There's no denying that New Zealand is a mecca for adventurous souls. Whether that's due to an inherent Kiwi curiosity or a secret glee for brushes with death, we may never know. But it's a fact that some of the world's most intense and weird adventure sports have been invented here.
If you're headed to New Zealand anytime soon and are looking for an adventure activity to get that adrenaline pumping, here are six to put on your to-do list. (Just make sure you have a RoamRight Adventure policy!)
In the 1980's, a daredevil by the name of A.J. Hackett decided to launch a new adventure sport in Queenstown, New Zealand. He was going to tie gigantic rubber bands to the ankles of tourists, and then let them jump off a bridge. Hence, commercial bungee jumping was born.
The historic Kawarau Bridge located in a canyon just outside Queenstown was the site of the world's first commercial bungee jump in 1988, and people have been flinging themselves off this 141-foot bridge ever since.
If you, too, want to experience the rush of bungee jumping, I highly recommend doing it in Queenstown. The city, known as the Adventure Capital of New Zealand, has three different bungee jumps to choose from. There's the Kawarau Bridge (the original), as well as The Ledge (a freestyle bungee with a fantastic view over Queenstown and the mountains), and The Nevis (NZ's highest bungee jump at nearly 440 feet).
Throwing yourself off a bridge or cliff not really your thing? Don't worry there are plenty of other adventure sports to try. An exhilarating but much less scary experience is jet boating, another one of the adventure sports that was dreamed up by a New Zealander.
Jet boats operate differently than regular motorboats, with water intake systems similar to what you find on jet skis meaning they're perfect for navigating the shallow rivers of New Zealand.
My favorite jet boat is the Shotover Jet in Queenstown, which zips through the Shotover Canyon at 50 mph, skimming over the top of the turquoise water and pulling 360-degree turns within the narrow canyon walls. The Shotover Jet has been operating for more than 40 years, and is one of New Zealand's most popular adventure activities.
My next favorite adventure activity is the SkyWalk in Auckland, a 45-minute(ish) walk around the iconic Sky Tower on a 5-foot-wide outdoor platform 630 feet above the ground. Not everyone has a love for heights, I realize, but if you can conquer the fear, this is a really fun activity to challenge yourself with. From atop the tower, you can see all of Auckland, the extinct volcanoes, the nearby harbor, and the outlying islands.
Remember how I mentioned some weird adventure sports coming from New Zealand? Well, zorbing is one of them. This sport basically consists of diving into a plastic ball and then rolling down a hill. The activity was first offered in Rotorua, New Zealand, and you can now find zorbing operations all over the world.
I recommend trying it at the original location in Rotorua, where you can zorb dry (harnessed in) or wet (slipping around inside the ball on the way down). Be prepared to laugh, because that's really the only reaction to rolling down a hill in an oversized hamster ball.
Kaikoura, New Zealand, is known for its marine life. Here you can go searching for whales in a helicopter, swim with playful dolphins, and eat some of the freshest seafood you'll ever find. And you can also snorkel with New Zealand fur seals.
Swimming with dolphins is cool, but swimming alongside a seal as it gracefully twists and twirls through the cool water is incredibly unique. I recommend spending a few days in Kaikoura so that you can experience as many of the eco-friendly animal encounters as possible. For seal swimming, your best option is Seal Swim Kaikoura, which has been operating seal swimming tours since 1987.
You may not associate great white sharks with New Zealand. After all, the Discovery Channel's Shark Week tends to focus on South Africa and Australia, with North America thrown in every now and then for good measure, but the truth is that some of the ocean's largest great whites call the deep waters off New Zealand's Stewart Island home.
Cage diving tours usually run from December to June each year, and I recommend Shark Dive NZ, which has been featured during Shark Week and has a 100 percent safety record. They also have tours that depart from Bluff on the mainland, which would save you a potentially choppy ferry ride over to Stewart Island.
Which adventure activity would make it to the top of YOUR list?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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