If you’re looking for a bit of excitement, check out these adventures in New Zealand. Well known for extremes, NZ has some of the best activities ranging from bungee jumping to hiking/tramping and wildlife spotting. Check out this list of favourites from traveller writer and thrill-seeker Auston Matta of Two Bad Tourists (see bio and details below).
New Zealand is the home of adventure tourism. Crammed into this tiny country, you’ll find a massive amount of exciting activities to do on air, sea or land. It’s a top destination for anyone looking for excitement and thrills.
The scenic landscape offers a wondrous backdrop for all your skydiving, jet boating, bungee jumping, zip-lining, caving and canyon activities. People that prefer a more sedate pace to life will find something exciting to do too: dolphin watching, sailing, kayaking, horseback riding trips, scenic walks and so much more.
Deciding what to do in New Zealand can be really overwhelming. To make it easier for you, here’s a list of the top 10 adventures you shouldn’t leave New Zealand without trying!
Be inspired by our adventures in New Zealand
Top 10 amazing adventures in New Zealand
Sail and see New Zealand’s popular wildlife
There is a huge diversity of marine life off the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and sailing is a great way to experience it. If you’re not an experienced sailor yourself, there are sailing tours with skippers offering a simple day cruise or several days, depending on what you’re after.
New Zealand’s marine reserves are a great place to sail. Off the coast of Kaikoura, you can spot the rarely-seen gargantuan sperm whales. In Akaroa, you can experience swimming beside tiny Hectors dolphins. Dunedin provides you with the opportunity to be in close contact with yellow-eyed penguins and albatrosses.
The North Island has its own share of wildlife experiences to enjoy off the boat. Head to the Kiwi House in Otorohanga and enjoy the unique Kiwi encounters. Get up close to rare species in their habitat at Zealandia—New Zealand’s eco-sanctuary for native wildlife. Go hiking through the 32 km of tracks and try to spot tuatara, kaka, falcon, robin, takahe, saddleback, tui and weta.
Bike on the Otago Central Rail Trail
Formerly a railway line, this 152-km cycle trail winds through the rustic Central Otago, passing by old goldfields and hidden hamlets like Middlemarch and Clyde. You can ride with all-inclusive tour groups on the flat cycle trail or make your way on your own.
The trail offers a classic mixture of fascinating history, superb local food and wine, friendly towns and natural beauty. It will take at least four days to cycle through the whole trail.
Cruise Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park is part of the Te Waipounamu World Heritage area and has a host of wildlife that ranges from Fiordland crested penguins to New Zealand fur seals. This park, which also happens to be the largest in New Zealand, never ceases to enthral travellers with its dramatic scenery. The spectacular natural environment of Fiordland features snow-capped peaks, cascading waterfalls, and stunning fiords.
Famous trails in this park include the Milford Track, the Routeburn and the Kepler. Diving in Fiordland is a unique experience, as you will see fur seals, dolphins and deep-water sea plants.
You can also go for scenic cruises on the popular Milford Sound. Make sure you’re prepared for this adventure: insect repellent, sunscreen and warm waterproof clothing are key things to have with you.
Go jet boating
These easily manoeuvrable jet boats were invented by Kiwis to make navigating the shallow rivers spread all over the South Island possible. Riding these boats through the canyon-surrounded Shotover River, the Dart River or the rugged Huka Falls will be adrenaline-pounding fun.
Hop on a jet boat and join in the excitement of speeding through these picturesque landscapes.
Try one of the helicopter adventures in New Zealand
- Heli-hike a glacier
- Go heli-fishing
- Heli-biking and bungee jumping on the South Island
Heli-hike a glacier
New Zealand is home to one of the most unique, accessible and steep glaciers in the world. Go on a guided half-day hike on the Franz Josef Glacier. The thrill of helicoptering in and the amazing panoramic view from this cold and remote spot make this an adventure you don’t want to miss.
From Queenstown, a tourist town bustling with activity, you can take a 10-minute flight to the quiet backcountry, where you can have the mountain wilderness all to yourself. Enjoy the peaceful solitary environment while fishing and after that, hop back on the helicopter to head back to a top-class resort of your choice with Booking.com.
Heli-biking and bungee jumping on the South Island
Take the Skyline Gondola to the top of Queenstown Bike Park. The trails range from open and smooth to steep and narrow, and it’s such a thrilling experience to ride up to the peak and back down. The fun in Queenstown doesn’t end there! Jump off the first commercial bungee jump in the world. It’s so fitting that bungee jumping was invented in this adrenaline-addicted town.
More adventures in New Zealand
Kayak in Abel Tasman National Park
This national park is the smallest in New Zealand and can be explored on foot. Another excellent way to explore its quiet lagoons, sculpted rock formations, and long stretches of golden sandy beaches is by kayaking. You can go on a guided tour for several hours or days — whatever you prefer.
Enjoy kayaking as well as the beauty and views of the Abel Tasman National Park and Nelson Bays while sailing on a catamaran.
Take a mountaineering skills course
It’s almost a sin not to take advantage of the wilderness in New Zealand. There are a lot of experienced guides and guiding companies in the country. Most of them offer a large variety of mountain skills courses, backcountry skiing adventures, and expeditions throughout New Zealand.
Sleep in a backcountry hut
Scattered throughout New Zealand is a chain of more than nine hundred and fifty backcountry huts. These huts, which are maintained by the Department of Conservation, range from small two-bed huts to those with large established multi-bunk rooms. Book yourself one of these well-maintained beds and trek through the backcountry to escape from life in the city.
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or BookABatch (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Activity discounts: we check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on activities.
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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There’s absolutely no room for boredom, so grab the adventure of a lifetime in NZ!
Are you interested in travelling and enjoying adventures in New Zealand? What would you most like to do there?
For more on New Zealand, start here: New Zealand Road Trips: Itineraries for North or South Island Adventures, or you might like …
Auston runs the blog Two Bad Tourists and is also a freelance writer. His work has been featured in many publications, including Attitude Magazine, Edge Media Network, The Houston Chronicle and ManAboutWorld Magazine.
New Zealand looks like an exciting place to visit! I am all for outdoors adventures.
I’m from Auckland, New Zealand, and am 100% delighted to see this post. Our country is indeed so beautiful and we are really nice people too. I can tell you that there is also lots to do here, that doesn’t cost anything other than food and lodgings. Our beaches are not private, they are for everyone. We have amazing bush walks. Music in the parks. NZ is one country that is full of musos. We’re really lucky.
Great post! So many exciting things to do in New Zealand.
Jet boating sounds like such an exciting adventure!
Rob + Ann
So many cool options!! Whale watching, kayaking and Fiordland National Park would all rank high for us. Plus all of the great hiking! Certainly a dream destination. Thanks for sharing some options!
What an amazing collection of adventures! We are sailors and would love to sail off the coast. The heli-hike of the glacier sounds fantastic and I always love to go kayaking. Thanks for even more inspiration to get to New Zealand!
So many fun adventures! It would be a dream to visit New Zealand, thanks for the ideas!
I’ve been here for almost two years and I still got so many things to do! Number one would probably be the glacier heli flight, (although I’m really concerned about my carbon footprint!), and kayaking in Abel Tasman !
I mean, all of these sound amaaazing, but it has to be the heli hike at the top of my list! I would love to walk on a glacier without the dangerous climb up to it. It’s a little scary to think those glaciers may not last much longer too. 🙁
So many fun adventures! When I think of New Zealand I think outdoor adventure for sure. From sailing, kayaking and Heli-hiking I’d have the best time!
Never thought of doing a cycling trip in New Zealand! I will definitely look into this as soon as traveling to NZ from the US is allowed!
So many cool things to do in New Zealand! Love this guide of the top 10 adventures!
The “Fiordland National Park” looks incredible, I can’t wait to visit New Zealand when it reopens! 😍
I want to go to New Zealand sooo badly! The jet boating looks awesome. I can’t wait to go here someday and do these epic activities!
definitely a destination for adventurous travellers! though I’d like to see the wildlife the most. I would love to visit Kaikoura!
New Zealand is such an epic country, love its adventurous side! I´d go with bungy jumping from Kawarau Bridge and heli-hiking on Franz Josef Glacier! But, honestly, would try every single experience this country has to offer
The wildlife is probably number one on my list, honestly. The National Park would probably be my first stop, though – maybe I can see the start of some wildlife with the nature there!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Pass on bungee jumping but most everything else looks fun.