With its towering mountains, crystal clear lakes, crashing waterfalls and frosted glaciers, New Zealand is a destination that offers incredible outdoor activities. If you’re visiting to immerse yourself in nature, get your heart racing or soak up the awe-inspiring scenery, we’ve rounded up a list of the best outdoor experiences you can enjoy during your next adventure.
Cruising in Milford Sound
English journalist Rudyard Kipling once described The Milford Sound as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. And anyone who has seen it in person will understand why. Nestled in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s south island, the beauty of this fiord has to be seen to be believed. And a cruise around its crystal clear waters is a great way to do just that. The jagged rock faces, dramatic waterfalls and picturesque rainforests can be viewed from one of the numerous scenic cruises on offer. While you’re there, you may even cross paths with some of the local wildlife. Look out for dolphins, seals, penguins and even whales on occasion.
Hiking the Milford Track
If you’re ready to explore more of Milford Sound, the Milford Track provides the ideal opportunity. It runs for a total of 53 kilometres, beginning at Lake Te Anau and ending at the Sound itself. Described by the Department of Conservation as ‘the finest walk in the world’, the track typically takes around four days to complete and provides hikers with access to what are otherwise inaccessible parts of one of the most beautiful regions on the planet.
It’s generally advised that the walk be completed during what is known as the Great Walks season, which runs from late October through to late April. During the colder months, it can still be done, but the weather conditions are tougher, daylight hours are reduced, and hazards such as flooding and avalanches aren’t managed by the Department of Conservation. If you find yourself at this destination during the warmer half of the year, this is one of the top 10 things to do in NZ.
Surfing in Raglan
Whether you’re eager to try out surfing for the first time or have been doing it all your life, paddling out at Raglan is a must for anyone in the area. The peeling left-handers of Indicators, Whale Bay and Manu Bay have incredible swells with a view of Ngaranui Beach in the distance.
If this is your first time surfing, Ngaranui Beach offers small waves for those still trying to find their feet — both literally and figuratively. On a big day, this can still be a good spot for more experienced surfers, but on a small-to-medium swell day, there will be plenty of fellow learners out there with you.
Doing the Nevis Bungy Jump
Ever wanted to leap off a platform suspended over a hundred metres in the air with nothing but a rope tied around your ankle? There are few better places in the world to tick that off your bucket list than in New Zealand — and specifically at the Nevis Bungy Jump. Located just outside of Queenstown, this 134-metrehigh bungy jump is the highest in the country, and the third-highest on the planet. Once you commit to the leap of faith, you’ll be freefalling for a total of 8.5 seconds. The views while you’re flying through the air are spectacular, with the Southern Alps providing the backdrop for this incredible experience. For the adrenaline-seekers out there, however, this might be one of the best activities in New Zealand, and perhaps, in your life.
Jet boating in Queenstown
While you’re in Queenstown and attempting to recover from your exhilarating bungy jump – or perhaps as an alternative if leaping off a suspended platform isn’t your thing — it’s well and truly worth signing up to go jet boating. There are a few different options both elsewhere in New Zealand as well as within Queenstown, though the Shotover Jet is among the most popular among them.
The turquoise waters of the Shotover River are located just outside of Queenstown and provide the location for what is an unforgettable experience. Participants get to sit back and enjoy the views while the driver expertly navigates Skipper’s Canyon at an alarming pace, getting you so close to the imposing cliffs which engulf it that you could touch them.
Climbing Mount Tongariro
Mount Tongariro is an active volcano located right around the middle of the North Island, about 20 kilometres away from the picturesque Lake Taupo. Though active, climbing it is considered safe and is something that many outdoor enthusiasts do during a trip to New Zealand. At 1,967 metres tall, this is a fairly accessible one-day hike, the peak of which provides you with incredible panoramic views of the numerous other nearby summits — including the well-known Mount Taranaki in the distance.
Typically, this climb is best done between December and March. It can be attempted during the cooler months, though it becomes a tougher walk during these times of the year. Still, the peak of Mount Tongariro is one of the best places to go in New Zealand.
Experiencing Rotorua’s hot springs
This is one of the most unique experiences that New Zealand has to offer, which is all the more reason to tick it off your list. Rotorua is a town on the North Island home to a significant amount of geothermal activity. There are geysers — which spray water up from the earth — scattered all around the city as well as a number of hot mud pools that provide a unique bath for visitors.
There’s one other thing to note about Rotorua — it smells. The geothermal activity emits a potent odour throughout the town, which only adds to the other-worldly feel of a place that sits very high on the list of cool places in New Zealand
Whale watching in Kaikoura
One of the features of New Zealand is the diverse world of wildlife which is so prevalent throughout the country. And in Kaikoura, you’ll have the opportunity to spot the giants of that world. The Kaikoura mountain range is a beautiful part of the coast, regardless of the presence of some of the world’s biggest animals, but it’s certainly a bonus if you manage to spot a whale or three.
You can cast an eye over the deep blue yonder from land, or alternatively, take one of the many tours out to sea to enhance your chances of getting up close and personal. You’ll have the opportunity to see a range of different whales here, with migrating humpbacks, blue whales and southern right whales often visible between May and October, and resident sperm whales seen over the summer months. There are also orcas and a number of unique species of dolphins swimming around in these waters.
Zorbing in Rotorua
We’ve already mentioned Rotorua as one of the most unique places on the planet, so it makes sense that you can enjoy one of the most unique experiences there is while you’re there. ZORB Limited operates the zorbing experience, which essentially sees you roll down a hill inside a giant inflatable ball. The location in Rotorua has four different tracks for you to enjoy, from the zig-zagging Sidewinder track to the lightning-fast MEGA track.
It might sound like a strange way to spend an afternoon, and in many ways it is, but it’s also a whole lot of fun. So whether it sounds like your cup of tea or not, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Rotorua it’s definitely worth taking a detour to try out this unique, bizarre, and extremely fun activity.
Skiing or snowboarding The Remarkables
Given the mountainous nature of New Zealand, there is unsurprisingly a great deal of highquality skiing and snowboarding on offer, particularly for a country of its size. The Remarkables is a mountain range located in Otago on the South Island, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and overlooking Queenstown — and the name of this chain of mountains provides an accurate depiction of what you can expect when you turn up there. Rising up dramatically from the lake on which it sits, views of this mountain range are truly stunning and the views from the top are every bit as good.
The views mean that even without any snow, The Remarkables would still be worth a visit. The slopes here are among the best in the country, and while they may sit slightly behind places like Coronet Peak and Mount Hutt, the views make the overall experience hard to top. What’s more, the available runs cater to skiers and snowboarders of all different abilities and are split into roughly 30% beginner terrain, 40% intermediate terrain and 30% advanced terrain — meaning that there’s something for everyone.
Add New Zealand to your travel bucket list
With so many activities that’ll get your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping, New Zealand should be at the top of your travel destination bucket list! Whether you take a leap of faith and go bungy jumping, plough through fresh powder or enjoy a laid-back day relaxing in the hot springs, there’s something for everybody to experience in this breathtakingly beautiful country.
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