New Zealand is a dream destination for thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. We pick nine of the best experiences.
We’ll start with the classic. You can’t talk about adventure tourism in New Zealand without mentioning bungy jumping. While it has its origins thousands of years ago in the Pacific Islands, modern-day commercial bungy jumping is credited to Kiwi A. J. Hackett, and New Zealanders now consider it a national sport. There are several bungy jumping sites in New Zealand, but the original is in Taupo, in the central North Island. Walk out onto a cantilevered platform 47 metres above the river, take a deep breath and jump. Whether or not you choose to be plunged into the icy water below is up to you; either way, it’s the ultimate adrenaline hit.
Hukafalls Jet boating
Also based in Taupo is the Hukafalls Jet, an exhilarating, high-speed jet boat ride that takes you right to the base of the spectacular Huka Falls. You’ll zoom down the mighty Waikato River – past trees, cliffs and clouds of steam from geothermal activity – at a heart-pumping 80km an hour, until you reach the white water of the famous falls. You’ll be amazed at the manoeuvrability of the jet as you whizz by sheer rock faces with only centimetres to spare, and bounce around in the powerful force of the waterfall. Before turning to head home, your expert driver will treat you to a thrilling 360-degree spin, leaving you dizzy and euphoric – and probably a bit damp.
White water rafting
If you’re keen for more water sports, try your hand at white water rafting. This high-octane river ride is popular all over New Zealand, but the Tutea Falls on Kaituna River in Rotorua is the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall, at a terrifying seven metres. On average, one in 20 boats will flip at the bottom of the waterfall, so you’d better be prepared to get wet. They take safety seriously though, and you’ll go through a brief training course before your experienced guides take you on a thrilling trip through the rapids.
Not far away, in Rotorua town centre, you can fulfil your need for speed with a trip down the Luge track. Part go-cart, part toboggan, the Luge is fuelled by gravity and gives the rider full control over the speed and direction with its unique braking and steering system. Start off by zipping through the pretty bends and Redwood forest of the Scenic Track, then enjoy a scenic chair lift ride back to the top where you can tackle the intermediate and advanced tracks. The Luge is great for any age – even really little ones can ride shotgun with adults. Get competitive and race your family or friends. Fastest one down is the winner!
If you have more time in Rotorua, head for the Zorb. This extreme(ly fun) experience turns you into a human hamster as you climb inside a giant inflatable ball and are pushed down a hill. You’ll flip and spin and laugh yourself silly as you bounce and roll all the way to the bottom of the slope. You can do it dry, or opt to have a few buckets of warm water tossed in with you for the full washing-machine experience. This activity is safe, and suitable for children aged six and up, so the whole family can take part.
Jumping off the edge of a cliff sounds insane, but when you’re attached to a parachute and an instructor, it’s pure adrenaline-fuelled joy. You can take the leap from the top of the Skyline in picturesque Queenstown in the South Island, and experience the ultimate in free flight. As you soar through the air, you’ll be treated to views of gorgeous Lake Wakatipu, mountains, forest and the city itself. Your descent is slow, giving your qualified instructor plenty of time to snap some photos of you flying high, and when you land you’ll be begging to go again.
If a few minutes in the air aren’t enough for you, consider an epic airborne adventure in a helicopter. Depending on which South Island location you choose to depart from, your experience can incorporate hiking in glaciers, visiting remote snowfields or soaring among spectacular mountain ranges. Of course, every flight guarantees some of the best views you’ll find anywhere in the world – and some of the best Instagram photos you’ll ever post.
Of course, if heights aren’t your thing, you may prefer to head underground for your adventure experience. Waitomo, a few hours south of Auckland, is famous for its network of subterranean caves, and there’s a lot to do down there. The classic tour involves a slow-paced boat ride through Waitomo Cave to enjoy the luminescent glow worms, but those looking to increase their heart rate can opt for the Black Abyss experience in Ruakuri Cave. You’ll abseil 35 metres into the cave, and walk further in before trying your hand at black water rafting, zipping along the flying fox and climbing waterfalls in the ultimate caving adventure.
If you’re more of an urban thrill-seeker, you can jump off the Sky Tower in Auckland – New Zealand’s tallest building – into the centre of the business district. It’s a drop of 197 metres, with nothing but city streets to break your fall, and adrenaline junkies will love it. The descent is more controlled than a traditional bungy, giving you just enough time to enjoy stunning views of Auckland.