Ultimate New Zealand adventures - mountain high to valley low
Ski down the longest glacier, swim in the largest lake, climb the highest mountain, walk the longest trail – these are just some of New Zealand’s biggest attractions and here’s how to conquer them all.
Sandboard on the longest beach
Stretching 88 kilometres from Cape Reinga, on the very northern tip of the North Island, to Ahipara in the south, the (slightly) misnamed Ninety Mile Beach is New Zealand’s longest beach – a remote, wild coastline of crashing waves, golden sand dunes and shipwrecks. The off-road journey includes a stop in the towering sand dunes at Te Paki to experience the heart-pumping thrills and spills of sandboarding – surfing the slippery slope.
Travel Tip: Take a day trip from Paihia or Kerikeri, in the Bay of Islands. While Ninety-Mile Beach is officially listed as a highway, self-drive is best left to the locals who know the tides and the sandy conditions.
Jump off the highest building
Standing at a dizzying 328m, the Auckland Sky Tower offers a range of adrenaline-fuelled activities. At 192m above street-level, the SkyWalk is a test for the nerves with a nail-biting circuit of the tower that rewards with amazing views of the city and beautiful Waitematā Harbour. Or, for an unforgettable experience, take a leap of faith with the SkyJump, an 85kmph controlled descent back to ground level. For a different, less life-threatening thrill, visitors can also enjoy the panoramic views of Auckland on the Sky Deck viewing platform or dine in one of three restaurants.
Travel Tip: Admission to Sky Tower includes entry to the 182m Sky Lounge Café and Bar, Main Observation Level and Sky Deck viewing platform.
Climb the highest mountain
With a peak that stands 3,724m high, Aoraki / Mount Cook is a physically demanding and highly rewarding venture. The mountain was originally named Aoraki by the Māori, meaning “cloud piercer”. Standing tall in the Southern Alps and set under a star-studded sky, Mt Cook’s sky-scraping peaks, permanent snowfields and glaciers make this a climb of a lifetime.
Travel Tip: Adventure Consultants offers a six-day guided tour. Price includes ground transport, flights in and out of Plateau Hut, accommodation, meals and equipment.
Kayak the longest river
At 425km long, the Waikato River flows through the North Island, rising in the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu before joining the Tongariro River and emptying into Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Visitors can kayak along the crystal-clear waters, admire the stunning surrounding scenery and soak in the natural hot pools.
Travel Tip: From Taupo, Canoe and Kayak offers a two-hour tour along the river with a stop at the hot pools and complimentary refreshments.
Conquer the highest bungy jump
Leaping from 134m high above the dramatic rocky blue waters of the Nevis River, thrill seekers experience a thrilling 8.5 seconds of free fall on New Zealand’s highest bungy. There’s also the opportunity to have a go on the world’s biggest swing, which is suspended 160m above the canyon floor and rushes towards the other side of the valley at 120kmph.
Travel Tip: Nevis Bungy and Nevis Swing are located 45mins from Queenstown.
Cycle the steepest cycle trail
From the slopes of Mt Ruapheu to the shores of Whanganui, the 297km long Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail takes cyclists through a diverse wilderness from majestic mountains to stunning native forest and the spiritual, cultural and historical highlights of the Whanganui River. It takes three to five days to cycle the 1,600m vertical descent, travelling 200km of cycle trails and a 31km river section.
Travel Tip: Plan a trip with Mountains to Sea or Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail network offers a wealth of cycle trails from mountain biking to leisure trails for beginners.
Swim in the largest lake
Located in the caldera of the Taupo volcano in the North Island, Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand and second largest freshwater lake in Oceania. The 616sqkm volcanic lake is bigger than Singapore and stretches as far as 46km in length. There are many beautiful beaches on the lake, including some with natural hot pools bubbling up from under the water.
Travel Tip: For more information visit greatlaketaupo.com
Jet boat across the deepest lake
Within a mountain valley in Fiordland National Park is Lake Hauroko, the deepest lake in New Zealand. Shaped like an “S” and stretching 30km in length, Lake Hauroko reaches a depth of 462m. Visitors can take a tour across the mysterious lake and enjoy the deep wilderness of the southwest Fiordland.
Travel Tip: Wairaurahiri Jet offers one-way transport across the lake or take a half-day tour of the lake and its surroundings.
Ski the longest glacier
The largest of many glaciers in the Southern Alps is Tasman Glacier, an incredible 27km long, 4km wide and 600m thick. Lying within the borders of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Tasman Glacier becomes the longest ski run during the winter months. Alpine Guides will take adventurous skiers for an unforgettable backcountry experience through seracs, ice caves and natural ice sculptures.
Travel Tip: This is a winter season experience. The guided package includes scenic flights from Mt Cook Village, and two easy to moderate ski runs on natural snow.
Complete the longest hiking trail
For the ultimate New Zealand hiking experience, visitors with time can walk the entire length of the country - from Cape Reinga to Bluff – on the 3000km Te Araroa trail. Te Araroa offers a variety of natural, cultural and historic experiences, exploring volcanoes, mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys. Hiking the entire trail takes three to six months, however it’s also possible to hike sections of the trail from a few days to a week or more.
Travel Tip: For more information or to plan a trip visit teararoa.org.nz