Adventure Travel in New Zealand

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A Guide to Adventure Travel in New Zealand

There might not be any hobbits, but New Zealand is undeniably full of the surreal. While the snow-capped mountains, fjords, and hot springs set the stage, it is New Zealanders themselves that make New Zealand the ultimate adventure destination. Strong rural roots and a backyard that is essentially a giant adventure playground have forged a nation of people who know how to adventure. Bungee-jumping, Zorbing, and commercial jet-boating were all proudly invented in New Zealand. “She’ll be right” is the Kiwi catch-all phrase, and their favorite thing to say as they throw themselves into any adventure. When you travel to New Zealand, you won’t be able to resist throwing yourself in after them. 


There are more locations for adventure travel in New Zealand than there are battles in Middle Earth. The sheer diversity of the landscapes, from miles of sandy beaches unfurling in the north to the lofty Alps in the south, makes choosing just one spot to visit almost impossible. 

Queenstown is the regal beauty of New Zealand’s South Island. At the feet of the aptly named Remarkables, with the depths of Lake Wakatipu before it, it is little wonder that Queenstown calls itself the adventure capital of the world. With all of the mountains, forests, canyons, and lakes in the vicinity, there is never nothing to do in Queenstown.

Wellington is the feisty, creative and cultural heart of New Zealand. Waterfront promenades and high hilltop lookouts border a city centre that runs on a caffeine and craft beer buzz. In case you get caught up in the cosmopolitan city scene, the steep hills and spectacular bay are there as constant reminders of the adventure that awaits just beyond the city’s fringe. 

New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland is where you will probably arrive and where all of your adventures will begin. Hop in a car and, in less than an hour, you can be in a wildlife reserve, dense native forest, or hot springs. Hop on a ferry and, in less than an hour, you could be strolling through island vineyards, basking on secluded beaches, or spotting native birds. The world’s your oyster in Auckland.

Adventure Travel in New Zealand

The birthplace of bungee-jumping knows how to get pulses racing and palms sweating. Whether it is hurtling down a canyon of raging white water, climbing glaciers, or rolling down a hill in a big plastic ball, (yep, that’s a thing) boredom is not a concept that exists in New Zealand. 

New Zealand is chocka block (full of) with adventure activities. The whole country seems to be dedicated to the great outdoors, and all the fun you can have in it. Skydiving is one of the more terrifying ways of appreciating New Zealand’s landscapes from the air, while rafting through rapids or glow worm caves gives you a good view from the water. If you don’t have the budget to or inclination for throwing yourself off high things, hiking is one of the best and simplest ways to explore the mountains, fjords, and rugged coastlines of New Zealand, while camping is a quintessentially Kiwi experience. 

On a more serious note, New Zealand’s legendary natural beauty faces all kinds of threats. Conservation groups fight ongoing battles against pests, deforestation, and pollution, in an effort to preserve New Zealand’s precious environment. Getting involved in these eco-wars through eco-tours can be a rewarding way to learn more about the flora and fauna that make New Zealand unique, while lending much needed help to the fight to keep New Zealand beautiful. 

Although New Zealand is green all year round, it’s not called “Land of the Long White Cloud” for nothing. The weather can be miserably wet in winter, so unless you have your heart set on the ski slopes of the South Island, July and August are best avoided. Happily though, New Zealand’s summer is at the same time as Northern Hemisphere winter, so the first and last months of the year are an ideal time to visit.

Costs & Affordability

Adventures in New Zealand are high in adrenaline, but also high in cost. Even if your adventure in New Zealand involves using your thumb to get around and nights spent sleeping under the stars with possums, you’ll need some serious savings to fuel your adventure around this country (because you won’t want to miss a thing). 

Sometimes, good things come in expensive packages though. The costs of adventures in New Zealand look expensive at first glance, but when you consider that they generally include food, accommodation, transport, and dozens of unique experiences, they often add up to a very good deal. Do your research thoroughly and see which combination of offers works best for you.

If the costs are a concern for you, remember it is possible to travel to New Zealand on a budget. Buying a bus pass, for example, is a cost effective and easy way of getting around the whole country. Be adventurous, learn how to cook your own food, and explore different ways of traveling. Couchsurfing is a whole different kind of adventure that will connect you with locals, or you could try your hand at work exchanges, and get a taste of what it is really like to work on a dairy farm or sheep station. If you need help funding your plane ticket to New Zealand, consider a crowdsource fundraising site, such as FundMyTravel.

Accommodation & Visas

Don’t worry, accommodation in New Zealand doesn’t come solely in the shape of little houses in hills with round doors. There are an abundance of accommodation options, from your regular bunk beds to wilderness retreats to basic shacks out in the bush.

A lot of people make their vehicles their main form of accommodation to save on costs. However, with well-worn backpacker routes throughout New Zealand, you won’t have any trouble finding budget-friendly hostels, while a great love of the outdoors means campgrounds are also in plentiful supply. If tramping (hiking) is the adventure you are after, you’ll also find sturdy accommodation options on the well-maintained network of trails throughout the country. The Department of Conservation provides huts that make for cosy, if basic, shelter. You will have to take all of your own cooking equipment and make use of longdrops (an outdoor compost don’t need much imagination to figure out why it’s called this), but you are guaranteed five star views; or, rather, five-million star views.

If you come from a visa-waiver country, you won’t need a visa to begin your adventures in New Zealand, but you will need proof of onward travel. There are also a range of different student visas available, if you want to go to school or study for more than three months. Some nationalities qualify for a working holiday visa, which can be a great way of spending more time adventuring in New Zealand for 18 to 30 year olds. To get the most accurate information regarding visas, have a peek at GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory

Benefits & Challenges

Adventures in New Zealand don’t have to mean danger. New Zealand might just be one of the safest and most welcoming countries it is possible to do crazy things in. New Zealand is ranked as the fourth most peaceful country in the world, the most free country, and the second-least corrupt country. In short, New Zealand is not just a paradise because of its rugged landscapes. The friendly, down-to-earth nature of Kiwis means they are open-minded about differences, the diversity of the population means they are unfailingly accepting of foreigners, and their love of travel (something that comes from being stuck on a small island at the end of the world) means they always welcome visitors with big smiles and beers (Speights, of course). 

No matter how wonderful the local people are though, adventures in New Zealand will always include some risks, even more than usual since it is a sparsely populated country with isolated rural areas. Bear in mind that when you are out in the wilderness, you are out in the wilderness. Every year, tourists wander off paths and freeze to death overnight, get swept away in flash floods, get pulled out to sea and drowned by riptides, and get trapped under overturned kayaks. Understand what you are getting into, always go prepared, and never leave the marked trails. Adventure in New Zealand safely, basically.

New Zealand is more than just forty million sheep and a bunch of farmers in gumboots. This country is a very unique blend of laid-back vibes and heart-thumping excitement. If you have an appetite for adventure, book your trip down under right now, so you can look forward to hearing the words Nau mai haere mai. Welcome!

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A Guide To
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