Top 10 New Zealand Adventures

By Ziggy Dukes

5 minute read

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New Zealand is a wilderness playground with opportunities for incredible adventures in every corner of the country. With such a stunning and diverse natural landscape it’s the perfect place for adventure seekers no matter what you’re looking for. From hiking and kayaking to jet boating and heli-hiking, there are endless opportunities for adventure in New Zealand.

From the subtropical North Island to the towering snow-capped peaks of the South, here are our picks for the top 10 best adventure activities in New Zealand:

Sea Kayaking in the Coromandel

Starting on the golden shores of the Coromandel, taking a sea kayak along this beautiful coastline to explore the natural wonders of Cathedral Cove has to be one of our favourite things to do on the North Islands.

Gaining its name from the giant cathedral-like arch that connects the two beaches, Cathedral Cove is only accessible by foot or boat and we reckon a kayak trip is definitely the way to go. We love Cathedral Cove so much that we've included a kayak tour here as part of our Sweet North adventure. 

kayak day on sweet north tour copy2

Exploring Cathedral Cove.

Hiking the Tongariro Crossing

Widely regarded as one of the best day hikes in the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a must for any keen adventurer exploring New Zealand. One of New Zealand’s ten Great Walks this track spans 19km (12 miles) and makes its way through the spectacular volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park. The National Park is a dual-status UNESCO World Heritage site for both its cultural and environmental significance and is home to three volcanoes.

The Tongariro Crossing

The volcanic landscape of the Tongariro Crossing.

Jet Boating in Siberia Valley

Jet boating is a uniquely Kiwi invention designed to make it easier to navigate our rivers and streams. Due to their ingenious design, Jetboats can speed through even the shallowest water with nimble agility and what better place to enjoy a ride in one than between the rugged peaks of our Southern Alps. Located in Mt Aspiring National Park, Siberia Valley is a remote glacier-carved valley that boasts some of New Zealand’s most beautiful untouched wilderness.

This experience is a guest favourite on our Pure South adventure where we take a backcountry bush plane flight into Siberia Valley to explore on foot before hopping in a jetboat to speed back down the river. 

Jetboating Siberia Valley

Skimming down the Siberia Stream.

Glacier Heli-hiking in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

There aren’t many things that make you feel more adventurous than taking a helicopter flight to a glacier only to don your crampons and explore the icy wonderland on foot.  Our favourite place for this particular pastime is Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Home to 19 peaks over 3000m (all but one of such mountains in the South Island) it’s a mountaineers playground and favoured spot of Sir Edmund Hillary to hone his skills before his successful first ascent of Mt Everest.

Heli hiking AorakiMt Cook

Heli-hiking in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

Kayaking on Lake Mapourika

Though we’ve already listed a kayaking adventure in the North Island, kayaking across the mysterious waters of Lake Mapourika, looking up at the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is an entirely different experience and well worthy of its own spot on our list. Lake Mapourika sits in the Franz Josef Glacier valley and was formed some 14,000 years ago as the glacier retreated. On a crisp Autumn morning, with its glassy waters reflecting the snow-capped peaks and lush forest around you, it’s an experience hard to beat.

Kayaking Lake Mapourika

Exploring Lake Mapourika, the snow-capped Southern Alps standing tall in the background.

Exploring Milford Sound

Possibly New Zealand’s most iconic location, Milford Sound has earned its reputation for good reason. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful settings anywhere in the world and a must-see destination on any New Zealand adventure tour. Whether you choose to experience it by land, sea or sky it’s sure to leave you speechless.

Exploring Milford Sound

Cruising through the magical landscape of Milford Sound.

Taking a scenic flight over the Southern Alps

The Southern Alps are New Zealand’s biggest mountain range and run nearly the entire length of the South Island. With so many rugged ridgelines to explore one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Southern Alps is with a scenic flight. Soaring above them you’ll get a true sense of perspective and be able to see areas that would otherwise take days to access on foot.

Scenic Flight over Southern Alps

Soaring high over the Southern Alps.

Hiking a South Island Great Walk

New Zealand has ten Great Walks in total, six of which are located on the South Island. They are selected for their diverse and spectacular scenery that showcases the best of New Zealand and their ability to highlight New Zealand’s nature, history and Māori culture. Some of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks are located on the South Island including the Routeburn Track, Milford Track and Kepler Track. If you have the time to take them on these are some of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes you’ll ever do.

Hiking the Routeburn Track

Hiking the Routeburn Track to Key Summit.

Mountain Biking and Cycling 

Whatever your mountain biking or cycling preference, from downhill or cross-country to a bike wine tour or multi-day endurance ride New Zealand has something for you. With an extensive network of gravel trails, some of the best mountain bike parks in the world and a growing emphasis on active travel, New Zealand is the perfect place for a two-wheeled outdoor adventure! One of our favourite activities on our New Zealand adventures is taking the Arrow River Cycle trail to Gibbston Valley.

Cycling the Gibbston Valley Trail

Central Otago has an extensive network of incredible gravel trails.

Swimming with Dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is a bucket list activity for many of us but New Zealand might not be the first destination that springs to mind when you think of taking a dip with these beautiful creatures. However, with nine different species of dolphin found here in the waters of New Zealand, it’s the perfect place to tick this one off your list!

Imagine gliding across the calm waters of Kaikoura as the sunrise casts an orange glow across the sky, watching as the dolphins play in the wake of the bow.  It’s always a guest favourite on our trips but don’t worry if swimming isn't your thing, there’s still plenty of action to be seen from the ship's deck!

Swimming with Dolphins

Our awesome guests ready to hop in the water in Akaroa.

The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure

No matter how big or small of a thrill seeker you are your perfect adventure is waiting for you in New Zealand. From hiking your first Great Walk or exploring the turquoise blue water of the Abel Tasman to heli-hiking in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, there are opportunities for adventure at every turn and we do them ALL on our all-inclusive New Zealand adventures.

Here at New Zealand Trails, our goal is to make it easy, fun and safe to explore the best of New Zealand, taking the stress out of all the planning, preparation and logistics so you can sit back and enjoy the experience. If you’d like to find out more about our New Zealand hiking and adventure tours grab a copy of our FREE BROCHURE HERE or get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

If a grand New Zealand adventure is on your bucket list then you might want to check out our South Island Adventure guide too! 


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