8 top adventure activities to do on a New Zealand holiday

Need a little help preparing your NZ adventure itinerary? Here the must-do experiences for thrill-seekers in the North and South Island.

Someone in scuba gear next to a dolphin in the ocean in Kaikoura
  • Lindy Alexander
  • March 2020

When visiting New Zealand, these adrenaline activities come highly recommended. Jump to it!

Swim with dolphins in Kaikoura

The first time you see a fin in the water, the heart skips a beat. But once you realise you’re surrounded by a frolicking pod of dusky dolphins, everything changes. In the chilly ocean off Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, you’ll get to swim with the social creatures in their natural habitat. There’s nothing like the thrill of seeing a dolphin leap out of the water, only metres away.

dolphinencounter.co.nz

Bungee jump in Queenstown

Jumping off the 43-metre tall Kawarau Bridge, known as the home of bungee, is a New Zealand rite of passage. Falling at speed towards the sparkling Kawarau River to touch the water before you spring back up, your heart pounding out of your chest, is an essential experience for any thrillseeker. Do it with a partner, with your eyes closed, or even naked – but just do it.

bungy.co.nz

A man bungee-jumping off Kawaru Bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand
Bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge is not for the faint hearted.

Cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail

Get on your bike to see the rustic side of New Zealand. The former railway line that forms the Otago Central Rail Trail winds its way through hills, valleys, old goldfields and farms dotted with lambs. You can tackle the length of the 152-kilometre off-road trail in about four days, staying in historic lodges and country hotels along the way.

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Two people cycling through the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand
Cyclists can explore Otago's unspoilt landscape on a 152km trail.

Skydive over Lake Taupo

Soaring in a little plane above the gleaming waters of New Zealand’s largest lake and the snow-capped volcanoes surrounding it might seem daring enough, but that’s only the beginning. The real adventure starts when you take a leap from the aircraft. Sign up for a tandem skydive from 9000, 12,000, 15,000 or 18,000 feet, where you’ll rush towards the ground at 200 kilometres per hour. Dives take place over one of the world’s most stunning drop zones at Lake Taupo. With up to 75 seconds’ freefall, your adrenaline is sure to spike.

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Walk Tongariro National Park

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a character in The Lord of the Rings, there’s no better place than Tongariro National Park, one of the locations for the iconic film in the centre of the North Island. The best way to explore the soaring mountains, waterfalls, lakes and forests is by foot. The daylong Tongariro Alpine Crossing is popular, but for a longer, quieter alternative take the Round the Mountain Track – a tough 66-kilometre walk taking in glaciers, moors, beech forests and rocky alpine uplands.

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Girl standing in front of mountains
There's no better way to view Wanaka's snowy peaks than with a helicopter ride.

Explore Waitomo Caves

In 1887, a Māori chief discovered thousands of glow-worms inside a cavern 2.5 hours south of Auckland, and some of his descendants now take visitors into those same Waitomo Caves. There are six experiences on offer, including a gentle boat ride through the glow-worm grotto, floating through the subterranean caverns on inner tubes (known as black water rafting), and the adrenaline-fuelled Black Abyss tour where you’ll zip line through a gallery of glow-worms and jump off underground waterfalls.

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Heli-ski in Wanaka

When you join a heli-skiing adventure to explore remote back-country terrain on skis or a snowboard, you’re surrounded by mountains and fresh snow waiting for first tracks. If you’re a powder hound, the untouched peaks near Wanaka in the Otago region are pretty much calling your name by the time you jump out of the helicopter. With the option to ski or board up to 10 pacy, vertical runs surrounded by silence, you’ll lay down fresh lines among the spectacular serrated peaks.

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Three people dressed in snow gear getting in a helicopter in Wanaka
You can enjoy a helicopter ride to remember over Wanaka's snowy peaks.

Try Zorbing at Rotorua

It’s the stuff childhood dreams are made of – rolling down hills in a giant, transparent inflatable ball. As the largest ball-rolling park in the world, minutes from Rotorua CBD, Zorb is for those who want a dose of laughter with their adventure. Choose from four grass tracks, including the Sidewinder – the longest zig-zag track on Earth – and the H²OGO, where 40 litres of water will have you slipping and sliding inside your tumbling sphere.

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