Top 10 Water Sports Activities to Do in New Zealand©
Top 10 Water Sports Activities to Do in New Zealand

Top 10 Water Sports Activities in New Zealand šŸ„šŸ¼ [2024]

Article Single Pages©
Article Single Pages©
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There is a Lot of Water in New Zealand – A Lot!

If it isn’t in the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean surrounding the 15,000 km of coastline, it’s the obscene amount of lakes (3,820 of them to be exact). New Zealand has made the most out of these waters by hosting some incredible water sports. From a casual exploration trip by kayak to fighting to keep inside your raft in white water rafting, there are plenty of ways to be entertained on the water in New Zealand. No wonder so many Kiwis love to get out on the ocean, whether it’s to sail to the many offshore islands or surf the pumping waves. Make like a New Zealander and tick off these epic water activities from your New Zealand bucket list!

Where can you do some of these awesome water sports in New Zealand? Check out New Zealand’s 10 Largest Lakes or 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand.

1. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

This water sport is huge in New Zealand, not just for doing competitively in races but as a way to relax and explore. Most tour operators, like the Social Nature Movement, will give you a quick lesson before hitting the water, so even complete newbs will find themselves standing on the board in no time. Speaking of which, check out SNM’s day tours to magnificent waterfalls and night-SUP tours among bioluminescent plankton over on Otherwise, see more SUP tours around the country in Paddleboarding in New Zealand: 10 Best SUP Tours.

Top 10 Water Sport Activities in New Zealand šŸ„šŸ¼ [2023]© Social Nature Movement

2. Kayaking

Explore New Zealand’s hard-to-reach places on the coast, such as the caves and islands near Cathedral Cove or see the 10-metre-high Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo. Test your sea kayaking skills on the waters of the sheltered Auckland Harbour or between the towering fiords of Milford Sound. All of this and more are outlined in Kayaking in New Zealand: 10 Best Kayak Tours.©

3. Surfing

The North Island is especially surrounded by some “gnarly” waves. There are popular beaches in Raglan and Piha, but you can find some great surf all over the coast. Try the Taranaki Surf Highway 45 or the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland for some big surf. You can find some hidden gems on the South Island, especially around Westport and Christchurch.

Check out the 10 Best Places to Surf on the North Island and the 10 Places to Surf on the South Island to find out more.

 Dave Young© Dave Young

4. Jet Boating

A Kiwi invention and therefore a New Zealand must-do, jet boating is a super-speed activity that has you hurtling down river gorges and steep canyons. The nippy boat can even do full 360-degree spins! Check out the 20 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand to find the perfect jet boat experience.©

5. Parasailing

What better way to get the most spectacular and highest views of the coastline? Parasailing of course! When you visit the stunning Bay of Islands and its 144 islands, you have to experience New Zealand’s ultimate parasail. Fly solo, tandem or even triple as high as 1,200 ft. (That’s over 350 m high!) It’s seriously a “must do” when you visit the Bay of Islands or Lake Taupo, or any one of the 5 Incredible Places to Do Parasailing in New Zealand.

Top 10 Water Sport Activities in New Zealand šŸ„šŸ¼ [2023]©

6. White Water Rafting

The river gorges that make jet boating so good in New Zealand also make excellent rapids for white water rafting. Whatever your ability or fear level, there are rapids from grades 2 to 5 all over the country. Check out some fun places to raft in our guide, The 10 Best Places to Go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.©

7. Sailing

Experience the serenity of wind-powered cruising by sailing in New Zealand. There are scenic sailing tours around New Zealand’s national parks, such as Abel Tasman, as well as cruising hotspots like the Bay of Islands. Check out the best places to sail in the 5 Best Places to Go Sailing in New Zealand.©

8. Scuba Diving

See an array of colourful coral, sponges, stingrays and fish in waters such as Poor Knights Island, the Coromandel and the Bay of Islands. There are freshwater options too such as Riwaka Caverns near Nelson. Have a look at some top diving spots in the 10 Best Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand.©

9. Canyoning

This involves a lot of water, a lot of streams, rivers, waterfalls and jumping into the wet stuff! A good way to see some of nature’s most extreme places in New Zealand is canyoning where you follow a river canyon on its course – no matter what obstacles lie ahead. Find out more about this adventurous water activity, especially from destinations like Queenstown and Abel Tasman, in the 10 Best Canyoning Locations in New Zealand.

Top 10 Water Sports Activities to Do in New Zealand©

10. Great White Shark Cage Diving

Finally, off the coast of Stewart Island and Bluff, you can join the great white sharks in their element. It must be the most badass dive around! Tours are available from December through June.

Check out the 20 Best Things to Do on Stewart Island to learn more about New Zealand’s lesser-visited island.

Top 10 Water Sports Activities to Do in New Zealand© Alban on Wikipedia

Frequently Asked Questions About Water Sports Activities in New Zealand

If you have any more questions about water sports activities in New Zealand, then you might find what you are looking for here:

What is Attractive About New Zealand Water Sports?

New Zealand’s water sports allure lies in its pristine natural playgrounds. From the adrenaline rush of white water rafting in Queenstown‘s Shotover River to the serene beauty of kayaking amidst the fiords of Milford Sound, the country offers a diverse range of aquatic experiences. Whether you’re seeking heart-pounding thrills or tranquil moments, New Zealand’s crystal-clear lakes, rivers, and coastlines provide a captivating backdrop for water sports enthusiasts.

What is the Most Popular Water Activity in Auckland?

The most popular water activity in Auckland is undoubtedly the captivating harbour cruise. Experience the city’s iconic skyline, dominated by the Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge, while you glide across the shimmering waters. Whether you choose a daytime voyage or a romantic sunset sail, Auckland’s harbour promises an unforgettable aquatic adventure. See some of Auckland’s most popular water activities in the 50 Best Things to Do in Auckland.

Are New Zealand Waters Safe to Swim?

Dive into New Zealand’s inviting waters with confidence, as the country boasts many safe and pristine swimming spots. From the golden beaches of Northland to the tranquil lakes of the South Island, New Zealand’s waters adhere to strict quality standards. While always advisable to check local conditions and heed any warning signs, the majority of New Zealand’s swimming areas offer a safe and refreshing escape for travellers seeking aquatic delights.

More About Water Sports Activities in New Zealand

That’s it for our list of the best water sports activities in New Zealand. For more on the subject, take a look at the guides below:

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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