A traditional Maori carving, Rotorua, New Zealand // © 2013 Pichugin Dmitry
When I was nine years old, my family planned an epic tour of New Zealand and hoped that I’d be game. My parents packed our itinerary to the brim with skiing, jet boating and parapenting excursions, just to name a few. My mother even had her heart set on bungy jumping for the first time — she came to her senses, however, after watching a daredevil take the plunge from one of Queenstown’s bridges, his long hair dipping into the river as he bobbed up and down.
For me, New Zealand has always been synonymous with adventure, and everyone who visits seems to come back with colorful stories of their own.
“I had a great experience black water rafting in Waitomo, New Zealand, recently,” said Vanessa Sawtell-Jones, travel advisor at Worldview Travel Beverly Hills. “I spent the afternoon repelling down caves, ziplining in the dark, gazing at the glow worms and spelunking through waterfalls. If you want to feel like Indiana Jones, this is the place to do it.”
Gregg Anderson, Tourism New Zealand’s general manager of Western long-haul markets, North America and Europe, has worked for the tourism board for more than 20 years. As a New Zealand native, he certainly has a few favorite activities to recommend to travelers.
“One of my favorite activities is the America’s Cup Sailing Experience with Explore NZ in Auckland, where you can sail on a former America’s Cup yacht,” said Anderson, who is an avid sailor. “It’s not just a leisurely sail though — they put you to work as a grinder and you help the crew steer the yacht. Anyone over 10 years old can take part and prior sailing experience is not necessary.”
Ian Swain, president of Swain Tours — which specializes in customized vacations to New Zealand and Australia — prefers adventure from great heights.
“One of my favorite New Zealand adventures is our West Coast Heli Adventure. You spend three nights at Grasmere Lodge and fly to the west coast for morning tea on the beach,” said Swain. “You visit glaciers, hike and enjoy lunch in the wonderful peaks high above the coastline. The trip ends at an old miners hut for an overnight stay. Hikes and serenity are paramount here.”
Whether you prefer hiking on glaciers, black water rafting or jumping off a bridge with little more than a bungee cord attached to your feet, New Zealand will satiate your appetite for adventure — or, perhaps, make you hungry for more.