Best extreme experiences in Queenstown: New Zealand adventure capital

Nov 16, 2020 BY Paul McWilliams

Queenstown is the New Zealand adventure capital. And given the country’s reputation for action sports and crazy activities, this makes the best extreme experiences in Queenstown some of the most exhilarating on the planet.

New Zealand adventure capital

Located in the Otago region in the south of New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is surrounded by lakes and mountains. Not only is it within the Southern Alps and close to some of the best New Zealand ski resorts, but it is also near to the stunning Fiordland that includes the infamous Milford Sound.

New Zealand adventure capital Ledge bungy jump queenstown Flickr image by clobocopy

Many long distance treks start or end in the area and there are hikes and bike rides ranging from easy to extreme. The town itself is really cool, with stunning views, a great vibe and many friendly pubs and restaurants. Plus there is everything from affordable hostels to expensive hotels catering to all tastes.

The nightlife can be pretty wild. There are cocktail bars and clubs, plus the Queenstown casino offers all the usual tables and card games. But as Kenneth D. Warren from says “if you are concerned about Covid you can always gamble online” – who knows, you might just win enough to pay for your next adventure. Queenstown is a year round draw for tourists and those looking to be extreme.

Now while the likes of skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and mountaineering can of course be very extreme this article is about the best extreme experiences in Queenstown. We are looking for one off activities that take a few hours which anyone can do without pre-existing skills or training.

Best extreme experiences in Queenstown

There’s something in Queenstown for everyone, from hardened adrenaline junkies to first time thrill seekers. But you can’t visit the New Zealand adventure capital without giving at least one or two of the following activities a try.

New Zealand adventure capital Queenstown from Bob's Peak Wikimedia CC image by Lawrence Murray

Via ferrata

This is a bit like rock climbing but using metal ladders and cables to make it so safe that almost anyone can get involved. You follow a route and you are always hooked onto the cable meaning any fall it never serious. Just a few minutes from the town centre are 12 varied routes providing more than 300 vertical meters of fun on Queenstown Hill overlooking Lake Wakatipu.


A combination of climbing, hiking, floating, sliding and leaping, canyoning is one of the best extreme experiences in Queenstown. Following a canyon downhill you jump from rock into pools, slide down natural chutes and have a wet and wild time. There is a half-day experience just 10 mins from Queenstown or a full day adventure at Routeburn Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Queenstown would not be New Zealand adventure capital without something for everyone. The nations’s original zipline experience, enjoy three fun zipline routes through the forest canopy high above the city on the Skyline Gondola Hill. Take off from aerial tree platforms as you make your way down through the forest on a succession of wires. Fairly easy but no less fun!

Hang gliding or Paragliding

Launch from 3,880 feet with Queenstown’s highest hang-gliding and paragliding options. Spiral your way back down to earth with an experienced pilot taking control and enjoy some of the best views of the town you’re likely to find anywhere. Except maybe….

Paragliding one of the Best extreme experiences in Queenstown Wikimedia CC image by Oren Rozen

Tandem skydive

One activity that might take the edge in terms of views is the 60 seconds of freefall you get from a tandem skydive above Queenstown. You’ll freefall at speeds of up to 200mph strapped to an experienced instructor, then open the chute before gliding back down to earth buzzing on adrenaline. Without doubt one of the best extreme experiences in Queenstown.


A thrilling ride for visitors of all ages, jump on your specialised luge cart, choose your track and race down the hill at speed. Then catch the lift back to the top to try another track. It’s more than 800 metres of fun, with full braking giving you total control of the luge. Plus, you get to ride the Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere.

Canyon Swing

Not for the fainthearted, take a leap of faith from the platform 109 metres above the Shotover River below. You’ll drop 60 metres, hitting speeds of up to 150 kph and swing through a 200 metre long arc before being winched back up to the platform. This swing is located just a 15-minute drive from Queenstown but there are also swings at the Ledge and Nevis bungy.

White Water Rafting

Staying at shotover canyon for some wetter adrenaline-fuelled fun. Take the winding road up to Skippers Canyon and down into Deep Creek where you’ll get in your boat. Paddle through famous rapids like Rock Garden, Aftershock and the beautifully named Toilet.

Rafting one of the Best extreme experiences in Queenstown Wikimedia CC image by QueenstownRafting

River jet boat

If paddling is not fast enough for you, then how about climbing on board the ‘world’s most exciting jet boat ride? Starting on Lake Wakatipu you’ll pass through narrow gorges at terrifying speeds, feeling like you’re only millimetres away from disaster. But the skilled pilots always ensure everyone makes it back to dry land.

Quad biking and dirt biking

Set in an 11,000 acre private estate are a range of trails for those looking for a motorised off-road adventure. Hop on an ATV/quad bike or an off-road motorbike (dirt bike) for an all weather adventure. Cross streams and creeks, negotiate various obstacles all guided by New Zealand off-road champions. Experiences last an hour to all day and suit novice to experienced riders.

Hydro Attack

This unique expereince on Lake Wakatipu is a cross between a fighter jet and a torpedo. You reach speeds of up to 80 kph on the water and 40 kph beneath the surface in a semi-submersible shark that can leap out of the water. With just the pilot for company this is one of the best extreme experiences in Queenstown if you want to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Human Catapult

The biggest human catapult on the planet is located above Nevis River. You are fired 150m reaching a speed of 100kph in just 1.5 seconds and experiencing around 3 Gs of force. One of the best extreme experiences in Queenstown and another reason why the town is the New Zealand adventure capital.

Interview with AJ Hackett: Inventor of bungy jumping? Nevis Highwire Queenstown. Flickr image by Steve AM

Bungee Jumping

There are three bungy jumps to chose from in Queenstown, two of which are considered among the best bungee jumping destinations worldwide! The third, Kawarau Bridge, is home to the original commercial bungee jump by AJ Hackett so is well worth a visit.

The other two jumps are The Ledge which is short and sweet jump overlooking Queenstown which uniquely you can take a running leap off. And Nevis highwire, at 143 metres above the river it is the highest bungy jump in New Zealand.

Queenstown adventure capital of the world?

This is just a selection of the best extreme experiences in Queenstown that anyone can just turn up to do. There is also world class skiing and snowboarding and mountain activities such as mountain biking, hiking, horse trekking, climbing and mountaineering. Plus don’t forget water sports like kayaking, SUP, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

When you combine it all you realise that Queenstown is not just the New Zealand adventure capital, but one of the best places for adrenaline seekers on the planet.

We hope this article has inspired you to visit Queenstown. If you are planning a trip please take a look at our New Zealand activity holidays for plenty more ideas.


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