1. Go tandem hang gliding in Queenstown
Arguably the best way to see New Zealand’s adventure capital is hang gliding. If you’re not enough of an expert to run off the nearest mountain by yourself, don’t worry. Like skydiving, tandem options (flying with a seasoned instructor) are available.
Check out SkyTrek for a good tour.
2. Jump from an airplane in Taupo
Taupo is famous for its hot pools, views of Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth), and having the largest yearly influx of skydivers. More than 30,000 visitors fly here just to get back on a plane and see it from above: clear blue skies, a snow-capped Mt. Ngauruhoe, and a huge lake.
Skydive Taupo offers limousine service from the town.
3. Take a morning hike to Cathedral Cove
As much touted as the South Island is, I found the Coromandel Peninsula near the town of Whitianga one of the most undisturbed places in New Zealand.
It might not be the same thrill as base jumping, but it most definitely is a race. Who is willing to get up earlier and make the 45-minute hike to enjoy the cove to themselves? You.
4. Eat the biggest burgers in New Plymouth
So what do you really know about New Zealand’s cuisine? Baked beans on toast, fish and chips…and burgers. Insurmountable burgers.
Most travelers come away from the Fergburger in Queenstown thinking they’ve seen one of the biggest beef patties to have ever been grilled. Amateurs.
The Naki Burger (named for the Taranaki region) in New Plymouth is about 25% bigger, and features two patties, one boiled egg, bacon, pickles, tomatoes, mayonnaise, lettuce, and onions. Want a challenge that doesn’t involve leaping from tall buildings?
5. Dodge magma on White Island
Few Aucklanders, or “Jaffas” as they call them in Otago, are aware of the imminent threat of destruction by the active White Island volcano. Ash, tremors, small eruptions, and bursts of sulfur are not uncommon, and many experts believe a major eruption is just around the corner.
If you need a thrill, pit yourself against the possibility of having to outrun a hot pool of magma while hiking on this island.
6. Try Zorbing in Rotorua
This might be hard to believe, but people actually pay to be strapped into a giant plastic ball and tossed down a hillside.
Just a few kilometers outside of Rotorua, is Zorb.
According to Zorb’s website,
Rotorua is the place said to smell like rotten eggs and enhance male sex drive.
You have a couple of choices: the Zorbit (aka the ‘astronaut-in-training’ ride) which will have you tumbling head over heels, and the Zydro, a wet version of the Zorbit. With Zydro you can choose a straight track or a crazier zig-zag track.
7. Surf a sand dune on Ninety Mile Beach
As far as I know, there are three kinds of surfing in New Zealand: the traditional water kind, the type that involves sleeping on strangers’ couches, and lastly, sliding down golden sand dunes on Ninety Mile Beach.
Dune surfing gives one a little more time to enjoy the ride, not to mention a gentler landing in the event of an accident.
8. Take a (big) hike
Some of the best hiking in the world is done right here in New Zealand. Most famous, the Milford Track is the way to go, but it’s next to impossible to go solo or without the protection of the Department of Conservation (DOC) huts at night; the trek is booked months in advance, so be prepared.
The Tongariro Track in the middle of the North Island is my personal favorite, with great views of Mt. Ngauruhoe and volcanic craters along the walk, and hot pools a short distance away once you finish up.
9. Drive a Tank
I’m all for conservation, eliminating unnecessary waste, and cutting down on weapons of mass destruction. But, let’s face it, driving a tank across the New Zealand countryside is sweet as. Go with the company Tanks for Everything, and you too can be in command of a 52-tonne battle tank.
Want to learn to speak like a Kiwi? Check out Vera Alves’ advice on essential tips and phrases.
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Turner Wright is a marathon runner first, an adventurer second, and a writer through it all. Apparently, he has a thing for island nations, having lived in Japan, and soon to be headed for New Zealand. Check out his adventures at Keeping Pace in Japan.