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:
- Bungy jump
- Giant swing/canyon swing
- Hang gliding
- White water rafting
- Jet boats
- Cave tubing
- Mountain biking
Now, let’s get into all of those extreme sports in New Zealand in detail.
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 Viator, Tripadvisor 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.
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.
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 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 Viator, Tripadvisor 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.
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 Viator, Tripadvisor 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?
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.
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 Viator, Tripadvisor, 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?
- River surfing (more info on Klook, Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Quad biking
- SkyWalk the Sky Tower in Auckland
- Sky Jump from the Sky Tower
- Zorbing (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
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.