Top Things to do in New Zealand
It’s tough to narrow down exactly what to do during a visit to New Zealand because there is simply so much to do for a country of its size. Thus, this article will focus on “intense” and “adventurous” things to do in New Zealand. The activities are in order from smaller to greatest based on their cumulative scores.
Frankly, I wasn’t overly impressed with this. Zorbing was fun when it lasted, however, it simply didn’t last long enough nor was it overly affordable. The original Zorbing location has three tracks, the SpeedTrack, the ZigZag and the Drop. The speed track can be done solo, solo in water (not strapped in), or as a tandem with water. The Zig Zag and the Drop can only be done solo in water. The Zig Zag for instance, is the longest track and takes approximately 45 seconds to fall down the about 100 metre track, yet it costs $30.
Despite the cost and the duration, it is actually fairly fun and worth doing…once. The upside is that after you Zorb, you can check out the Polynesian baths in Rotorua.
Intensity Scale: 5/10 Fun Scale: 4/10
9. Sky Jump
The Auckland tower offers what is called a static jump. This is similar to Bungee Jumping accept the jump is controlled in terms of speed and movement (don’t mistake it for a bungee jump though because it’s not even close!) Basically, you step off the edge and then go down a vertical zipline for 15 seconds. What makes this intense is that it is pretty high at 192 metres. The cost is also quite a lot at 195 NZD for a student! Alternatively, at the Sky Tower you can also do a climb up the interior of the tower or walk around the edge. This involves being harnessed in and simply just climbing a ladder until you get to the top. Not my cup of tea as it sounds pretty boring.
Intensity Scale: 8/10 Fun Scale: 4/10
8. Doubtful Sound
This is not intense… at all. However, it is very enjoyable and can be pretty cool. Doubtful Sound is a natural fjord about 2 hours away from Queenstown. When you finally arrive, you take a nice boat ride for about 3 hours around the sound to explore the great landscape and hopefully see a pod of 60+ large bottlenose dolphins. If you’re even luckier, you’ll get to see seals and penguins. Some of the views are breathtaking especially when you are blessed with an abundance of rainbows and waterfalls. At the end of the tour, you go to the hydro-electric plant. Although this sounds boring, it is actually pretty fun as you drive deep into the a tunnel to get to the entrance of the underwater hydro-electric plant. Keep in mind, it is a very long day, but pretty enjoyable. As an added bonus, Doubtful Sound isn’t nearly as busy as Milford sound and Milford doesn’t have the pod of dolphins.
Intensity Scale: 2/10 Fun Scale: 10/10
7. Bay of Islands (Hole in the Rock tour)
The Bay of Islands is another great place to enjoy the outdoors and scenery. I would recommend taking the Hole in the Rock tour with New Zealand Explorer. The catamaran is a great design so that you get as close to the water as possible to add to the intensity. The boat will take you around a bunch of islands offering great views and scenery. You can also see dolphins, seals, and whales if you’re lucky. If you are really lucky, you can swim with the dolphins. In fact, you are guaranteed to see one of those things or else you get a free trip reedemable whenever. What makes this trip intense is when you go through the hole in the rock which is basically a little cave through a large rock in the water. On days where the seas are really rough, this can be really intense. Standing at the bow of the boat made it seem like I was living the Perfect Storm. The seas were so rough that everybody except myself and the guy next to me fell down…yes…it was funny (everybody was ok).
Intensity Scale: 6/10 Fun Scale: 9/10
6. Shotover Jet
New Zealand seems to be infested with jet boats now, but one of the first operators was Shotover Jet. This is a 25 minute ride that takes you back and forth in the Shotever River. The jet boat needs only 4 inches of water and thus it can squeeze into some pretty shallow places. The driver will make it as “scary” as possible by taking as close to rock hangovers as possible and spinning you around doing 360′s. This company used to operate in Australia and Fiji, but is now back to New Zealand. I am not sure what happened in Australia, but in Fiji two boats collided (yes, I did it there too). There have been a handful of accidents in New Zealand but only one death.
Intensity Scale: 7/10 Fun Scale: 8/10
5. Glacier Experiences
There are numerous glacier trips you can take in the south island however, Fox Glacier would appear to be the most popular (doesn’t neccessarily mean the best). A couple of companies do this and offer half day walks (of 4-5 hours) or full day works (6-7 hours). Climbing (8-9 hours) and flying fox tours are also available (4 hours). The climbing tour teaches you basic cramponing and ice axe techniques that you will use to challenge yourself up a variety of formations. Please note that a pretty good level of fitness is required for any of these tours, especially the climbing one. With all of these tours, you commence in a rain forrest before engaging in the glacier walk. The contrast is quite bizzare. Note: I didn’t do this but a friend of mine did.
If you’re looking for something different, want to lose a few pounds, and have a full day to spare, this could be just the thing for you.
Intensity Scale: 6/10 Fun Scale: 9/10
4. Black Water Rafting
This is something I was really looking forward to as I thought it would be different and difficult to do anywhere else. It also seemed fairly intense. What I found was that it was different, fun, but not incredibly intense. Essentially, Black Water rafting involves exploring some of Waitomo caves by walking, zip lining, abseiling, and rafting (actually, a tube). The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company was the first to do it and offers two packages, Labyrinth and Abyss. The Labyrinth (3 hours in total) includes just walking and rafting whereas the Abyss (5 hours in total) includes abseiling and a quick zipline. Both include some great encounters with glow worms (in reality, glow maggets). I think it may have been more fun to do without overly agitated people. For instance, at the end, everybody was supposed to turn off their lights and just follow the glow worm trail on the roof of the cave. What happened was nervous people kept turning on their lights and basically ruining the thrill and experience for me.
Intensity Scale: 7/10 Fun Scale: 9/10
3. Hang Gliding
Although this can be done in many places around the world, hang gliding or paragliding in New Zealand is especially nice due to the scenary. One place of mention is in Queenstown (so many intense things to do in Queenstown) since the town is next to a lake and surrounded by mountains. The company there is called SkyTrek. To get to the launch place, you can take a cable car up which adds to the experience or SkyTrek will pick you up and take you to one of their launch places. This is something I didn’t get a chance to do due to lack of time, but looked like a load of fun. There, you can do a tandem hang glide OR paraglide so you don’t have to invest the time or money learning how to go solo. As an added bonus, the pilot is the national hang gliding champion. It is a tad expensive at $220 NZD for a 10-20 minute flight.
Intensity Scale: 9/10 Fun Scale: 9/10
2. White Water Rafting or Sledging
There is quite a bit of choice here in New Zealand, but River Valley on the North Island seems to be the most intense grade 5 white water rafting. There are a few companies that operate there so you shouldn’t have any problems finding somebody to take you.
Queenstown also offers some grade 5 rafting in the Shotever river (where the Shotever Jet goes) as well as grades 2-3 rafting in the Kawarau river (where the Bungee jump is). There are also a lot of operators here along with some that offer sledging. All of the adventures can be half day or full day tours to accomodate busy schedules.
Intensity Scale: 9/10 Fun Scale: 10/10
1. Bungee Jumping
The Bungee Jumping offered in Queenstown is unbelievable. AJ Hackett has three different sites in Queenstown alone, all worth a visit. The Kawarau Bridge is the original place of Bungee Jumping. There you can do a simply jump or a head dip. This jump is just 43m and allows for tandem jump.
A step up from this is the Ledge. The Ledge overlooks Queenstown from over 400 metres above. The unique thing about the Ledge is that you can actually run and jump off of it. The Ledge also has an apparently pretty intense swing.
Finally, there is the Nevis. AJ Hackett arranges to pick you up and drive you to this place 35 minutes outside of Queenstown. Once you get there, you take a 100 metre (or so) gondala (really, just an open cable car) out to a platform suspended in the middle of the canyon. The jump here isn’t the highest in the world, but still noteworthy at 134m, making it the highest in NZ. Even when fully extended, you still dangle at least 50m above the rapids below. The overall experience here is intense. There is also an arc here.
AJ Hackett also allows you to jump off of the Auckland Bridge, giving you an experience similar to the Karawau Bridge except you can also do a bridge walk which can add some further excitement.
Intensity Scale: 10/10 Fun Scale: 10/10
Other great things to do in New Zealand that are a bit more generic are snowboarding/skiing, sky diving, as well as other watersports.