New Zealand Adventure activities
This post is part of my participation in Blog4NZ, an effort by the travel blogging community to promote tourism to New Zealand after the Christchurch earthquakes. Many people are postponing their travel or are afraid to plan trips to NZ after the earthquakes, even though most of New Zealand was unaffected. And even affected places like Christchurch could still use the help of outsiders. Tourism is a big industry for New Zealand, and while the country is suffering enough from this natural disaster, we should not make their economy suffer more by avoiding traveling there.
New Zealand is the land of adventure, and just about any crazy, thrilling or outdoor activity you can imagine, you can find there. Places like Queenstown are hubs for adventure activities, but there’s tons to do all over the country. From zorbing to bungee jumping, there are some things that are quintessentially Kiwi. Other things are just plain awesome anywhere you do them, but especially in NZ. New Zealand is a place to lower your inhibitions and do those crazy things you never thought you’d do, getting your fill of adrenaline and pushing yourself to the limits. It’s also a place to truly experience nature, taking in all the beauty and wildlife the country has to offer. The following are what I consider the top 10 activities to do in New Zealand and the best places to do them.
Skydiving – Taupo
It’s almost sacrilege to go to New Zealand and not try skydiving. You can do it all over the country, but I found Taupo to be one of the most amazing places I could ever imagine skydiving. (It obviously left an impression as it is the banner for this site!) In the air you’ll find yourself above Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand — and the same size as Singapore!
You’ll also have fantastic views over Tongariro National Park, where you might recognize some scenery from Lord of the Rings (including the mighty Mt. Doom). It doesn’t get much more thrilling than skydiving, and I have to say this was one of the coolest, most insane things I’ve ever done, anywhere.
Canyon Swing – Queenstown
While bungee jumping has become synonymous with New Zealand, it’s not everyone’s idea of fun. I personally have this fear of my back snapping or throwing up in my own face while the bungee flings me up and down… Lovely, I know. The Canyon Swing is probably the absolute best alternative to bungee jumping. You get the same thrill/exhilaration/blinding fear as bungee jumping, without the nasty backlash (literally). And you can choose how you go off the edge, with a huge variety of different jumps rated by “dirty underpants” as to how scary they are. (I made the crazy decision to do two of the scariest rated ones — backwards and handstand — which literally left me begging them not to make me go!)
After screaming your lungs out, you’ll probably find yourself laughing giddily as you fall into a huge, gentle swoop at the end of your rope, swinging through the canyon in the comfort of your attached seat. (Click on the previous two links to see my own jumps. The following video of another guy’s jump, from a unique position above, is a little shaky because I’d just come up from my first swing!)
Glacier Climb – Franz Josef
One of the top things I’ve ever done in my life was climbing the Franz Josef Glacier. (Fox Glacier is also an option.) The climb takes 6-8 hours, and you have a good chance of having some rain, but the tour comes with the proper gear for the long day. You’ll be so mesmerized by the scenery and the experience you’re having, you’ll forget about being a bit cold. Waterfalls gush around you, blue ice tunnels wait to be explored, and you literally create a new path (with your guides hacking out steps just ahead of you) on your journey up the glacier. Walking around in crampons is pretty cool, too!
If this kind of a trek sounds like a bit too much for you, there is the option of taking a helicopter to the top. But personally, this hike was an experience of a lifetime for me and if you can handle it, I highly recommend going for it.
Whale Watching – Kaikoura
I’ve been whale watching a few times, and Kaikoura was by far the best experience I’ve ever had. In a little over two hours we saw eight whales — six sperm whales and two humpback whales. It was absolutely incredible! The boat tour itself was a crazy adventure. It was a bit rocky and the captain would speed off to find whales, then yell for us to all get up and scramble out to the deck to see the whale (and try to capture the elusive tail shot). Then he’d yell for us to get back inside to our seats, and the process would start again. It was a smaller boat, and everyone interacted and got excited together which made the whole adventure a lot more fun. Even once you’re off the boat, Kaikoura is an adorable little town to explore for a day, and you will likely spot a bunch of sea lions relaxing on the rocky shore near town. You can get pretty close, but be careful not to disturb them too much!