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13 Most Epic Extreme Sports & Adrenaline Activities in New Zealand šŸ¤™

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Experience Adventure, Adrenaline and Extreme Sports in New Zealand

New Zealand is a country on steroids. Everything done here is done big, from huge mountains to huge activities to get your heart racing. In the country that brought the world the bungy jump and the jet boat, there are plenty of extreme sports and adrenaline activities to take part in while on your travels.

In New Zealand, we take advantage of the sky, mountains, rivers and ocean when it comes to adventure activities. Want to experience a pants-staining freefall from a bungy or a skydive? Or maybe you want to compete with the elements in white water rafting, underground tubing or snowboarding? Whatever you decide, we’ll guide you to some of the best adrenaline experiences in New Zealand.

And if you want to see all of the experiences New Zealand has to offer, head over to our 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.

Adrenaline Activities in New Zealand

What are the kinds of adrenaline activities in New Zealand? In a nutshell, you have the following to look forward to if you dare:

  1. Bungy jump
  2. Giant swing/canyon swing
  3. Skydive
  4. Paragliding
  5. Hang gliding
  6. White water rafting
  7. Jet boats
  8. Surfing
  9. Cave tubing
  10. Canyoning
  11. Skiing/snowboarding
  12. Mountain biking
  13. Ziplining

Now, let’s get into all of those extreme sports in New Zealand in detail.

Adrenaline Activities in New Zealand© Tourism NZ

Air and Sky Activities

1. Bungy Jumping

Let’s start where it all began. Bungy jumping was introduced commercially at the Kawarau Bridge, Queenstown and is still a popular site for a sentimental bungy jump today. Find out more about the Kawarau Bridge Bungy on KKday, Viator and Tripadvisor. Since 1988, bungy jumping has warped into more exhilarating options such as the Nevis Bungy the third-highest jump in the world – find out more on KKday, Viator and Tripadvisor. In fact, there is no shortage of jumps in New Zealand because every other town has one – find out which in the 7 Best Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand.

2. Giant Swings

Similar to the bungy jump is the canyon swing. Many have debated whether this is more likely to stain your pants than a bungy. However, swinging across a 300m (984ft) arc at 120kph (75mph) is still not an activity for the faint-hearted. There are options to do this in Taupo with Taupo Bungy, Rotorua with Velocity Valley (on ViatorTripadvisor or Klook) and Queenstown with Shotover Canyon Swing (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday). Additionally, there are many crazy ways to be released into the abyss such as leaning off the back of a chair or off a slide.

3. Skydiving

If cliff edges are not high enough for you, how about jumping from 20,000ft? Skydiving is a popular activity to do while travelling in New Zealand firstly because of the views of the stunning New Zealand landscape, and secondly, because there is no other feeling like freefalling for up to 80 seconds. Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier offers one of the highest tandem skydives at 20,000ft (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook), whereas Taupo Tandem Skydiving offers value for money (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). See our list of recommendations in the 11 Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand.

4. Paragliding

The most underrated adrenaline activity in New Zealand when it comes to flying in the sky is paragliding. In paragliding, you are loosely harnessed to a pilot/guide in a sitting position while under a huge canopy carrying you over immense scenery. A popular place to try out this adventure sport is in Queenstown with Coronet Peak Tandem Paragliding (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook). But we have a lot more to recommend in the 5 Best Places to Try Paragliding in New Zealand.

5. Hang Gliding

Hang gliding is a little harder to come by but is the closest you’ll get to flying! Abel Tasman, Auckland and Queenstown are the only places you can try this adventure sport and, again, with the team from Coronet Peak Tandems (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook). Get all the details for trying this extreme sport for yourself in the 5 Best Places to Do Hang Gliding in New Zealand.

Adrenaline Activities in New Zealand© Tourism NZ

Adrenaline Water Activities

6. White Water Rafting

Fast-flowing rapids down a number of rivers make many areas in New Zealand ideal for white water rafting. Take a plunge down a 7m (23ft) waterfall in Rotorua (more info on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook) or enjoy a longer journey down the rapids at River Valley (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Whatever you chose, the guides in New Zealand know the rivers like the back of their hands and are fully qualified to take you into these dangerous environments yet keep you safe. Just remember, white water rafting is a team sport! For a complete list of white water rafting rivers, check out 7 Places to Go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.

7. Jet Boating

Alternatively, let the boat do the work for you in jet boating, another extreme activity invented in New Zealand. Encounter close calls with rock faces as you shoot down narrow river gorges. Popular places to jet boat are Queenstown (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday) and Taupo (on Viator and Tripadvisor), but really, they are the most common water adrenaline activity in the country. There are plenty more jet boating options, which you can see on our list of the 18 Places to Jet Boat in NZ.

8. Surfing

Away from the lakes of New Zealand and to the sea, New Zealand’s coast boasts some gnarly waves to surf. The most famous surf beach in Raglan (on ViatorTripadvisor or Klook) but serious adrenaline junkies should try Piha in Auckland (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Other places are mentioned in our lists for surfing in the North Island and surfing in the South Island or get a complete guide at The Best Surf Regions in New Zealand.

9. Cave Tubing

The most unusual water activity you can do in New Zealand is black water rafting or “tubing” in the Waitomo caves (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday) or in Westport on the West Coast. Abseiling 37m (121ft) underground will take you to some underground rivers to float around in a rubber ring. You must climb up waterfalls and do flying foxes (ziplines) to navigate your way back out of the caves. Find out more about the sport in What is the Best Black Water Rafting Tour in New Zealand?

10. Canyoning

And for the most underrated water adrenaline activity in New Zealand, canyoning is where you make the river canyons of New Zealand your playground. Jump off waterfalls, abseil, zipline, climb, scramble and swim on one of the epic canyoning adventures available in Queenstown (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook), Auckland, Abel Tasman and more – just see the 7 Best Places for Canyoning in New Zealand.

Martyn Williams - Tourism NZ© Martyn Williams - Tourism NZ

Mountain Adrenaline Activities

11. Skiing and Snowboarding

Hurtling down a mountain on snow is another way to find thrills in New Zealand. The Queenstown area combines snowsports with partying. The Canterbury region holds ski fields such as Mt Hutt, Fox Peak and Mt Dobson. You don’t even have to travel to the South Island with ski fields on Mt Ruapehu located on the North Island. See our guide, Ski Season in New Zealand and the Top 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand to plan the perfect winter experience.

12. Mountain Biking

When the snow melts some mountains contain exciting trails for mountain bikers. Thrill-seekers can head to Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park in Hawke’s Bay or if you are looking to make your experience more epic, try a spot of heli-mountain biking in the Coromandel or Queenstown. Just head to The Best Mountain Biking Regions in New Zealand for mountain biking guides to each New Zealand region.

13. Ziplining/Flying Fox

If you are still reading about mountain activities, then you clearly like activities that are high up? If this is the case, try a zipline tour. Go on an eco-adventure tour through the trees in Rotorua with Rotorua Canopy Tours (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook or KKday) or on top of Bob’s Peak in Queenstown with Ziptrek Eco Tours (on ViatorTripadvisor, Klook or KKday). In complete contrast, you can do a zipline tour underground through the Waitomo caves or through pine forests in Tauranga and Wellington. Intrigued? Check out the 10 Best Places to Zipline in New Zealand.

Extreme Sports and Adrenaline Activities in New Zealand: The Best of the Rest

Did we forget to mention there are all these extreme activities you can do too?

Get more ideas in 9 Newest and Weirdest Extreme Activities in New Zealand. Finally, if your whole trip is surrounding the sport, be sure to check out Sports Break Advice: How to Prepare to Travel for Sport.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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