Bungy jumping, heli-hiking and black-water rafting are among the many adrenalin-pumping adventures New Zealand has to offer.
Whether you’re lucky enough to live in the land of the long white cloud or you’re travelling around, here are eleven of the country’s best travel adventures to experience.
1. Bungy jump at the place where it started
If the palm-sweating experience of flinging yourself head-first off a great height, secured by a bungee cord, is something you’ve just got to do, there’s no better place to do it than in Queenstown. The vibrant alpine city is an adrenalin-junkie’s playground, with canyon swinging, sky diving and jet boat riding among the many thrills on offer. Queenstown’s Kawarau Bridge is the place where commercial bungy jumping first began – 26 years ago.
2. Hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track
Hikers on the Abel Tasman Coastal multi-day track will be rewarded with stunning coastline scenery of white sand and crystal-clear waters, caves and lush forests. Take a break from hitting the trail and swim, kayak or snorkel at the Tonga Island Marine reserve alongside seals and penguins.
3. Mountain Bike the forgotten Old Ghost Road
Opened in 2015, a once-forgotten miners road has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping trail, taking adventurers through forests, river valleys and tussock tops. The 85km-long trail is a Grade 4 for advanced mountain bikers and goes through remote wilderness, so you riders need to plan and prepare thoroughly.
4. Sea kayak the ‘eighth wonder of the world’
Hailed as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ by Rudyard Kipling, Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most spectacular natural attraction. Exploring Mildford Sound by sea kayak allows you to go at your own pace, as you take views of the dramatic fiords, spectacular waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and lush rainforests. If you’re lucky, you may encounter seals, penguins, dolphins and the occasional whale.
5. Explore pancake rocks and blowholes
Punakaiki is best known for its unusual pancake rocks and blowholes, but there’s plenty more to explore on this West Coast national park. Explore the sub-tropical rainforests and unspoilt deserted beaches, go rock climbing, try bouldering and enjoy caving in limestone formations. Finish your day by taking in a spectacular West Coast sunset.
6. Heli-hike the 2600 metres-high Fox Glacier
An exhilarating helicopter ride over Fox Glacier offers you unparalleled views of the epic 13 kilometre-long glacier, then drops you at a remote area otherwise hard to reach. Once on foot, explore the otherworldly ice caves, pinnacles and seracs on a guided tour.
7. Black-water raft through glow-worm caves
This underground adventure takes your rafting, zip-lining and spelunking through Waitomo’s labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers where you’ll see the main attraction: hundreds of luminous glow-worms lighting up the underground.
8. Traverse volcanic terrain
Regarded as New Zealand’s best one-day trek, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses volcanic terrain, winding past hot springs, emerald lakes and old lava flows and with jaw-dropping views of Mount Taranaki, Mount Ngauruhoe, the Kaimanawa Ranges and Lake Taupo on clear days. A shuttle bus makes this trip easy to do without a guide, but make sure you plan your hike carefully – bringing adequate gear and supplies and checking the weather first. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is World Heritage listed for its natural and cultural significance.
9. Build your own thermal bath at Hot Water Beach
Accessible only by foot or boat, Cathedral Cove is home to some of New Zealand’s most spectacular coastal scenery, including stunning beaches, caves, underwater arches and hard rock reefs. Shovel and bucket in hand, head to nearby Hot Water Beach within two hours either side of low tide and you can dig your own little hot water bath in the sand, then kick back and relax in the natural geothermal pool.
10. Go bouldering at Castle Hill
Just outside of Christchurch, Castle Hill’s imposing collection limestone rock formations – formed around 30-40 million years ago – is one of the world’s best places for bouldering. Castle Hill features five areas with around 250 climbs and over 1000 boulder problems. Be aware of restrictions, specifically not to climb sacred Maori rocks or disturb rare plants.
11. Spend the night at Mueller Hut, Aoraki
The half-day Mueller Ridge hike begins in Mt Cook village then takes you past Sealy Tarns and up to Muller Hut (1800 metres). It’s steep but worth it, offering 360-degree panorama views of glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical rock faces and New Zealand’s highest peaks.
The DOC serviced hut includes cooking facilities, solar lighting and a limited 28 bunk beds. Located in an area with almost no light pollution, it’s one of the world’s best places for star-gazing. Unmissable. Bookings are required during peak season, between November – April.