Activities and Adventure
If energetic, outdoor activity-based holidays are your thing, then New Zealand is a great place to go. New Zealand offers a huge range of outdoor activities, from simple hiking, cycling and canoeing to climbing, bungy-jumping and parapenting for the more daring.
New Zealand pioneered the concept of bungy-jumping as a commercial enterprise when A.J. Hackett and Henry van Asch launched their business at the now-famous Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown in the 1980s. That entails a fall of a mere 43 m (141 ft). Now you can drop 134 m (440 ft) from a cable car in A.J. Hackett's 'Nevis Highwire Bungy'. There are similar opportunities at various places around New Zealand, and particularly in Auckland.
Canoeing and kayaking
Miles of coastline, miles of river: they all beckon canoeing enthusiasts. The National Parks offer exceptional canoeing adventures, notably the Abel Tasman National Parks for coastal canoeing, Fiordland for the fiords, and Whanganui for its canoeing/kayaking 'Great Walk' (see Natural World). Other favoured spots include the Bay of Islands (see Top Ten Things to Do), Marlborough Sounds, and whitewater kayaking in the West Coast region, around the Franz Josef Glacier.
There are plenty of opportunities for cyclists, and plenty of places to hire bicycles of all kinds. One famous cycle path is the Otago Central Rail Trail (also used by walkers and horse riders) which follows the spectacular path of a disused railway track in the south of the South Island, a vestige of the gold rush days of the late 19th century. Developed by the Department of Conservation, the Rail Trail covers 150 km (93 miles), between Clyde and Middlemarch. Suggested itineraries last from half a day to five days. www.centralotagorailtrail.co.nz
Zoom up some of New Zealand's most spectacular rivers in an exhilarating New Zealand invention: the jet boat. The concept was developed in the 1960s by Sir William Hamilton: a boat super-powered by jets of water, replacing propellers that could get snagged on river rocks in shallow, fast-flowing rivers. Many of New Zealand's rivers offer jet boat excursions, particularly around Queenstown, and in the Canterbury region of the South Island. Fun for all the family!
Skiing and snowboarding
This takes place at 'ski fields' in both the North Island and the South Island; the South Island, of course, has the longer season. Key places are Whakapapa and Turoa in the North Island (around Mount Ruapehu); and, in the South Island, Mount Hutt and the ski fields around Queenstown and Lake Wanaka. Wanaka is also a centre for Nordic (cross-country) skiing. For the more adventurous, heli-skiing in the Southern Alps can deliver you to the ultimate in remote off-piste and glacier skiing.
Walking and 'tramping'
New Zealand is heaven for walkers. Virtually anywhere you go, you can put on your walking shoes (or hiking boots) and head off for a rewarding adventure, lasting from several hours to several days. Here are some examples: Three hours: Rangitoto Volcano, Auckland. Day-Walk: Tongariro Crossing, in the Tongariro National Park. Several days: The 'Great Walks' in the National Parks (see Natural World), such as Milford Track (Fiordland National Park; 5 days); the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (3-5 days); and the Rakiura Track (3 days).
Take on New Zealand's mightiest rivers with the thrills (and spills) of whitewater rafting. This is an experience that requires strength and courage, but rafting centres are expertly run, and offer a range of excursions from Grade 1 (relatively gentle) to Grade 5 (hairy). You can take a trip for just a few hours, or make an expedition of it, lasting up to five days. For another kind of thrill, go blackwater rafting - through caves.
In case this is not enough, New Zealand also offers great opportunities for:
- Horse riding