The Adrenaline Junkie’s Guide to New Zealand
Too many people hear “New Zealand” and think only of pretty hills, rugby, and sheep. In fact, New Zealand is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise, where the locals spend their time dreaming up new and dangerous ways for the brave and the crazy to throw themselves up, down, and off everything they can.
The only question you need to ask yourselves is how far you’re willing to go.
Adventure Guide to New Zealand
Once upon a time in Rotorua, a geothermic town better known for its permanent smell of rotten eggs, a Kiwi saw a giant hill and decided to roll down it in a big inflatable ball. And thus Zorbing was born.
The two companies that operate here are called Ogo and Zorb, and they both promise the same thing – to chuck you in a zorb and send you spinning downhill with nothing to hold onto and only a bit of water to catch your fall.
You’re guaranteed to end up dizzy, bruised, and racing to do it again.
Arrivals in Auckland can’t miss the Sky Tower, which towers above the town at 328m. Those who like their views panoramic and hurtling past them at 85km an hour can travel to the very top and jump off.
Cool with the heights but not the hurtling? The same company offers a ledge-based Skywalk, with all of the views and not quite so much of the terror.
Abel Tasman, with its pure white beaches and endless blue ocean, might just be the most beautiful spot in New Zealand. You could join the masses who see it via a gentle kayak trip, but to really get the measure of the place, you’ve got to take to the air.
Hang Gliding works like this – a very nice chap from Tasman Sky Adventures will stuff you into a sleeping-bag harness and attach you to a plane, which will shoot you into the air before jettisoning you to the mercy of the air currents. It’s the closest thing you can get to flying without sprouting a pair of wings, and when you start swooping over the sea you’ll understand why.
Ever wished you were a superhero? You can be Iron Man, albeit with a little more faceplanting, by trying flyboarding in Queenstown.
You’ll get super-powered jets attached to your feet which will blast you aloft with the horsepower of a jet ski. Keep your balance long enough to appreciate the view you’ll feel on top of the world.
The Canyon Swing sometimes gets a bad rep as the wuss’ version of the bungy. Not in Queenstown, the world capital of crazy. Here you have two options. You can go high -higher than anywhere else in the world- and take on the jaw-clenching 160m drop of the Nevis Swing. (If that doesn’t sound scary enough, you can do it upside down). Or you can go insane and head to the Shotover Canyon Swing, where the madcap controllers will offer you the option to plummet downwards via a slide, a kicked-over chair, or with a bucket over your head.
White Water Rafting
Want to raft over the world’s highest commercially raftable waterfall? Head to Rotorua, where Rotorua Rafting will help you take the plunge. Warning: it’s 7m high, your boat will go vertical, and someone will fall out and be sucked under the waterfall.
More interested in trying your luck on a series of utterly mental Grade 5 rapids? Rangitata Rafts is the one for you. You’ll be tossed around like a ragdoll, the boat will constantly be on the verge of capsizing, and someone will fall out and be swept down the river. On my trip, it was the boat guide. Good luck!
You can skydive all over New Zealand but for the best of the best, head to glacier country. At Franz Josef you’ll find the highest jump in the Southern Hemisphere, as Skydive Franz propels you out a plane at an eye-watering 19,000ft. Or you can head down the road to Skydive Fox Glacier, which is slightly lower at 16,500ft but consistently crops up on lists of the top skydives in the world.
Either way, expect to be strapped to an instructor, bundled into a plane and given oxygen as you climb above the clouds. The rush when the door opens and you see the entire world spread out before you is indescribable. At first, you’ll fall so fast you’ll feel like you’re floating until the parachute deploys and you glide softly down to the ground.
Expect to get hooked.
This is the big one. Go hard or go home – which means taking the plunge in Queenstown, the official home of the bungy. All options here are managed by AJ Hackett, which also offers combo packages for the addicted. You can copy the very first commercial jump at the Kawarau Bridge, or freestyle it out at the vertigo-defying The Ledge, but for the ultimate experience, head to the Nevis.
The Nevis Bungy is the third-highest jump in the world at 134m, and it’s more terrifying than you can ever imagine it to be. Will nothing tethering you to safety but a bit of elastic tied around your ankles, and with seven full seconds to wait before you know it worked, will you be brave enough to jump?