Ten Awesome Adventures in New Zealand

by Tina Shantz

There’s nowhere on earth like New Zealand to get the adrenaline flowing. With all of the crazy, exciting, and just plain wild things you can do in New Zealand, it's without a doubt the adventure travel capital of the world. Here are the settings to 10 of the coolest adventure stories you’ll ever tell.

Tourist skydiving in New Zealand
Get your adrenaline pumping and route your fears through skydiving. Photo by Ashley Houston

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Sure, caving is pretty common, but the chance to do it by the light of thousands of tiny glowworms ramps these caves up to rad status. The Waitomo caves have been open to tourists for more than 100 years but have retained their isolated and magical feel. You’ll venture down, down, down into stream passages, into mind-blowing caverns like The Cathedral, a 50-foot high world-renowned natural acoustic chamber. Famous singers and choirs have traveled down here to perform and experience the absolute purity of the sound.

ZORB Globe Riding. You’ve never heard of zorbing? Invented in New Zealand in the 1990s, this weird and wonderful activity rolls participants downhill in giant, inflatable, clear globes.

Bungee Jumping. Most people say an adventure trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without a bungee jump, as this is its birthplace! People have been flinging themselves off high places with vine or rope tied to their heels for centuries. In 1988, two Kiwis opened the world’s first official bungee site, with modern gear, on the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown. Hundreds of jumpers each year leap off the bridge toward the water about 120 feet below. Daring jumpers can elect to be dunked into the river at the end of the leap. Many other bungee sites have now developed across the country and offer a variety of different experiences. If you’re a bungee pro, practice your acrobatics on the Nevis Bridge Swing, the largest bungee swing in the world.

Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping Photo by Ashley Houston

Heli-Skiing. For expert skiiers and snowboarders, this is pure paradise: being helicoptered to the top of a pristine snow-covered mountain and set down on untouched pure powder. Certified guides lead the most fearless skiers and snowboarders in small groups to the top of New Zealand’s most magnificent peaks. From there, it’s 2,000 to 2,500 vertical feet of treeless skiing in sheltered basins and bowls, or ripping through steep and gnarly chutes (depending on your ability level). If you’re not up to that level, private sessions are available, and you can heli-ski with an instructor at your own pace.

Mountain Climbing. Mt. Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain and a majestic year-round playground. Mountaineers from novice to expert come from around the world to climb and hike it. There’s also ice climbing and snowshoeing in the wintertime.

Ultimate Jet Boating. Fly around rocks and boulders, skim through narrow canyons, and slice through the water at over 50 mph! Heart-pounding action combines with stunning scenery to create a wild, wet, and unforgettable experience.

Fly A Stunt Plane. Some flight companies, such as U-Fly, let passengers go up in a plane with an instructor and teach you how to do rolls, twists, and tricks like the pros do. You decide how many — because you’re flying the plane! The controls are in your hands.

World-Class Whitewater. New Zealand has some of the best whitewater rafting in the world. Try the Class 5 section of the Rangitikei River if you’re looking for serious thrills. You travel over 30 miles in 2-3 hours, on rapids that start fairly easily so you can practice working with your team. It culminates with 10 major fun-filled rapids from Class 3+ to Class 5 for a spectacular finish. For something a little tamer, try the scenic section of the river. Miles of beautiful scenery complete with lots of Class 2 rapids keep it exciting.

Skydiving. For the most spectacular views in New Zealand with an intense adrenaline rush, skydiving is the way to go. Freefall for 60 seconds from 15,000 feet — it’s a sensation that feels like flying. You can get your friends together and capture the whole jump on video.

Mountain Climbing

Mountain Climbing Photo by Ashley Houston

Glacier Hikes. This gives you a fantastic introduction to the hauntingly beautiful world of pure ice. New Zealand offers two main glaciers, Franz Jose and Fox, for visitors to explore with a guide. You’ll pass through incredible caves, tunnels, and paths formed by the moving ice. Both also offer short helicopter rides so participants can explore the higher parts of the massive glaciers. All gear (crampons, waterproof pants, boots, backpacks, etc.) can be rented and no prior experience is necessary.

This is just a taste of the many adventures you can find in New Zealand. If you’re traveling with a group or studying abroad, find out if any of these adventures are included in your itinerary before you plan them on your own. While many of these require a guide, don’t underestimate planning your own adventure. Rent a kayak or bike, plan a tramp though the wilderness, take a road trip, or just get out and explore — New Zealand will not disappoint!