7 Extreme Experiences in New Zealand | Experience Oz + NZ

7 Scream-Worthy Experiences in New Zealand

Are you constantly searching for the most adventurous, extreme and spine-tingling experiences? Then this is the article for you.

If you prefer to live your life in the slow lane then I suggest looking at this koala cuddling article to help soothe your nerves.

Still with us? Great! That makes you one of our Experience Ozzies who loves a thrill. But where and how can you stretch out your adrenaline-seeking muscles? There’s one place that stands out above the rest, it’s long, it’s white and it’s mostly cloudy; New Zealand of course!

The home of the World’s Adventure Capital, Queenstown, New Zealand does more than live up to expectations for travellers and locals seeking out extra thrills in their daily lives.

So, let’s put those nerves of steel to the test with some of the country’s most extreme, scary and scream-worthy experiences.

7. Whitewater Rafting

Kaituna River Rafting, RotoruaKaituna River Rafting, Rotorua

Where?: Departing Rotorua

First up, we’re heading into the deep end with a white water rafting adventure on some of the country’s most ferocious rapids.

One of the standout destinations is the Kaituna River in the North Island near Rotorua. Famous for being home to the largest commercial rafting waterfall in the world, you can experience the thrill of tipping over the edge of the waterfall with the help of an experienced guide. The drop at Kaituna River will make your stomach flip and see you scream your lungs out before wanting to do it all again.

The grade 5 rapids prove to be a challenge for even the bravest travellers who have arrived to tackle this popular adrenaline-activity. If you’re a little too scared to book yourself on a Kaituna River rafting tour, then fear not, because the team at River Rats are pros at tackling these awesome rapids and will help teach you everything you need to know to make sure you have the most enjoyable (and safe!) experience in their rafts.

If you can’t make it to the Kaituna River to raft the rapids you can climb into a kayak and tackle a number of rivers and lakes around the country for a more one-on-one experience. Another option is to dive in and go Black Water Rafting in the fast flowing water of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. You heard right, you can ditch the boat and don a wetsuit, helmet and head light to float and swim through the famous caves’ waterways.

There are plenty of other places around the country where you can climb into a raft to tackle some rapids including Queenstown, Hanmer Springs

View Rafting Experience

6. Heli-Skiing

Where?: Harris Mountains

A season-specific experience, heli-skiing in the winter months is one of the most extreme winter sports out there and of course, it’s located on the South Island near Queenstown. One of the best places to take the literal leap out of the helicopter is in the Harris Mountains, some of the best skiing destinations in the country.

Imagine skiing or snowboarding down some of the best slopes in New Zealand without having to wait at the top of runs or queue at the base of the chairlift, this adventure takes you on an exclusive journey to some of the Harris Mountains’ best-powdered slopes.

Perfect for snow bunnies and adventure seekers alike, you’ll be taken to the top of the mountain in style and treated to some of the most impressive views of the surrounding Harris Mountains region before clipping into your skis or snowboards and zigzagging down the runs.

You can take off on this awesome powder experience from Queenstown, Wanaka, or Mount Cook with local operator Heliski.

View Heli-Skiing Experience

5. Jet Boating

Shotover Jet, Queenstown
Shotover Jet, Queenstown

Where?: Queenstown

Jet boating in New Zealand isn’t your average jet boating experience. In the land of the long white cloud, they go jet boating on the edge, speeding through narrow passageways, zipping past towering rock walls and skimming over the shallow water.

Once again, Queenstown is where it’s at with the Shotover Jet and K Jet two major frontrunners.

The Shotover Jet zips along the famous Shotover River narrowly passing rugged cliff faces and boulders, the experience lasts for around 25 minutes and will give you a thrilling rush you won’t forget. Located just a little way out of Queenstown itself, the Jet offers complimentary shuttle services to and from the launch point.

On this journey, you’ll reach speeds of up to 85 kilometres an hour in water as shallow as 10 cm! You’ll put all of your faith in these local drivers as they zip and zoom through the famous riverway. The good news is that rides depart every 15 minutes so you won’t have to wait too long to get that adrenaline rush on the water.

The other top-notch option is the K Jet which departs from Lake Wakatipu in downtown Queenstown and takes you on a 60-minute jet boating adventure on the Kawarau River.

K Jet Shotover River Queenstown
K Jet, Queenstown

This thrilling adventure will take you speeding past rock walls and scenic landscapes across crystal clear, shallow water. In addition to zipping over the Kawarau River, you’ll also journey through Lake Wakatipu and the Shotover River giving you three diverse environments to conquer.

The K Jet departs multiple times a day all year round, so you’ll be able to hitch a high-speed ride with ease!

View Jet Boating Experiences

4. Sky Jump

SkyJump, Auckland
SkyJump, Auckland

Where?: Auckland

A destination specific activity now, the Auckland Tower Sky Jump is one of the most exhilarating, terrifying and scenic experiences in one of New Zealand’s most popular cities. This adventure will see you rise to the top of the SkyTower in the CBD to take in impressive views of the surrounding region before jumping off the side of the tallest manmade structure in the country.

The SkyTower is a popular destination for visitors looking to admire views of the greater Auckland region and those who have decided they’re not afraid of heights and have signed up to jump off the top of the tower.

From here you’ll be kitted up in a jumpsuit, clipped into a safety harness and have your nerves calmed by the friendly and cheerful staff, or made worse depending on who you get. The walk to the edge is always the worst but make sure you smile for the camera you’ll be holding because this will definitely be one of your most memorable adventures in Auckland.

As you inch closer and closer to the edge the time will come for you to take that giant step off the edge. This will probably make the list for one of the weirdest sensations you’ve ever felt as you do a controlled fall down the side of the building to the platform and staff waiting below.

Once you’ve reached the bottom you’ll be itching to go back up and do it all again because it is equally exhilarating, terrifying and rewarding.

View SkyJump Experience

3. Bungy Jumping

Kawarau Bridge Bungy, Queenstown
Kawarau Bridge Bungy, Queenstown

Where?: Queenstown

A regular on the extreme scene, bungy jumping in New Zealand is like riding a bike. As the birthplace of the thrilling experience, there’s no better way to swallow your fear and jump off than New Zealand.

The number one stand out destination for bungy jumping in New Zealand is the Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown. The place where AJ Hackett himself took the leap all those years ago and the original commercial bungy site in the world, bungy jumping off Kawarau Bridge with popular adrenaline company, AJ Hackett, is a true bucket list item and one that comes with some epic bragging rights.

At 43 metres high you’ll be walked to the launch point in the middle of the bridge, harnessed up, teased about your nerves by the humourous jump staff and edged up to the line ready to go. With the crew behind you egging you on and a group of spectators gathered on the viewing platform to your right, you’ll receive the iconic countdown. 3… 2… 1… Bungy!!!!!

From here, you’ll plummet down to the Kawarau River below – or into the water, if you choose – with your scream filling the canyon around you. With a few bounces at the bottom, you’ll be lifted back up to the platform and plant your feet on the solid platform.

There are various other destinations around Queenstown where you can take the leap including The Ledge and Nevis Bungy in Queenstown, and then there’s Hanmer Springs, Rotorua, Taupo and Auckland.

View Bungy Experience

2. Skydiving

NZone Tandem Skydive, Queenstown
NZone Tandem Skydive, Queenstown

Where?: Queenstown

Another classic extreme activity, tandem skydiving is a definite must-do anywhere in the world but especially in New Zealand. There are a number of places around the country where you can strap yourself to an experienced instructor, freefall and glide back down to earth including Abel Tasman, Taupo and Queenstown.

Our top pick is in, you guessed it, Queenstown with NZone Skydive. The pure serenity of this specific experience makes it something you’ll never forget. The thrill of freefalling and then being caught by your parachute is one that is made even better with the views of snowcapped mountains (in winter) and reflective water.

For those who have made the first brave decision to take the leap, you’ll be happy to know there are three different height levels to choose from. The lowest jump is at 9,000ft (25-second free fall), the middle jump is at 12,000ft (45-second freefall) and the highest and most popular jump is at 15,000ft (60-second freefall).

For those folk sitting and reading this thinking “15,000ft it is!” your future self might be cursing you as they go to jump (or be pushed in certain circumstances) while strapped to their instructor 15,000ft above the ground. The moral of the story here is, just think before you click.

View Skydiving Experience

1. Canyon Swing

Where?: Queenstown

Taking the cake for extreme activities in New Zealand is the famous Shotover Canyon Swing. The highest canyon swing in the world, this is an experience to test the nerves of the bravest thrill-seekers.

Located on the outskirts of Queenstown (surprise, surprise) the staff at the Shotover Canyon Swing have one of the nicest views in the world and one of the best jobs. A highly professional experience with a bit (or a lot) of classic Kiwi humour thrown in, you’ll never forget this incredible experience (I know I haven’t).

Before you can get strapped into the harness you’ll have to pick out your swing style. There is a range of different styles to choose from including the Indian Rope Trick, This Is Sparta and The Chair, each with different ‘underpants’ ratings letting you know how extreme it is. I strongly recommend the Gimpboy Goes To Hollywood for both tandem and solo visitors, you won’t regret it (you will when it’s getting set up but trust me, it’s great).

You can swing out on your own or with a friend, but choose your partners wisely because you might be responsible for their partial loss of hearing after the swing.

The stats for the swing? You’ll launch off the 109m-high cliff edge, freefall for a total of 60 metres reaching speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour and swing in a 200-metre arc before swinging to a slow pendulum and being winched back up to the top.

Words can’t describe how amazing this experience is, so we’ll just show you. Here’s a video of my visit to Queenstown and the team at Shotover Canyon Swing.

The Canyon Swing isn’t the only adventure available on site, you can also experience their newest addition the Shotover Canyon Fox. A large flying fox spanning the width of the canyon, this, in my opinion, was even more terrifying.

One by one, you’ll strap into a harness and have the chance to run, jump or be slowly pushed off the edge to take in awesome views of the canyon below and fill the area with your screams. The second zip line allows you to race your friend back to the starting line for a fun, less extreme adventure.

Queenstown is also home to some other epic swings including the Nevis Swing and The Ledge Swing.

View Canyon Swing Experience

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Brittney Deguara

Experience Oz + NZ Travel Writer

Brittney loves travelling, so it's only fitting she's one of our travel writers! A go-to contact for all things travel in Australia and New Zealand, Brittney is always planning her next adventure away from the desk. If you have any story ideas or questions contact her at brittney@experienceoz.com.au

2 Comments
  1. I did the canyon swing last Nov, loved the first jump soo much I did the chair backward which was sooo much better, loved Queenstown, I tell everyone, it’s the adrenalin capital of the world, gotta go back there, sooo much more to do

    1. That’s awesome Watson! I did the ‘Gimp Boy Goes To Hollywood’ it was terrifying and awesome at the same time!

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