26 unforgettable New Zealand adventures you shouldn’t miss!
You are an adrenaline junkie and always looking for the next kick – just like us from Off The Path? Then pack your stuff and rush to New Zealand, the adventure island!
Skydiving, bungee jumping, convoying, rafting or bridge climbing – these activities will make your blood run cold and leave you with an unbelievably awesome feeling. If you’re more the relaxed type of person, you can also enjoy a horseback riding trip, go kayaking or dolphin watching. No matter what, New Zealand will blow you away with all its adventures!
New Zealand adventures: The best Off The Path tips!
The South Island
Let’s start with the South Island which should be on top of your New Zealand adventure list, including its adrenalin-fuelled capital Queenstown. If you’re planning a South island road trip and still need some great input, check out Sebastian’s guide here.
1. Jump out of a plane over Queenstown!
If you were skydiving before, I don’t have to write much here because you know immediately how this feels, namely simply amazing! Sebastian and Line risked this adventure here in Queenstown, I jumped out of a plane on New Zealand’s Northern Island.
In Queenstown it will be a bit chillier because of the mountains but you will have a breathtaking view over the snow-covered the Remarkables. The feeling is the same, every time. When they put you into the jumpsuit and the harness, you will feel your stomach prickle. They will give you a tandem master and then you go aboard. And the flight itself amazing already! You get this incredible view on top of your jump. And in case you decide not to jump, there’s actually no way back as your tandem partner will jump for you.
And, there you go! You see the members of your group leaving the plane one after the other, and then it’s your turn. Smile at the camera and you fly!! For the first few seconds you will not be able to keep your eyes open completely, you will feel the pressure on your ears, but what can I say? Within the next 60 seconds you will fall and within the next 5 – 6 minutes you are paragliding back to our beautiful earth.
Back there, you will not be able to stop smiling and you won’t be able to put this feeling into words. Simply amazing!
Operator: NZONE SkydiveCosts: 283 €, 60 seconds free fall from 15,000 feet, images and video
2. Swim with dolphins in Kaikoura!
Make a childhood dream come true und swim with dolphins! In Kaikoura they offer it several times a day, a unique and inexpressibly wonderful experience not to be missed! You go by boat out to the open sea and within minutes you will reach the first swarm. Now put on your flippers and take your snorkel and jump into the water!
Dolphins are known to be very curious and go for noises. Feel free to sing and bumble– the dolphins will not blame you for strange sounds. Also try to move like a dolphin and before you know, they will be there to inspect you. They swim round you in a circle, they come towards you, come from underneath you and jump out of the water for joy, just like ‘Flippper’!
If I wasn’t able not convince you so far, watch Sebastian’s video and you will see what a great experience it is!
Operator: Dolphin Encouter Costs: 100 € for 3.5 hours
3. Go canyoning in Wanaka!
If you like climbing and getting the kick of a secured fall, then I recommend Deep Canoyning to you! It’s the place to experience nature at first hand: torrential waterfalls, secluded pools surrounded by woods, sculptural rock formations, and soft, grass-green moss everywhere. During the tour you will rappel at waterfalls and into canyons as well as jump over the cliff.
A real adventure! You don’t need to be afraid by any means to jump into the water from 15 meters!
Check out Sebastian’s video of this amazing day here! Operator: DeepcanyonCosts: ab 145 € for 5 hours
4. Take a quad bike safari in Queenstown!
OK, I admit that I as a girl am not such much into quad bike safaris but since Sebastian and Line told me about the quad bike safari I am dead keen on it.
First, you go to a large private property on Queenstown Hill. Here you have to show how good your driving skills are before they let you start. You speed down muddy paths, over rocks, through huge puddles, passing typical flocks of sheep and river valleys. So much fun as these bikes can go really fast!
When the guides make a stop and you get tea, hot chocolate and cookies it’s time to have a closer look at the beautiful nature around you.
This tour is really fun!
Operator: NomadsafarisCosts: 145 € for 3.5 hours
5. Go kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds!
Now, let’s get to an easier activity. Your heartbeat should get a chance to come down! While in New Zealand, you should go kayaking at least once. There are many places to do so, so take it easy. Just check your schedule what fits best.
In Anakiwa a small, family-run company offers nice custom-made kayak-tours through the Marlborough Sounds. Even as a beginner you will feel safe and pampered. You will learn a lot about the animals, nature and some facts about the region. The owners are really warm-hearted so that you will have a lot of fun and feel like doing a trip with good old friends. They will provide the complete equipment and you will even get a watertight bag for your camera and other technical equipment.
The tour takes about 4 hours, where some cute sea bears may accompany you. It’s a nice, relaxed way to start the day and you can even exercise a little!
Operator:NZ Sea KayakingCosts: from 35 € per day without guide
6. Mountain bike on the Central Otago Rail Trail!
The Otago Central Rail Trail is a hiking and bike trail of 152 km in Otago. On this trail you pass flocks of sheep, blue lakes, snow-covered mountains, cross bridges, go through canyons and dark tunnels.
You can either rent a mountain bike and discover everything on your own, or you book a tour in a group. They will pick you up in Queenstown.
If there is some time left, you can complete the whole tour in 4 – 5 days and spend the night close to ancient goldmines to charge your batteries.
Operator: Bike It NowCosts: 30 € per day
7. Go horseback riding in Punakaiki!
Another comfortable way to make the route is on a horse. In Punakaiki you can book great rides in the surroundings to be right in the middle of nature.
You will ride through rivers, pass fields, ride through the rain forest until you reach a little glade. There you will find a small cabin where you can have a break and can enjoy the surrounding drinking tea or hot chocolate. If you are a good rider you can really speed up and gallop a part of the route. If you are not, the adventure starts at that point at the latest! The tour ends on the beach from where you can see the Pancakes Rocks. The horses are calm and easy to ride, and the owners really friendly. This ride is not meant for horse lovers only, because you will see that you experience your surrounding more intensely on the back of a horse. So just give it a try!
Operator:Punakaiki Horse Tracks Costs: 100 € for 2.5 hours
8. Go by jet boat in Hannah!
Have you never gone by jet boat yet? Book a tour on the Waitoto River! This trip takes you from the sea into the mountains. You will speed down the river, learn a lot about this incredible nature and the culture of the Maoris. You will also stop for a while and have the chance to go hiking and discover the rain forest.
Operator: RiversafarisCosts: from 117 € for 2.5 hours
9. Go canyon swinging in Queenstown!
I must admit, I prefer jumping from a plane with a tandem-master than jumping into a canyon on my own, just fastened with a rope. This means that so far I have not dared going bungee jumping or canyon swinging but I absolutely intend to do so. Especially since I have seen pictures of a friend who jumped into a canyon from 109 meters in Queenstown I feel like doing it soon!
There is one operator who offers 70 different styles of jumping and does not treat you like one of many. Why not fall into the canyon sitting down on a chair, a bucket over the head or using a slide? The crew is very funny and they will certainly manage to calm you down, in case you get a little nervous. After the jump you will swing 200 meters through the canyon – an amazing feeling! They offer tandem-jumps as well, if you do not dare jumping alone.
Operator:Shotover CanyonswingCosts: starting at 120 €, second jump at 20 €
10. Watch whales in Kaikoura!
If you do not want to jump into cold water to meet sea dwellers, book a whale watching tour! It is a once in a lifetime experience to see them diving in their natural environment. The crew is really funny and provides you with really interesting facts on the whales.
With a 95 % garantuee to meet a whale you are almost on the safe side. Line and Sebastian saw three whales on their tour and were really happy!
Operator: WhalewatchCosts: 85 € per person
11. Hike through Abel Tasman National Park!
The Abel Tasman National Park is located about 70 kilometers north west of Nelson.
A paradise that offers everything: white beaches, small coves, a forest like a jungle and crystal clear creeks. To get to the park you take a water taxi. It will bring you to a stop of your choice and you can walk around or to the next stop. The boats leave from Kaiteriteri and you can book them online in advance to be sure to get a seat.
Depending to your mood, you can hike for 2 hours or up to 6 hours. The trails are not too challenging, but do not underestimate the humidity and temperature! It’s quite handy that you will reach small coves from time to time and can cool down in the sea.
Just a little hint: be careful when crossing the creeks. The stones are slippery and you can easily slide, become completely wet or hurt your leg, just as I did. And you have to walk for another 1 – 2 hours until you reach the next stop.
Operator: WilsonCosts: 40 €
12. Take a helicopter to the Fox Glacier!
It’s not really a bargain but worth every cent! The adventure starts with a helicopter flight. During the flight you can see the majestic glacier from the air. A breathtaking panorama! Landing on top of the glacier will bring joy to your heart: a faraway place you could never reach walking. You can have fun in the snow and have the guide show you the glacier and ice caves.
Operator: Glacier HelikoptersCosts: ca. 235 € for 4 hours
13. Go by Magic Mail Boat in Picton!
A special boat trip waits for you in Picton: going through the Marlborough Sounds by magic mail boat for a day and experiencing how the inhabitants of faraway promontories only accessible by sea get the mail and groceries. The captain will provide you with interesting facts on the surrounding, the salmon and shell farms, which you’ll pass. In addition, you will get as much tea and coffee as you like.
To ship through the Marlborough Sounds is a great experience and a way to participate in the original kind of mail delivery. Don’t miss it!
Operator: BeachcombercruisesCosts: 56 € for 4 – 5 hours
14. Walk to Hooker Lake at Mount Cook!
This hike is a bit touristic but if you start between 7 and 8 in the morning, you are almost on your own. Dress warmly, because in summer the temperatures are around freezing mark! Walking back after about 2 hours, you will only wear your t-shirt. The trail goes through valleys and across wobbly swing bridges that are stretched over wide, ranging rivers. A wonderful lake waits for you at your destination: Mt Cook. It is nestled in the mountains around. The ice floes float on the water like sculptures. A wonderful picture, just like a postcard.
Hint: When going to Mt Cook you should stop at Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Farm at Lake Pukaki at all costs! Simply godlike! The fresh sashimi melts on your tongue.
Facts about the walk can be found here!
The North Island
Let’s talk about the North Island. I believe that both the North and the South Island are great and you should definitely visit both in your life! Each is very unique and almost offers completely different adventures you will not forget for a long time!
15. Climb the bridge of Auckland!
An unforgettable experience and only possible in Auckland! The Auckland Bridge is the only one you can climb on in New Zealand. From here you have the most wonderful 360° view and can see most of the sights of the city from the air. The view of the port is unbelievable!
Once you arrived, you may also want to go bungee jumping, dipping into the sea is included if you want to push your adrenaline level even higher. Especially at sunrise this activity is amazing!
Operator: BungyCosts: 75 €
16. Hike the Tongariro Crossing!
Tongariro National Park is the oldest one in New Zealand (founded in 1887). Here you can experience the most beautiful full-day hike (Tangariro Crossing), which is quite challenging as far as your condition is concerned as it is 20 kilometers long. Several operators take you from the parking lot to the place the hiking starts so that you can go back to your car right after the hike.
Especially, if you are a fan of ‘Lord of the Rings’ you have to do this hike because here is the setting of Mordor. Three volcanoes that are active, last time in 2007, nice views to Lake Taupo and of course challenging climbs make this spot of land very attractive. If you have a sensitive nose, be prepared to smell bad eggs (sulphur) which will surround you from emerald green Emerald Lakes and steaming holes for quite some time. I almost died in this city and really wondered how people can live there.
I made this tour in roughly 6 hours, without rushing and taking short breaks. It has been my most exhausting tour so far. I had wobbly legs and felt stiff and aching afterwards. So better go and get your walking boots!
Operator: Tongariro CrossingCosts: 18 €
17. Discover the active volcanic island White Island!
For me this trip comes second after the parachute jump during my New Zealand trip!
Even many New Zealanders don’t know about this island, this makes it even more attractive and not so crowded. You leave Wakatane by boat to go to the White Island, an active volcanic island, which is private property. Once you arrive at the island, they will provide you with a helmet and a breathing mask, which really is important to have. After only a few meters of walking, your eyes will fill with tears, you get a sore throat and you will start coughing. It steams like there are bubbles everywhere and there is smoke. The closer you get to the crater lip, the warmer and more intensive the sulphur fumes get. It is amazing to see the power and feel the heat that comes from inside the earth. I surely don’t want to be close when it erupts.
Being there you have to try sulphur (in your mouth it feels like soda, it burns on wounds but it is healing) and two creeks. The first one tastes like blood (due to its iron content) the second one like vinegar with a smack of lemon. Interesting, but we did not dip our fingers into the creeks a second time. Being lucky, you may watch dolphins and whales on your way from and to the mainland, just as we did.
This trip is something special and your perfect adventure on the North Island.
Operator: White Island Tours Costs: 18 €
18. Jump from a plane over Lake Taupo!
Lake Taupo ist the biggest lake in New Zealand and offers you a variety of activities: hiking, fishing, aquatics, parachuting and much more.
This is where I dared jumping from a plane for the first time in my life. 15,000 feet in 60 seconds, free fall. The 15-minute flight was gorgeous. It was a perfect panorama view across Lake Taupo und the volcano surrounding. Then suddenly they said I was the first one to jump. But that’s not bad, you don’t have time to change your mind! The first 3 seconds I was not able to breath and my stomach felt like a roller coaster, but this gliding afterwards …! Awesome!
Well, if you ask me, parachuting is a must-do while traveling through New Zealand!
Operator: Taupo Tandem SkydivingCosts: 280 € from 15,000 feet with handycam (pictures or videos)
19. Go horseback riding in Coromandel!
If you haven’t experienced the biggest happiness on earth sitting in the saddle of a horse on New Zealand’s South Island yet, here is the perfect place to do so. Coromandel Peninsula is a beautiful landscape, offering deserted beaches and mountains in the hinterland. I had lodged with a farm for 4 days and went horseback riding in the mountains, through rivers and flocks of sheep and herds of cattle and once across the beach. I can really recommend these farm stays. You can pick fruits in the garden, steal eggs from the chicken or just enjoy the peace and quietness of country life. That’s what it is all about in New Zealand: spend as much time in nature as possible.
Operator: Colville FarmCosts: 24 € per hour
20. Swim with the dolphins in Tauranga!
If you couldn’t make it on South Island you will have another chance in Tauranga to swim with dolphins or just watching them. We were really lucky that day and could even see two hammerhead sharks – just small ones but the fin was distinctive and a bit creepy as well.
After about an hour, we were told that we were heading towards a swarm of dolphins. Hearing numerous ‘awwws, this is exciting’ the captain built up tension while keeping a straight face. After half an hour, we were right among bottlenose and orca dolphins, which are actually rare to watch. When the first one jumped out of the water, we got goose pimples.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to join them in the sea, because they had their breed with them. But a couple of kilometers before we reached the coast, some common dolphins joined us. And we were glad we made the experience of seeing three different kinds of dolphins when we left the boat. Even without swimming with them, it was an amazing experience!
Operator: Dolphin SeafarisCosts: 90 € for 4 – 5 hours
21. Go rafting at Lake Taupo!
If you want to become really wet and want to have some action, river rafting is the right thing for you. Shoot more than 50 tidal rapids and through narrow volcanic canyons for half a day. Discover a hidden waterfall – jump right over it – and learn more about the culture of the Maoris. You will spend about 2.5 hours on the water and will smile a lot.
Operator: Rafting New ZealandCosts: starting at 70 € for 4 hours
22. Go by the Huka Falls jet!
The word ‘huka’ originates from the Maori language, in English it means ‘foam’. 220,000 liters of water per second (of the ‘foam’) run down the rock face, 11 meters deep. The Huka Falls are very popular with tourists. But going very close to them on a jet is an exceptional experience. Half an hour full of adrenaline rushes, fun and excitement are waiting for you. You will lose your orientation while being twirled around at 360° but you will have a big smile on your face when you reach the Huka Falls. You are really close to the spray and it feels as if you almost dive into the huge waterfall. Speeding at 80 kilometers per hour, passing cliffs and forests you will reach your starting point.
A funny adventure, which I could only watch due to a tight schedule.
Operator: Huka Falls JetCosts: starting at 68 €
23. Jump off the Sky Tower in Auckland!
If you are still not tired of adventures, you can jump off the highest tower of the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower in Auckland. 192 meters at a speed of 85 kilometers per hour don’t promise too much. First of all you will be safely secured and then taken to the edge. You bend forward, standing on the ball points of your toes, over the streets of Auckland and then you let go and…you fly. Just like a bird, only faster. You will feel like a super hero, because compared to bungee jumping you will fall pretty fast for the first 11 seconds and then you will land safe and sound directly on Sky City Place.
An amazing feeling, falling right in the middle of a city – don’t miss it!!
Operator: SkyjumpCosts:133 €
24. Sail in the Bay of Islands!
Unfortunately, I did not make it to the Bay of Islands, but you should by all means plan a visit. A special way to discover this area is by sailboat. You may even do some work on board: hoist the sails, take the tiller.
If you are looking for an adrenaline kick, you may also climb the mast or the bowsprit and ride the waves. Or, you just relax and enjoy the wind in your face!
Operator: TuckerCosts: 68 € per day, about 6 hours
25. Go black water rafting in the Waitomo Caves!
The Waitmo Caves are normally on every to-do-list when visiting New Zealand. Unfortunately, that goes with all tourists. You are just a number here, nobody cares. There is no time to enjoy the quietness and the fireflies and the unique atmosphere. That’s why I would recommend combining this visit with black water rafting.
This adventure takes 5 hours and includes climbing down to a cave, 35 meters deep, as well as climbing and swimming in tires – above you a ceiling full of fireflies. An adventurous and cozier way to discover this cave!
If you are not up for the touristic cave, go to the Abbey Caves. Here you have less fireflies but also less tourists!
A hint: You will only see the fireflies if you turn off your torch, it is really dark!
Operator: Waitomo Black Water RaftingCosts: 135 € for 5 hours
26. Hike on the Coromandel Coastal Track!
At the end, there is a more relaxed activity: discover the beauty of Coromandel Peninsula! The Coromandel Coastal Track leads from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay at the upper edge of the peninsular. You can certainly also go the other way around. Enjoy the view on the coast and the offshore islands (Grand Barrier Island, Cuvier, Mercury Islands etc). You may either walk these 7 kilometers in 6 – 8 hours (roundtrip) or book a shuttle. Furthermore, there is an alternative route for mountain bikers. Either way, a hiking which is renumerate to enjoy one of the most beautiful areas in New Zealand!
Facts about the hike can be found here!Now you have the agony of choice to pick your favorites. Or, have you already engaged in any of these adventures? Just share your experience in comments! I’m curious!
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