5 Adrenaline Fixes in the Adventure Capital of the World
Updated: Nov 11
Comprised of two main islands and over 600 smaller islands, New Zealand is situated in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, making it a world away from most places on earth—or at least an extremely long plane ride. The islands are a host to diverse geographical landscapes, biodiversity, and Polynesian culture. Not only is this island nation culturally rich, historically interesting, and topically beautiful, it is also considered the adventure capital of the world! With activities ranging from abseiling to zorbing (an activity specific to NZ), this country has everything a thrill-seeker could ask for! Read on for a sampling of the not-to-be-missed extreme activities.
A.J. Hackett was a New Zealander who popularized the sport of bungy jumping back in the late 80s and there are jump sites all across New Zealand to prove it! During our time in Queenstown on the south island, we ventured to the A.J. Hackett site, home of the Nevis Swing—the biggest gorge swing in the entire world! The swing arcs 300-meters and has a 70 meter freefall, with speeds reaching up to 75 mph! If you are even more daring, the site is also home to the famous Nevis Bungy, the tallest in New Zealand. The ride was quick, but that drop feels like it goes on forever!
Our swing at A.J. Hackett!
Dare Devil Rating: Extreme
Skipper Canyon Jet Boat
One of the hands-down scariest and greatest things we did in New Zealand was take a jet boat on the Shotover River. The scariest part of our excursion started with a scenic ride through the historic Skippers Canyon, which is renowned for its beauty. However, I had a difficult time enjoying the journey because I was too busy gripping the arm rests of my seat in fear. The road leading to the bottom of the gorge welcomes you with a stern warning sign stating Skippers Road is a one-way, narrow road with drops of several hundred meters. Seriously, I looked out my window and I couldn't even see the road---I could only see the drop off into the bottom of the gorge. Fortunately, we didn’t pass anyone coming from the opposite direction, because I do not know what our driver would have done. But, if you can relax enough to enjoy the ride, you will be rewarded with an amazing jet boat experience through the gorge (and you’ll even see a couple film locations from Lord of the Rings along the way!).
Without getting too technical, a jet boat is propelled by pulling water from under the vessel and shooting it out the back, instead of using a traditional propeller. This makes jet boats perfect for shallow waters. And, wouldn’t you know, jet boats were first invented in New Zealand because of their fast flowing and shallow rivers, a la Shotover River. Jet boats have the added bonus of going reallyreally fast and perform full 360 degree turns! We zipped through the canyon at high speeds, spinning and laughing the whole time. It is still one of the best things I have ever done!
There are a plethora of tour companies in Queenstown who provide jet boat experiences, but if you want the added adventure of a ride through Skippers Canyon, then Skippers Canyon Jet Boat & Scenic Tours is the one for you!
Right: My only regret was not buying our photo from the experience. My personal travel tip—always buy the photo! Sure, $20 seems like a lot in the moment, but I always wish I had purchased it after the fact.
Lovely photo op after the adventure.
Dare Devil Rating: Moderate
Black Water Rafting Waitomo
Waitomo is a Maori word meaning “water passing through a hole”. The popular Waitomo cave system in the northern island of New Zealand is known for its running rivers and huge population of arachnocampa luminosa…or more commonly, glowworms. There is a visitor center where you can take a walking tour through the caves, or if you want to do something a bit more unique, you can go black water rafting with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. We signed up for the Black Labyrinth tour, which I would consider the “least adventurous” of the three options. Our training involved sitting on the ground in tubes linked up like a human chain and then later jumping backwards off a small ledge into the (very cold) water below—something you have to do a couple times in the caves. You are provided with headlamps, wet suits, and wet shoes. Even if you are not the thrill-seeking type, this adventure is pretty entry-level and truly amazing. We floated through dark caves underground, and when we all turned off our headlamps, the glowworms lit up the entire cavern like stars. It was surreal. Heads up if you don’t enjoy cold water (*cough* Andrew *cough*) or the dark. They also mentioned something about big cave eels, and something might have brushed my foot, but I’m sure it’s fine.
Dare Devil Rating: Easy
Horseback Riding LOTR
Ok, if you’re a LOTR fan, get ready to NERD OUT! And if you are not a LOTR fan, then get ready to ride on some horses through some really pretty places! Just a short, beautiful forty-five minute drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is Dart Stables, which provides a number of different tours for different skill levels. We did the Hobbit’s Hack since it was Andrew’s very first time on a horse! It was strictly a walking tour on old-timer horses, but it was an awesome opportunity to see Isengard from The Two Towers. If you are up for a more intermediate or advanced experience, there are plenty of other rides to choose from!
Dare Devil Rating: Easy
If you haven’t gone zip lining before, a trip to NZ is the perfect time to start! At this point, we consider ourselves zip line connoisseurs of sorts, since we have done extreme zip lines in five different countries. While Ziptrek Ecotours wasn’t the fastest or longest zip line we have been on, it does have a lot of other things going for it. For one, it is eco-friendly and sustainable, and the guides provide environmental education throughout the tour. Secondly, this was the first zip line we had done where you can choose how you ride! Meaning we zipped backwards, forwards, and even upside down! Even if you are on the less thrill-seeking end of the thrill-seeker scale, this is a perfect adventure for you! It is safe, the guides are very friendly, and it is a lot of fun.
Dare Devil Rating: Moderate
As you can see, whether you are a seasoned thrill seeker or you are just dipping your toes into the adrenaline pool, there is something for everyone in New Zealand. We hope to return one day to go skydiving in Taupo, the skydiving capital of the world, and zorbing! I’ll just leave you with this final video, and I hope to see you have booked a trip to New Zealand!
Still looking for some New Zealand inspiration? Check out my New Zealand photo gallery to discover the beauty of this incredible country! If you enjoyed this post, share the love and post to Pinterest or Facebook!