15 thrilling adventures to make you feel alive

Looking for an adrenaline rush? Don’t miss these heart-pumping extreme experiences - from catapulting in Queenstown to swimming with sharks in Port Lincoln.

  • Kate Barracosa
  • November 2018

Calling all thrill-seekers – it’s time to get your adventure on. From hiking and diving, to more extreme pursuits such as skydiving and even swimming with sharks - whatever your tolerance level, there’s an adrenaline rush here for you.

Queenstown, New Zealand: Take on the Nevis Catapult

The key attractions in the adventure capital of the world read like a checklist for thrillseekers – you can’t truly call yourself one unless you’ve ticked off the original bungee jump from Kawarau Bridge, have flown through the air on a giant swing and skydived over The Remarkables. But operator AJ Hackett now offers the most heart-pumping yet: a human catapult. Cords suspend you above the Nevis Valley, then disconnect to fling you 150 at speeds of nearly 100 kilometres an hour in just two seconds – you’ll barely have time to appreciate the beauty of the chasm below.

Oahu, Hawaii: Surf at Waikiki

You won’t need beginner’s luck here. The pros test the Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore but if you’re a novice, there’s no better place to learn how to manipulate a board than on the baby waves at Waikiki.

Hawaii is the spot to test your tubular talent.

Port Lincoln, Australia: Dive with sharks

This is not so much a physical but a mental one. Board a boat with Calypso Star Charters at Port Lincoln and begin the three-hour cruise over the waves to Neptune Islands Marine Park in the bird-chirping hours of the day (there’s also a twilight option in the summer months). Then it’s time to dive in. If you’re lucky an inquisitive great white will come by the cage you’re sharing with up to seven other people to say a friendly hello. It might go against your instincts to stare into the dark eyes of the ultimate apex predator but if you do, you’re not likely to forget its evolutionary perfection and grace in the water any time soon.

There's no better way to get up-close with a shark!

Ubud, Bali: Go whitewater rafting

The rapids of the Ayung River might not be as powerful as some other frothing waterways but your arms will still feel the burn of fighting against nature for half a day. Add a little spice to a relaxed retreat in spiritual Ubud, with operators including Ayung River Rafting and Bali Rafting Tours.

Hebei, China: Cross the Hongyagu Glass Bridge

If you’re thinking, “What’s so impressive about crossing a bridge?” then consider this: you’ll need to walk across almost 500 metres of glass to reach the other side of this transparent walkway, enough time to take in just how far down the bottom of the valley is. While it’s not the world’s highest transparent walkway – that honour belongs to Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, also in China – it is designed to sway ever-so-slightly in the middle to truly nix any bravado you approach with.

The glass bridge will make your heart skip a beat.

Northland, New Zealand: Investigate the Te Whara Track

Pack your boots for this undulating 7.5-kilometre trail on the North Island. The track will take you past some incredible, ever-changing scenery – think windswept arcs of sand and untouched coastal forests. But what’s underfoot is also incredibly impressive. Follow the 700-year-old path first laid down by Maori chief Manaia and keep a lookout for the local birdlife.

Maui, Hawaii: Hike Mount Haleakalā

Put on your jacket before setting off to Mount Haleakalā, where the temperature at the 3,055 metre summit can be 17°C cooler than the coastal resorts of Maui. Sure, you could drive up the winding road to the viewing area, but you’ll miss the chance to truly appreciate this lunar landscape – and lose the bragging rights that come with saying, “I hiked through a crater.” Join a group hike with a tour company such as Hike Maui that takes you down, around and back out again within seven hours, or investigate on your own using the marked trails. The very fit can hike from Halemau’u Trailhead all the way to the summit over the course of a few days but if you’re tight on time, tramp six kilometres from the Haleakalā Visitor Centre down into the crater and back up again.

The tip of this volcano is out of this world.

Cairns, Australia: Skydive over the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling with the circus of technicolour fish that call the Great Barrier Reef home might be one of the most spectacular undersea explorations in the world but the view from above is pretty incredible, too. Skydiving gives you six or so unforgettable minutes to admire the views as you plunge from a plane 4,500 metres above tropical North Queensland, for a vantage point usually reserved for high-flying seagulls.

Hokkaido, Japan: Cycle through beautiful landscapes

Once skiers have gone for the season, eager cyclists populate the varied terrain of Hokkaido prefecture. Highlights include a lap around Lake Shikotsu and climbing Mount Asahidake powered only by your pedals.

Go cycling in Japan to get back in touch with nature.

Mui Ne, Vietnam: Board down sand dunes

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Vietnamese landscape is probably rice paddies, but in Mui Ne, only a few hours’ drive east of Ho Chi Minh City, the scenery is dominated by fiery sand dunes. Bargain for a plastic board from a local and take a spin down one of the slopes.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam: Paddle a kayak

The best way to get a closer look at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed limestone islets plonked in the middle of this green-tinged harbour? Organise a tour or hire a kayak and be your own guide as you paddle the calm ocean into the water-sculpted caves hidden within the rocks.

The ocean is peppered with untouched islands in Ha Long Bay.

Surin Islands, Thailand: Dive into the ocean

This part of the Andaman Sea is a haven for whale sharks and manta rays, thanks both to its distance from Thailand’s main tourist trail and its designation as a national marine park almost 40 years ago. You could simply snorkel and admire the reef as you bob just below the surface but with some training before you go, a three-day scuba diving tour to explore the wonders of Richelieu Rock will be far more rewarding.

Pacific Harbour, Fiji: Whiz down a zip-line

“Island time” is given a jolt of adrenaline on this high-flying course only 25 minutes from Pacific Harbour. If you can manage to pry your clan away from the kids’ club, anyone over the age of three can push their limits on the eight zip-lines at Zip Fiji that take you through the canopies of lush, ancient forests before whizzing you back down to earth.

Embrace your inner Tarzan as you swing from tree to tree.

Waitomo, New Zealand: Explore caves

With nothing but a headlamp to light your path – and, if you’re lucky, a tangle of luminous glow-worms – you’ll make your way through these caverns by abseiling into holes, scrambling up and down rocks and even floating down dark waters in a rubber tube. Become a pro spelunker in these alien caverns at Waitomo.

These mystical caves are home to thousands of glow worms.

Sydney, Australia: Climb the Harbour Bridge

Scaling Australia’s most iconic structure is a bucket-list item for most international travellers (including Robert de Niro, Jamie Oliver and Oprah Winfrey) but Aussies should absolutely add it to theirs, too. For 20 years now, it’s been possible to ascend the southern curve of the arch from sunrise to after dark and with new operators Bridge Climb having just taken the keys, the experience is set to be revitalised in the coming months.