Image credit: Tourism New Zealand - Rob Suisted
Get fired up or flake out with New Zealand's range of adventurous activities, says Katie McGonagle
Fancy diving off a tall building tethered by nothing but a piece of elastic?
How about rafting through pitch-black underground rapids, or hiking across a remote glacier?
If all that sounds right up your clients’ street, send them straight to New Zealand. But if the very thought of thrillseeking sends a shiver down their spine, there’s no need to direct them elsewhere. New Zealand has plenty of activities to suit those who like their action a little less extreme.
Thrill: If it’s exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure, you’ll find it in the adrenaline capital of the world. Start with jet boating on the Shotover River, a fast and furious ride through narrow canyons with seemingly impossible 360-degree spins mid-river, from £69 per adult or £39 for under-15s with Gold Medal.
If racing the rapids isn’t thrilling enough, suggest the Shotover Canyon Swing. The view from the 109-metre-high cliff-mounted platform is magnificent, but there isn’t much time to admire it as daredevils dive into a 60-metre freefall towards the canyon below. Prices start at £135 with Anzcro.
Those who want to combine scenery with an adrenaline rush can try the wilderness safari on Dart River, which pairs a thrilling 45-minute boat journey down the river rapids with a forest walk and a scenic four-wheel drive.
Chill: There are tamer ways to get a good view, such as the Skyline Gondola Queenstown, which offers breathtaking views over Queenstown, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountains and across Lake Wakatipu.
Stop to soak in the view over dinner at the Skyline restaurant with Kuoni’s Skyline Gondola & Dinner excursion, from £45 including transfers from Queenstown hotels.
There are some stunning sights to admire from the privacy of the Onsen Hot Pools too, which are set high on the cliffside near the base of Coronet Peak. Anzcro offers an hour in these private pools for £69, based on two sharing.
WEST COAST and FiORDLAND
Thrill: There’s nothing quite like standing in the midst of an eerily quiet icy wilderness surrounded by snow-capped mountains and clear blue sky.
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers lend themselves to all levels of adventure, from technical ice-climbing to straightforward hiking. Hiking features in two Contiki tours: the nine-day ‘Sweet As’ South favours the Franz Josef, while The Big Tiki hikes the Fox instead.
Chill: Strapping on crampons and setting off with an ice pick might seem daunting, but luckily there’s a far more relaxed alternative. Kuoni is among those offering scenic helicopter flights over glacial icefalls, deep crevasses and rivers frozen in time, landing at the head of each glacier. Prices start at £165 for the 30-minute flight.
Farther down the coast, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound suit those who want to get close to nature without too much effort, but the best news is they’re even better when it rains and waterfalls come cascading down the sides.
Thrill: New Zealand’s biggest city has more than its fair share of excitement, and where better to start than Auckland Harbour Bridge? This is where AJ Hackett performed the first bungee in New Zealand, so it’s fitting that daredevil visitors can now climb up for incredible 360-degree views of the city (the bridge climb starts at £73 for adults, £47 for under-15s, through Gold Medal) or fling themselves off on a bungee.
This being Auckland, the bridge isn’t the only structure you can jump off – thrillseekers get 11 seconds of pure adrenaline on a 50mph base jump off the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building, the Sky Tower (£128 for adults, £100 for 10-15-year-olds with Do Something Different).
Chill: Considering escorted tour operator Trafalgar’s typical customer base, there’s no surprise its Best of New Zealand tour swaps base jumping off the Sky Tower for fine dining at the top, where revolving restaurant Orbit offers the same views, but with more time to enjoy them.
Clients who want to feel the wind in their hair will enjoy an Auckland harbour cruise to see first-hand why it’s known as the City of Sails, or to venture a little farther, cruise to Waiheke Island for a tour of its gourmet scene and award-winning wineries.
Image credit: Tourism New Zealand - Mark Downey
BAY OF ISLANDS
Thrill: These paradise-like islands are rich in watersports, but none will get the heart pumping like swimming alongside nature’s most beguiling creatures in their own environment. A dolphin eco-encounter starts at £66 with Anzcro, ex-Paihia.
Chill: Also departing from Paihia, Anzcro’s Cape Brett Hole in the Rock Cruise doesn’t involve getting wet, but it does include a journey past Cape Brett Lighthouse, through the famous hole in the rock at Motukokako Island, and stopping on Urupukapuka Island for a scenic walk (£60).
Thrill: Daredevils can have their pick of adventure, from abseiling 100 metres into Lost World Cave to explore underground vaults, to zorbing and black-water rafting through rapids in complete darkness. Rafting is included on Contiki’s Northern Choice and The Big Tiki tours.
Chill: Those caves are also home to something far gentler – glow-worms. The underground caverns light up with twinkling creatures, best seen alongside intricate stalactites and stalagmites on a silent boat ride. Attraction World combines this with a tour of The Hobbit film locations, sure to be a hit thanks to the imminent release of the trilogy’s second instalment.
Heading towards Matamata, visitors see sets from the movie and find out how a 10-acre sheep farm was transformed into The Shire (from £195 or £99 for children aged three -12, departing Auckland).
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