You don’t have to be a hardcore adrenaline junkie to indulge in a little adventure in New Zealand, because adventure is different things to different people…
But however you define it, whether through the grit of your teeth in a 20,000-foot freefall from the sky, or through the soggy wetsuit of a whitewater rafting trip, one thing’s for sure: NZ has you covered, wherever you are!
That’s because adventure is never too far away in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Whilst it’s true that Queenstown remains the “adventure capital of the world” – and rightly so – New Zealand flaunts a rich topography of awaiting adventure in all shapes and sizes and in all parts of the country.
This means that an adrenaline fix is pretty much around every corner. The only question is, how do you like your adventure?
Okay, so bungy is synonymous with NZ and justifiably so, as it was here that this crazy pursuit was invented. Whilst you can (and perhaps should) jump from AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch’s first-ever instantiation of their crazy idea at the Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown, there are multiple sites around the country where you can stare fear in the eyes and take the exhilarating plunge.
Such as from the ledge of a cliff above the Waikato River at Taupo, or from another ledge above the lights of Queenstown. You can even jump as soon as you get off the plane in Auckland at the Auckland Harbour Bridge or NZ’s tallest building at SkyTower (at 192 metres, reaching 85 kph, it’s the highest base jump by wire).
It’s perhaps not surprising to learn that AJ Hackett, the same company responsible for convincing the world that jumping from a high ledge is “fun” and something you must do once in your life, is behind the latest adventure craze: the Human Catapult.
Tossing human cargo (i.e., you) into the air at speeds of 100kph in 1.5 seconds and 150m above the Nevis Valley, the Nevis Catapult is your chance to feel the brunt of 3Gs of force on your pretty face. If you’d rather just, you know, jump off a 134-metre-ledge instead and experience 8 seconds of free-fall, you can opt for the classic Nevis bungy which is probably one of the most beautiful places on the planet to face your fears. We’re talking glacial blue water below, mountains all around…yeah, classic New Zealand.
What, free-falls measured in the hundreds of metres isn’t “hardcore” enough for you, eh? Okay, then you better strap yourself into a parachute and take on the ultimate, heart-stopping, adventure.
New Zealand’s topography, in all its stunning variety, is best appreciated from the sky in a thrilling tandem or solo skydive. Soak up the aerial views of the North and South islands with Skydive Abel Tasman’s drop-zone at Motueka. Feel like a bird soaring through the clouds whilst strapped to an experienced jumpmaster as you descend through thousands of feet. You’ll spy Abel Tasman, Golden Bay, the Alps, Marlborough Sounds, and all the way to Taranaki. Trust us: the time will fly (ha!) by!
Downhill mountain biking and heli-skiing
There’s plenty of hardcore adrenaline action to be had on the ground, too. Mountain bikers and snow fiends should be happy to learn that New Zealand is also home to some of the world’s best mountain biking trails and heli-skiing opportunities.
We’ll start with the two-wheeler action first. If your idea of the perfect holiday involves whizzing down a single-track mountain descent whilst surrounded by amazing scenery, it’s hard to beat New Zealand. Strap on your helmet and the rest of your gear and head to Rotorua, Queenstown and Christchurch which all offer gondola access to pro-line runs so you can bring (or rent) your chunkiest downhill rig and smash out laps of world-class MTB parks all day long. Of course, tempering the handle-bar jarring action are tons of remote backcountry trails that compensate thrills with hills, mountain scenery and just generally amazing landscapes.
And for the hardcore skiers (and boarders) out there. Have you tried heli-skiing yet? No, good, head to NZ. South Island heli-ski operators around Queenstown and Wanaka are the world leaders of this amazing adventure sport, giving you exclusive access to fresh powder runs down steep chutes and open bowls. It’s going to be hard to go back to gondolas after this…
There’s no shame in preferring your adventure on the softer side. Adventure is fun, and fun is, well fun. And like a soft-boiled yet, just as satisfying…
Whilst technically “soft adventure,” jet-boating is just as intense (well, we think so), as jumping from a plane. Powering through narrow river gorges and getting up close to the Huka Falls in Queenstown, or skimming like a stone across the clear braided rivers in Canterbury, will certainly get your heart-racing (and perhaps stoke your latent religious sensibilities from their slumber as you pray to God you’ll make it out alive – don’t worry you will).
If you’re not reaching for your figurative Bible five minutes into it, just wait until the experienced driver throws in a few 360-degree spins to amp up the adrenaline…
Zorb and Shweeb
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be a marble? How about a washing machine Well folks, trust the crazy Kiwis to have created experiences that promise just that…
Another indigenous invention, the Zorb in Rotorua is basically a giant ball that gets rolled down the hill with you (and sometimes water) inside. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a day exploring the area’s geothermal delights. For something faster and longer, check out OGO’s new Mega Track which is the steepest giant-inflatable-ball-rolling course on the planet. For something even odder, you must “do” the Shweeb Racer in nearby Velocity Valley which is the world’s first human-powered monorail racetrack.
No climbing experience? No worries! If you can’t (or won’t) rock climb, this is the next best thing. It promises all the thrills of rock-climbing without the spills, as you’ll always be connected by cable to the security of a cliff-face and supported by experienced guides and fitted safety equipment.
The Wildwire Wanaka’s waterfall climb is your best introduction to this sport. Climbing a via ferrata system of cables, rungs and bridges fixed to the rock, you can scale the 450-metre-high Lord of the Rungs climb which includes a 6-metre waterfall and a helicopter descent.
Strap yourself in, lift your feet up, lean back, and get ready for the thrills! Suitable for the whole family, experience the world’s longest zip line at Cable Bay Adventure Park near Nelson, which promises speeds of up to 100kph. The Skywire, as its known, is the definition of gravity-assisted free-wheeling fun. Up to four people can experience the zipline at a time!
In Queenstown, Ziptrek guarantees amazing panoramas of lakes and mountains as you fly through the air on the world’s steepest zip line which drops 30 storeys and reaches speeds of up to 70kph! For a slightly more subdued zipline experience, Rotorua Canopy Tours offers guests the chance to walk amongst the treetops along a system of walkways connected by ziplines.
Matching the adventure above, New Zealand is also home to some of the most challenging and spectacular cave systems in the world. Whilst many of these are suitable for hardcore “spelunkers” (those that explore caves), there are also plenty of options for newbie cavers.
Such as the Waitomo Caves in Aotearoa, which is like a fairy tale world of glowworms and otherworldly stalagmites and stalactites. You can walk or float (black water rafting anyone?) through this amazing cave. Another option is to visit the glowworm grotto on Lake Te Anau after a scenic cruise.
Finally, there’s plenty of (soft) adventure to be had in the water, too. Rafting in New Zealand is measured on a continuum from pleasant meanders downstream to white-knuckled and heart-racing experiences through turbulent rapids.
There are literally rafting spots all over the country. In the North Island, the best rivers are in the central and east coast areas of Lake Taupō, Bay of Plenty and the Hawke’s Bay. Down in the South Island, there are plenty of places to try rafting around Queenstown, Christchurch and on the wild West Coast
So, are you a hardie or a softie? Or somewhere in between?
For even more inspiration and ideas on what sorts of adventure awaits in New Zealand, make sure you visit here where you can also sign up for a monthly newsletter with everything you need to know about New Zealand, our webinar programme and their latest competitions and incentives.
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