Best New Zealand Extreme Sports: Top 29 Adventure Activities in NZ

Jun 28, 2023 BY Luke Rees

New Zealand is renowned for its breath-taking scenery with adventure activities in NZ famously adrenaline fueled. From bungee jumping to water rafting, mountain biking to snowboarding and skydiving to quad biking the best New Zealand extreme sports offer variety and excitement.

Roys Peak Wanaka Lake Best New Zealand Extreme Sports Top 29 Adventure Activities in NZ pixabay royalty free image

With everything from glaciers to volcanoes, fjords to cities, and rainforests to mountains the variety over a relatively small country is unique. And what better way to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s stunning environment than by participating in some of the best extreme sports and adventure activities on the planet.

Best New Zealand Extreme Sports

Why book a New Zealand Adventure?

If you are looking for adventure holidays worldwide, then New Zealand will have come to your attention. There are so many adventure sports to try in New Zealand that it can be hard to choose which to do.

The country has 13 National Parks with a diverse range of environments. From the Alpine climate of the Southern Alps to the subtropical Bay of Islands in the far north, you’ll never be short of things to do. And with a low population density, there is plenty of unspoiled wilderness to explore outside of the parks.

lake tekapo and southern alps Best New Zealand Extreme Sports Top 29 Adventure Activities in NZ pixabay royalty free image

While difficult to reach from Europe and North America, NZ is easy to travel around when you get there. There are varied accommodation options, good roads, great transport options and all the amenities you’d expect from a wealthy nation. To top it all off the Kiwi’s are a very friendly bunch and New Zealand comes second in the list of safest countries worldwide.

Beyond adventure in New Zealand

There’s also a fascinating world beyond the adventure activities in NZ. The cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are cosmopolitan centres. Okay so they are not at New York, London or Sydney levels. But they have a diverse mix of influences and everything you would want regarding accommodation, food and entertainment.

When the sun sets in New Zealand, the nightlife takes center stage. From bustling cities with all night clubbing to cozy towns with late bars and tiny villages with a single pub, there’s something to do after dark in most locations. I even had a brilliant night in a hostel bar when there was a power cut in Taupo.

Kiwi’s like a flutter and there are lively casinos in the major cities, where the sound of chips clinking blends with the laughter of adventurous souls. Away from the cities you can play online, compare your options of the best Skrill Casinos to find great deals.

But don’t limit yourself to indoor fun after dark! Step outside and immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes. Gaze at the starry night sky in the remote countryside, or dance the night away at beachside parties, with the rhythmic waves keeping you company. The nights are as diverse as the best New Zealand extreme sports to enjoy in the daytime.

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

Top 29 Adventure Activities in NZ

In no particular order, check out the best New Zealand extreme sports and adventure activities below:

Bungee Jumping in Queenstown: Leap into the Abyss

The buzz after bungee jumping is second to none and in Queenstown you can enjoy three different leaps! Known as the Adventure Capital, the town is the ultimate destination for bungee jumping. If you are a traditionalist then jump off the iconic Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first commercial bungee site.

Or challenge yourself at the breathtaking Nevis Bungy, where you’ll plummet 134 meters toward the rugged canyon below. Finally jump from The Ledge above Queenstown with jaw-dropping views of the town, lakes and mountains. Once you’ve jumped, ride the adrenaline wave into town for an epic night out.

Skydiving over Franz Joseph Glacier: Embrace the Ultimate Freefall

Without doubt one of the best adventure activities in NZ is skydiving, with jumps in more than 15 locations. In Queenstown you can skydive from high above the Remarkables Mountain Range for awe-inspiring scenery. And in Taupo you can enjoy unparalleled views of Lake Taupo and surrounding volcanic peaks.

But the top place to leap from a plane is the most unique: Franz Joseph. There are no other places in the world where you can skydive over a glacier and a rainforest at the same time. Dropping 18,000 feet you’ll enjoy 85 seconds of freefall, around six minutes under canopy and a stunning 30 minute flight up to altitude.

best NZ ski resorts for New Zealand snowboarding holidays stef-zeestraten-at-cardrona-alpine-resort

Ski, Snowboard or Heli-Ski from Queenstown and Wanaka: Conquer the Winter Wonderland

During the winter months of June to September you can ski and snowboard in New Zealand. There are resorts all over the North and South Island, but the two best locations to base yourself are Queenstown and Wanaka. From either you can access Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Treble Cone and Cardrona.

Heli-skiing/boarding is also available in the area. It provides access to untouched snowfields for one of the best New Zealand extreme sports. Check out this guide to the 12 best ski resorts for snowboarding in New Zealand for more ideas of where to do winter sports.

Mountain Biking in Rotorua: Tackle the Thrilling Trails

Mountain bike in Rotorua to ride through some of New Zealand’s most remarkable landscapes. The nearby Skyline Gravity Park and Whakarewarewa Forest have more than 150 km of trails ranging from beginner to expert. Easily one of the best adventure activities in NZ

The area has  hosted elite mountain biking competitions and is well regarded as some of the best trails on the planet. Ride through the redwood forest and native scrub taking trails at a speed you are comfortable with. With stunning views, thrilling descents and challenging climbs, MTB in New Zealand is a must-try activity.

Surfing and Bodyboarding in Raglan: Ride the Pacific Swells

Feel the power of the Pacific as you surf or bodyboard the world-renowned breaks of Raglan. Famous for its left-hand point breaks, Raglan offers an exceptional surfing experience for beginners and seasoned surfers alike. There is plenty of surf all around the North and South Islands make it one of the best adventure activities in NZ.

surfing one of the best New Zealand Extreme Sports pixabay royalty free image

White Water Rafting in Queenstown or Rotorua: Conquer the Rapids

White water rafting is an adrenaline-pumping adventure that almost anyone can do. In Queenstown, tackle the challenging Shotover or Kawarau rivers, maneuvering through exhilarating twists and turns down beautiful rivers. In Rotorua, raft the Kaituna River and the infamous Tutea Falls – the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall.

Jet Boating in Queenstown or Taupo: High Speed Fun

Jet boating combines high-speed excitement with stunning natural beauty for one of the most adrenaline-fueled adventure activities in NZ. You sit back and let the professional pilot you down a narrow canyon at terrifying speeds. An adventure you won’t forget!

In Queenstown, you can jet-boat through narrow canyons on the Shotover River or embark on a scenic journey through Dart River’s majestic landscapes. In Taupo, ride the wild rapids of the Huka Falls, feeling the refreshing mist on your face as you navigate the fast-flowing waters.

Quad Biking near Greymouth: Ride the Wilderness

Roar through the scenic landscapes of Greymouth on a New Zealand quad biking experience. Traverse varied terrain, ancient rainforests, through rivers and challenging trails of the beautiful west coast. The guided off-road adventure blends speed and natural beauty into a great day out.

Trekking in Fiordland National Park: Discover Unspoilt Landscapes

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Fiordland National Park, home to some of New Zealand’s most iconic treks. Challenge yourself with the Milford Track or Kepler Track, where you’ll pass by cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes, and dense rainforests. The trails offer an unparalleled New Zealand trekking experience in the heart of stunning wilderness.

NZ trekking holidays Milford track one of the best treks in New Zealand flickr CC image by Iancochrane

Hiking in Tongariro National Park: Traverse the Alpine Crossings

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is regarded as the best day hike in New Zealand. Located in the heart of Tongariro National Park, this 19.4 km trail takes you across an Alpine volcanic environment through some of the country’s most striking terrain. The crossing can be done summer or winter (often in snow) and is one of the best New Zealand extreme sports.

Glacier Hikes in Westland Tai Poutini National Park: Walk on the Wild Ice

Get up close and personal with Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, two of New Zealand’s most stunning icy wonders. The guided glacier hikes provide a unique chance to witness millennia-old ice formations and explore blue ice caves. The glaciers are located in temperate rainforest so combine raw natural beauty with a unique experience.

SUP, Kayaking and Canoeing in Abel Tasman National Park: Paddle the Pristine Waters

Experience New Zealand’s coastal paradise from the unique vantage point of SUP, kayak or canoe. Paddle along the golden beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, spot diverse wildlife and explore hidden coves. With tranquil waters and stunning vistas, being on the water is a peaceful yet adventurous way to experience NZ.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering in Wanaka: Ascend to New Heights

Conquer the cliffs of Wanaka, a hub for rock climbing and bouldering. Whether you’re tackling the challenging crags at Hospital Flat or honing your bouldering skills in The Hang, Wanaka has routes for climbers of all abilities. The breathtaking views and exhilarating ascent make this one of the most rewarding adventure activities in NZ.

Mountaineering in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park: Reach for the Peak

Stand at the top of New Zealand as you summit the country’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook. With experienced guides, tackle the formidable slopes and experience the thrill of mountaineering. This ultimate alpine adventure provides unforgettable panoramic views and is the pinnacle of New Zealand extreme sports.

new zealand aoraki mount cook national park mountainclimb best new zealand activities Wallpaper Flare royalty free image

Canyoning in Abel Tasman National Park: Navigate the Natural Mazes

Embark on a thrilling adventure through the natural playground of Abel Tasman National Park. Canyoning combines elements of abseiling, jumping, sliding, hiking and swimming. Explore the park’s lush canyons, plunge into sparkling pools, and slide down water-polished chutes. An intense but fun experience that can be as extreme as you make it.

Paragliding in Queenstown: Glide through the Air

Soar like a bird over Queenstown’s stunning landscapes, paragliding is one of the most thrilling adventure activities in NZ. For unparalleled views, launch from Coronet Peak, the highest commercial paragliding site in New Zealand. Beginners can fly tandem with a pilot or experienced paragliders can fly solo.

Caving in Waitomo: Descend into the Depths

Plunge into the mystical underworld of Waitomo, a world-class caving destination. Navigate through a labyrinth of limestone formations, squeeze through narrow passages and marvel at the glowworm-studded ceilings. With options ranging from guided tours to black water rafting, caving in Waitomo provides an unforgettable subterranean adventure.

Ziplining in Taupo or Rotorua: Soar through Scenic Canopies

Experience a bird’s-eye view as you soar through the canopy on a ziplining adventure. In Taupo, zip through ancient forests, marveling at the beauty of the surroundings. In Rotorua, fly high above the geothermal wonders, taking in the unique volcanic landscape. Ziplining is one of best New Zealand extreme sports available for all the family.

Swimming with Dolphins in Kaikoura: Get Up Close with Marine Life

Experience a magical encounter with dolphins in the coastal town of Kaikoura. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and swim/snorkel alongside Dusky Dolphins in their natural habitat. This eco-friendly activity in NZ is a unique way to experience the rich marine biodiversity. Whale watching and swimming with seals is also available.

Red Moki Cheilodactylus spectabilis scuba diving-in Poor Knights Islands wikimedia CC image by Anna Barnett

Scuba Diving in Poor Knights Islands: Explore the Underwater Wonderlands

Delve into the hidden depths of the New Zealand marine environment by scuba diving at Poor Knights Islands. Known as one of the best dive sites in the world, there’s a wealth of marine biodiversity, including many fish, vibrant coral and even occasionally majestic manta rays. With clear water and fascinating topography, scuba diving in New Zealand doesn’t get any better.

Snorkelling in Goat Island Marine Reserve: Swim in a Sea of Colour

Snorkel in the refreshing waters of Goat Island Marine Reserve for an unforgettable experience. Known as New Zealand’s first marine reserve, Goat Island is teeming with marine life, from playful snapper to delicate sea stars. Observing this rich underwater ecosystem is one of the top New Zealand adventure activities.

Off-road Driving in Queenstown: Unleash Your Inner Thrill-seeker

Rev up your engines and venture off the beaten path in an 4×4 driving adventure in Queenstown. Navigate rugged terrain, power through creek crossings and uphill climbs. The best New Zealand extreme sports for motorsport enthusiasts, off-road driving combines the speed, skill and stunning scenery.

Raft Fishing in the Tongariro River: Combine Adventure and Angling

For a different take on angling, try raft fishing on the Tongariro River. You’ll navigate rapids to secluded spots, then cast your line for Rainbow and Brown Trout. This Kiwi adventure merges the excitement of rafting with the tranquility of fishing, for a unique outdoor experience in NZ.

Hot Air Ballooning in Canterbury: Float Above Majestic Landscapes

Experience the serene beauty of Canterbury’s landscapes from a hot air balloon. As the sun rises, you’ll ascend into the sky, floating over patchwork farmlands and meandering rivers, with the spectacular Southern Alps as a backdrop. Hot air ballooning offers a tranquil yet exciting way to appreciate New Zealand’s beauty.

Top 29 Adventure Activities in NZ pixabay royalty free image of Abel Tasman

New Zealand Extreme Activities FAQ

Q: What are some of the best adventure activities to do in New Zealand?

A: New Zealand has more adventure activities to choose from than most can squeeze into a visit. Some of the top adventure activities include bungee jumping, skydiving, heli-skiing, jet boating, white water rafting, canyon swinging, ziplining, and black water rafting.

Q: Which city in New Zealand is known as the “adventure capital” of the world?

A: Queenstown, situated on the South Island of New Zealand, is known as the “adventure capital”. It attracts adrenaline junkies from all over the world.

Q: What are some of the best adventure activities in Queenstown?

Some of the best adventure activities to try in Queenstown include bungee jumping, skydiving, and white water rafting. The town also offers adrenaline activities such as jet boating, canyon swinging, skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking.

Q: What are the best scenic activities to do in Queenstown?

Queenstown is known for its stunning scenery, so there is plenty to do in the town to admire the views. But taking a scenic flight over the mountains and glaciers, a skydive or paragliding experience are among the best. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails that take you to scenic spots.

Q: What are some popular adventure activities in Auckland?

A: Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and offers a range of adventure activities for tourists and locals alike. Known as the city of sails, sailing is popular but also bungee jumping, SkyJump and SkyWalk (both from Auckland’s Sky Tower), surfing, cycling, mountain biking and hiking are all popular.

Best New Zealand Extreme Sports Top 29 Adventure Activities in NZ pixabay royalty free image of Auckland

Q: What are the best places to go rafting in New Zealand?

A: New Zealand has plenty of rivers that are prime for white water rafting. The top places to go raft in New Zealand include the Shotover River in Queenstown, the Tongariro River in Taupo and the Rangitikei River in Rotorua.

Q: What is black water rafting?

A: Black water rafting is a unique adventure activity that involves floating down an underground river on a rubber ring or a tube. Popular underground black water rafting is found at the Waitomo Caves in the North Island of New Zealand.

Q: What is the best time to visit New Zealand for adventure sports?

A: All seasons have their advantages. In theory the summer months (December to February) are the best time to visit New Zealand for adventure sports as the weather is warm and dry. However, most adventure activities in NZ are available year round, and some, such as skiing and snowboarding are only possible during the winter months (June to September).

Q: Which are the best helicopter tours in New Zealand?

A: New Zealand is photogenic from every angle, and touring it by helicopter offers the perfect way to get a bird’s eye view. Some of the best helicopter tours in New Zealand are at Milford Sound, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier and the Lord of the Rings Helicopter Tour.

Q: What is the best adventure activity to do in the Bay of Plenty?

A: The Bay of Plenty, situated on the North Island of New Zealand, is renowned for its marine life and water sports. The best adventure activity to do in the Bay of Plenty is sailing or a boat ride to explore the beautiful coastline and perhaps see marine life.

Guide to New Zealand overland trips & best NZ adventure sports Flickr image by Percita

Q: What are some popular adventure activities on the North Island of New Zealand?

A: The North Island of New Zealand, also known as Te Ika-a-Māui, has plenty to offer. Some of the popular adventure activities include sailing, white water rafting, skydiving, skiing and snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, trekking and surfing.

Q: What are some of the best adrenaline activities in New Zealand?

A: New Zealand is often referred to as the “adrenaline capital” of the world, and there are countless adrenaline activities to try. Some of the best adrenaline activities in New Zealand include bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding, ziplining, canyon swinging, and jet boating.

We hope you found this guide to the best New Zealand extreme sports inspirational! Want to try some of the top 29 adventure activities in NZ for yourself? Then check out our New Zealand adventure travel page.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Related Articles


New Madonna di Campiglio Hiking and Biking Trails in the Dolomites

In this article we are introducing new Madonna di Campiglio hiking and biking trails in the Dolomites that open in 2024. These exciting new adventures in the Italian...

Activities: Cycling eBiking Fishing +
Read Article

6 Best Himalayan Destinations in India for Overlanding Adventures

India is full of dust, dirt and heat. A place where travellers fight for space on crowded trains and traffic-choked streets. And that’s it, isn’t it? No! Venture...

Destinations: Asia Dharamsala Gulmarg +
Read Article

What gear do Search and Rescue teams wear and does it make a difference?

There are small groups of people who are outdoor professionals, whereas most of us are adventure seekers. Emergency services work outdoors, in awful conditions: If...

Activities: Abseiling Camping Caving +
Destinations: England Ireland Scotland +
Read Article

Newsletter sign up