater for all levels and abilities. Horses are matched according to temperament and size, so there are options suitable for the whole family. Some of the best treks lead through Otago’s gold mining settlements, high country tussock grasslands, the volcanic plateau’s highlands and Pakiri’s sandy beaches, north of Auckland City.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Kayak and canoe adventures are a great way to get up-close with penguins, seals, dolphins and other wildlife. Join a canoe expedition on the Whanganui River or in Buller Gorge on the West Coast, or try sea kayaking – in Abel Tasman National Park you can book an overnight trip and sleep on a beach. You can also combine Maori culture with canoeing and join a guided expedition in a Maori waka.
Rafting and Sledging
Rafting, sledging, dam dropping and tubing the pristine white water of fast-running rivers in a wild landscape are popular activities with thrill-seekers. The Wairoa and Kaituna Rivers in the Bay of Plenty, Tongariro National Park in the Ruapehu region and Rangitata River in Canterbury are all popular. A unique alternative to try is black-water rafting on an underground river – an amazing experience to sample in the Waitomo Caves in the western North Island.
New Zealand has a wide variety of different surfing breaks. Piha, on Auckland’s west coast, is a Mecca for surfers, as is the village of Raglan in Waikato. Northland offers great surf, especially on the Tutukaka Coast. Whangamata in The Coromandel is another drawcard for wave riders, while the Bay of Plenty is home to a long arc of beach. Gisborne has numerous surf beaches, and Taranaki is renowned for great breaks no matter what the prevailing wind thanks to its curving coastline.