A Kiwi Travel Writers guide to the ultimate adrenalin rush...
Set the scene for your adventure
Setting the scene for any adventure in New Zealand starts at the birthplace of the country – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the Treaty between Maori and the British crown took place in 1840.
This historic house is set in lush native bush and has daily guided tours and activities including “Introducing the Birthplace of our Nation” and “Living with Nature”, which explores New Zealand's native plants and trees and their relationship to Maori legend. Naturally, there are Maori cultural performances during the day, and a twilight show which can include a buffet dinner. This a great place to celebrate our Waitangi Day every February 6th.
Try Para-sailing and see the Bay of Islands and the Treaty Grounds from above. I’m not an adrenaline junkie and the words ‘New Zealand’s highest’ had not penetrated my mind before I was being strapped into the harness! You will fly higher than Auckland’s Sky tower – not merely the level where adventurous people jump from, but higher than the tip! That way you too can say “I did New Zealand's highest parasail”.
Bungee Jumping Adventures
Bungee Jumping began in New Zealand, and in Auckland you can climb up, or bungee jump from, the harbour bridge. If you prefer being in the water, try swimming with sharks at Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World.
Canyon Swinging Adventures
Queenstown is the adventure capital of the country (Wellington’s the coffee and political capital), and there’s nothing like jumping or Canyon Swinging at the Shotover. Of course the Kawarau Bridge Bungee was the worlds’ first commercial bungee, and a t-shirt from there says it all to impress friends and foes alike. Hamner Springs, to the North West of Christchurch, is just another of many places to throw yourself off a bridge.
Zorbing, in another adventure and tourism hotspot – Rotorua - is often on travellers’ things-to-do-before-I-die list – it’s not on mine but you are braver than me! So, get inside a huge, transparent, plastic ball at the top of a hill, then let gravity take over - speeds of up to 30km/h can be achieved!
Rafting is available all over this long skinny land, so try it in the dark of the Waitomo Caves or in white-water rivers in the Queenstown or Franz Joseph regions. The rain and water levels affect the grade of terror or pleasure you can have – these range from a mild Grade 1 up to the adrenaline-inducing Grade 5. The Shotover River has rapids with names such as ‘Oh Sh*t’, and ‘Jaws’, and evidently the highlight is the 170m Oxenbridge tunnel which pops you out at the last rapid, ‘Cascade’. You have been warned!
Jet Boating Adventures
Jet boating is popular in many parts of the country too. The Hamilton jet boat engine was invented in Christchurch, so the Waimakariri River is a good place to experience skimming along the shallow and narrow braids of the South Island’s stone-bottomed, mountain fed rivers.
Maori culture, traditional and contemporary, is unique to New Zealand and is the second reason visitors give for coming ‘down under’. While cultural concerts are important, it also covers diverse experiences like guided walks, hot pools, eco-tourism, history, food, jet boats, giant sand dune tours in the Hokianga, learning about medicinal use of plants in Kaikoura, staying on marae or in luxury accommodation. Te Whakaweraweratanga o te Ope Taua A Wahiao Village (Rotorua) is usually shortened to ‘Whakarewarewa or Whaka’ locals. The tribe have lived in this harsh environment for over three hundred years, using the gushing geysers, steam vents and boiling water to provide cooking and bathing facilities. This region is a must-visit on your kiwi-adventure.
Did you know the haka is not a ‘war dance’? It’s usually performed without weapons, in contrast to war dances (tutu ngaruhu or peruperu) which feature spears, clubs, or other weapons. All over New Zealand new haka are performed every year and express a variety of emotions such as joy, anger, sorrow, or commentary on social issues.
No matter where you are travelling, from Rakiura (Stewart Island) the anchor of the legendary Maui’s canoe in the south, up to Cape Reinga, the-leaping-off-place at the tip of the North Island where the spirits of the dead leave for Hawaiiki, Maori tourism initiatives can be experienced.
And many more…
There are so many adventures to experience in New Zealand; I didn't even get started on four-wheel off roading, skiing, nature tours, skydiving, hot air ballooning, zip-lining, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling, whale, dolphin, bird, and seal watching, mountain climbing, hiking and of course, the adventure of discovering local music, bars, designers, food, boutique beers, art, and Kiwi friends. When will your adventure start?