New Zealand is known for many things — a rich indigenous Maori culture, gorgeous landscapes, sheep — but beyond that, it’s also crowned the world's adventure capital.
From skydiving over Taupo Lake to white water rafting down Kaituna River, heliskiing through the Southern Islands and bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge, here are six exhilarating adventure sports you can’t do just anywhere in the world.
1. Ziplining through a prehistoric forest
In the city of Rotorua on North Island, New Zealand is where you’ll find an abundance of geothermal activity and geysers, as well as the giant Whakarewarewa Forest that dates back to prehistoric times. Rare plants like the Silver Tree Ferns, with their silvery-white stalk, and gigantic Mamakus, spanning 20m in height, call this forest, also known to the locals simply as The Redwoods, their home.
Instead of just simply hiking through the forest itself, Rotorua Canopy Tours offers something a little more special — ziplining through the forest!
There are two different types of zipline tours available: the Original Canopy Tour and the Ultimate Canopy Tour. The former is a three-hour experience that mixes the thrill of zipline flights with pit stops where tour guides offer explanations about the conservation efforts carried out for the forest. This tour is suitable for those aged six and up. If you’d like something a little more adventurous, the latter offers those above the age of 10 an extended tour that includes a suspended cliff-face walkway, swing bridges, and an additional 400m long tandem zipline.
Both tours come with highly trained local guides and are available all year round. Just make sure to book your slots in advance. Adults pay NZ$159 (S$141) while kids pay NZ$129 (S$115), but you could always check out the different family packages for a better deal.
Rotorua Canopy Tours
Address: 147 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua
Opening hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm
2. Alpine heliskiing adventure
Forget ski lifts — make your way to the top of a snowy ridge via a helicopter instead. From up there, it’s downhill through thick snow and rustic, mountainous terrain. This experience is completely unlike the usual manicured slopes you’d find at a regular ski resort. Not only does New Zealand offer multiple scenic backdrops to try this extreme sport, it’s also one of the few countries that actually offers it.
Of the various heliski operators, we’d recommend Southern Lakes Heli Ski, which operates out of Queenstown and Wanaka, offering access to 11 different mountain ranges including Clark Glacier.
While they do offer a small package of six runs at NZ$6,950 (S$5,900), Southern Lakes Heli Ski also has a package with unlimited runs starting from NZ$15,950 (S$14,215) for a group of 4. Yes, unlimited all-you-can-ski-until-your-legs-give-out. Since you’ve already made the trip all the way out here, might as well ski to your heart’s content! All packages and their details are available on Southern Lakes Heli Ski’s website.
Southern Lakes Heli Ski
Address: 10 Lloyd Dunn Avenue, Wanaka Airport, Wanaka 9343, New Zealand
Opening hours: 7:00am to 7:00pm
3. Bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge
When in New Zealand, you’ve got to go bungee jumping! There’s no better place to make the jump than Kawarau Bridge — the place where commercial bungee jumping was born — in Central Otago.
The Kawarau Bridge jump charts at 43m. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s roughly the height of nine double-decker buses stacked together. Trust us when we say it feels much higher than that when you’re standing up there and looking down at the waters below.
You’ll basically be jumping into the Kawarau Gorge, almost like you’re being propelled into the Kawarau River, before the ricochet sends you flying back up again. Both tandem and water-touch jumps are available too. Prices vary depending on available promotions (NZ$205 (S$182) without discounts), so do check out their website before making your booking.
Kawarau Bridge Bungy
Address: State Highway 6, Gibbston Valley, Queenstown 9384, New Zealand
Opening hours: 9:30am to 4:00pm
4. Skydiving over Taupo Lake
If bungee jumping isn’t enough of an adrenaline rush for you, surely launching yourself out of a plane 4,000m above ground would do the trick. The sight of Lake Taupo, surrounded by the lush greenery and mountain range of the gorgeous North Island, is nothing short of breathtaking when seen from above.
Almost anyone can go skydiving, even if you’re new to the sport, as you’ll be jumping together with very experienced Tandem Masters. These folks are certified master parachute operators, and they’ll be responsible for making sure your parachutes are deployed at the right time in a safe manner. There’s no age limit either – the only requirement is that you must put on the provided harness.
Did we mention you’ve got the option of a cameraman jumping with you too? If you take up one of their skydiving with camera packages, you won’t have to worry about dropping your phone when you’ve got a professional capturing your dive.
Taupo Tandem Skydiving
Address: 1227 Anzac Memorial Drive, Taupo Airport (TUO), Wharewaka, Taupo 3378 New Zealand
Opening hours: 9:00am to 4:00pm
5. Off-roading across colossal sand dunes
Buckle up and hold on tight, because this drive’s about to get bumpy. Off-roading in New Zealand can be anything from driving a land rover through a safari or a quad bike around the forest, but since we’re here we might as well take a four-wheel drive (4WD) out for a spin on some huge sand dunes.
While Ninety Mile Beach is, well, a beach, it’s also a highway of its own, which means you get to watch the sand stretch out into the horizon or gaze towards the sea as you drive. You would have to rent a suitable 4WD (roughly NZ$170 (S$151) for a day) as the risky path makes it unsuitable for most vehicles. Some car rental companies won’t even allow you to drive on the beach.
The road ends at the northern border of the beach, where you can wrap up your day by surging down Te Paki’s golden sand dunes.
Ninety Mile Beach
Address: Northland 0484, New Zealand
6. White water rafting down Kaituna River
New Zealand is home to some of the most dramatic cliffs and gorges, making it the perfect place to go white water rafting. With nothing but your boat and an oar in hand, getting wet and wild is all but guaranteed.
Adrenaline junkies can just head straight to Kaituna River, where the tallest commercially raftable waterfall in the world, Tutea Falls, lies in wait with its seven-metre drop. The rest of the journey is just as beautiful. You’ll have plenty of time to soak in the atmosphere within the photogenic Okere Falls Scenic Reserve as you paddle through the gentler sections of the river.
To soothe your aching muscles at the end of the day, Kaituna's Cascades has a Hot Pool + Rafting package for NZ$120 (S$106) that’ll bring you and your group to Hell’s Gate — a natural geothermal spa surrounded by native flora that’s sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated, inside and out.
Address: 18 Okere Falls Road, Okere Falls 3074, Rotorua, New Zealand
Opening hours: 8:00am to 9:00pm
What can we say? With so many things to do in New Zealand, you’re pretty much spoilt for choice when it comes to planning your next adventure. Our suggestion: Don’t choose, just go for them all. You deserve it after all.
If you are thinking of having a go at some of these extreme sports, be sure to follow the safety guidelines and advice of the facilitators - so that you can enjoy the fun experiences in a safe manner.
Things to take note when travelling in New Zealand
- Due to the nature of the pandemic, do regularly check for the latest information on New Zealand’s Covid-19 restrictions affecting travellers.
- Face masks are encouraged when you are in a public indoor setting or where social distancing isn’t possible. For a comprehensive list of when a face mask is mandatory, you may refer to the New Zealand Covid-19 website.
- Contact tracing is no longer mandatory, but for better ease of mind, you can download the NZ Covid Tracer app just in case you test positive, or if you’ve been a close contact
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Best time to visit
December to March when it’s summer are the most popular times to visit New Zealand. During this period, the weather’s a favourable 16 to 23 degree celsius, perfect for all outdoor activities.
Public buses are the main mode of transport around New Zealand, while ferries get you from island to island. Self-driving is another popular option too. Rail networks, on the other hand, aren’t as vast, but the scenic views are worth hopping onto a railway anyways.
The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) and its value is nearly 1:1 to SGD.
Depending on your destination, direct flights from Singapore to New Zealand vary between 9 to 15 hours. Search for airfares and book your tickets here.