New Zealand’s Best Kayaking Trips
With more than 15,000 km (9,320 mi) of coastline, 180,000 km (111,847 mi) of rivers and 3,820 lakes, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot to be explored in New Zealand by kayak! Kayaking gets you to all those hard-to-reach locations, with the added satisfaction that your efforts have got you to an amazing place. No wonder kayaking in New Zealand is such a popular way to see the country! With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of the best kayak tours in New Zealand!
What we love about kayaking in New Zealand is that you don’t have to be an experienced kayaker to have an awesome time. You almost always get an introductory lesson, with guides giving you paddling tips throughout the tour so you’ll have the most cruisy experience possible. There’s no excuse, get out there and discover the hidden gems of New Zealand‘s lakes, rivers and coastline!
1. Lake Mapourika Kayak Tour in Franz Josef
A must-do kayak tour in New Zealand for beginners, the often placid Lake Mapourika offers cruisy kayaking trips. This lake created by the Franz Josef Glacier has dark reflective waters with a backdrop of rainforest and the Southern Alps making for plenty of awesome photo opportunities. What’s more, the tour is suitable for all ages and abilities. Book your tour with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours and while you’re in the area, check out these other 30 Best Things to Do in Franz Josef.
Location: Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, South Island.
2. Kayaking Adventures in Auckland
Get on the water among volcanic islands and even paddle to pubs and breweries on one of the kayaking adventures with the Social Nature Movement. The Browns Island Motukorea Sea Kayak Tour is a popular one from Auckland’s city centre while exploring Auckland’s lesser-visited suburbs and coastline on the Hallertau Clevedon Kayak Tour and The Riverhead Tavern Kayak Tour are also highlights. Finally, embark on a transformative journey on the Matakana Coast on the Puhoi Pub River Paddle.
Location: Auckland Central, Auckland, North Island.
3. Clear Kayaking at Goat Island
See the underwater world in a unique way with a clear kayak! The Goat Island Marine Reserve in Leigh (North Auckland) is a protected area for marine life so there are plenty of fish, stingrays and even marine mammals to be seen under your kayak. You don’t even have to get wet! Clear kayaks can be rented from Clearyak at the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Discover more experiences in the area in the 12 Best Things to Do in Leigh.
Location: Leigh, Auckland, North Island.
4. Glowworm Kayak Tour in Tauranga
If there are two things that New Zealand does well it’s kayak tours and glowworm tours! Stick them together and you get an awesome glowworm kayaking! Kayak down secluded creeks which are home to thousands of glistening glowworms. It’s a great way to see these fascinating creatures. Book your trip with Waimarino Kayak Tours on Viator or Klook. Plus, check out more of the 10 Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.
Location: Tours depart from Bethlehem, Tauranga, North Island.
5. Waterfall Kayak Tour in the Bay of Islands
There are plenty of kayaking operators that can take you through the mangrove forest, i.e. a water forest, of the Waitangi River. Kayak through the trees and up to the impressive Haruru Falls! Those who dare can kayak right underneath the falls for a natural shower! Book your trip with either Bay of Islands Cruise & Kayak or Coastal Kayakers and check out more 20 Best Things to Do in the Bay of Islands.
Location: Waitangi, Bay of Islands, North Island.
6. Hobbit Kayak Tour in Marlborough
Lord of the Rings fans, don’t miss this kayaking tour on the Pelorus River! Visit the very same filming locations featured in The Hobbit for those infamous “barrel run” scenes. Aside from nerding out, this kayak tour in Marlborough offers stunning river gorge scenery and plenty of fun gentle rapids to tackle in your inflatable river kayak. Book your trip with Pelorus Eco Adventures and add it to your Marlborough must-dos!
Location: Havelock, Marlborough, South Island.
7. Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour in The Coromandel
The Coromandel is renowned for its stunning beaches, the most famous of which is Cathedral Cove. While most people take the Cathedral Cove walk to access the beach, an alternative way is along the coast by kayak. Visit offshore islands, paddle into caves and land on the beach of Cathedral Cove to explore its archways and white cliffs with Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours. Check out more experiences in the 25 Best Things to Do in The Coromandel to add to your itinerary.
Location: Hahei, Coromandel, North Island.
8. Golden Bay Kayak Tour in Abel Tasman
One of the Abel Tasman National Park‘s most popular activities is kayaking. That’s unsurprising considering the coastline is full of golden sand beaches backed with forest! Our favourite part of the Abel Tasman coastline is on the Golden Bay side near the town of Takaka. The coast is rugged with islands full of wildlife, arches to kayak through and, of course, lots of secluded beaches! Kayak tours are available with Golden Bay Kayaks.
Location: Tata Beach, Golden Bay, South Island.
9. Packrafting Tour in Te Anau or Queenstown
Kayaking with a difference! Packrafting is a sport where your raft or kayak can be packed into a backpack giving you full flexibility to explore both on land and New Zealand’s waterways. Places to experience packrafting in New Zealand are Te Anau with Packrafting New Zealand offering all the gear for a self-guided expedition on the edge of the Fiordland National Park, and Queenstown with Packrafting Queenstown offering fully guided experiences.
Location: Te Anau, Southland or Queenstown, Otago, South Island.
10. Milford Sound Kayak Tour
Milford Sound is on most people’s bucket lists when they come to New Zealand, so if it’s on yours consider seeing the famous fiord by kayak! Multiple companies offer amazing kayak tours to paddle up close to waterfalls, seals, mountains and whatever surprises may come your way. Book your kayak tour with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks, Southern Discoveries (more info on Viator and Klook) or Cruise Milford. Check out more experiences in the 15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound.
Location: Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island.
More About Kayaking in New Zealand
That’s it for our guide to kayaking in New Zealand and the best kayak tours in New Zealand. Looking for a specific type of kayak tour? Check these out:
- 10 Amazing River Kayaking Tours in New Zealand
- 10 Stunning Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand
- 10 Best Places to SUP in New Zealand
Finally, complete your NZ bucket list with the 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.