Top 10 Adventure Experiences | New Zealand

Adventure sports New Zealand

About New Zealand / May 24, 2020

National Geographic Adventures LogoNew Zealand’s South Island is split by the snowcapped spine of the Southern Alps, fringed with karst cave systems and wild beaches, laced with gorgeous fjords, and iced with glaciers. It’s no wonder that the “adventure capital of the world” is found here. Set off on a multi-sport adventure, paddling along the pristine northern coast in a sea kayak, hiking coastal trails between soaring mountains and the Tasman Sea, trekking across a glacial landscapes, and black-water rafting on a subterranean river. Get to know the charm and personality of towns like Nelson and Wanaka, and opt to try bungee jumping in Queenstown, birthplace of the commercial sport. Then cap off the adventure with an overnight cruise on the sublime Milford Sound.

Trip Highlights

  • Sea kayak among dolphins and fur seals on the coast of Abel Tasman National Park.
  • Explore the Franz Josef Glacier area by foot or an optional helicopter ride, weather permitting.
  • See the towering limestone formation known as the Pancake Rocks, formed over millions of years.
  • Stargaze and watch for wildlife on an overnight cruise in glorious Milford Sound.
Day 1 — Nelson, New Zealand

Arrive in Nelson, a sunny hub of artists and craftspeople on the northern shores of the South Island. Gather for an orientation at our waterfront hotel and enjoy time to discover this vibrant town before our welcome dinner tonight.
Rutherford Hotel Nelson (D)

Day 2 — Abel Tasman National Park

Travel to Kaiteriteri and catch a water taxi into Abel Tasman National Park. Set out on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, declared one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” by the Department of Conservation. Hike through lush native forests and along granite and limestone cliffs and pristine gold-sand beaches, and arrive at our eco-lodge on the edge of Awaroa Bay. (4 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
Awaroa Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 3 — Abel Tasman National Park

Spend the day exploring the spectacular Tonga Island Marine Reserve by sea kayak. Paddle into inlets and intimate coves, keeping an eye out for dolphins, fur seals, and little blue penguins. From our take-out point on the beach at Onetahuti, hike the Coast Track back to our lodge. (1 mile hiking, 1 hour; 4–5 miles paddling, 4–5 hours)
Awaroa Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 4 — West Coast/Buller River

Early morning, return to Kaiteriteri by water taxi. Leaving Kaiterteri we head west along the Wairau Valley to the town of Murchison. After donning our wetsuits we drive to the put in for our class III-IV raft trip through the Buller Gorge. We experience exhilarating whitewater as the Buller River surges through the confines of granite gorges with lush beech forest above. Back in our vehicle, we follow the river towards the West Coast. The coastline stretches for 500 miles, but you’ll never have to worry about crowds—only 40, 000 people live in the entire region! Then we’ll be checking into our beachfront hotel in Punakaiki.
Punakaiki Resort (B, L, D)

Day 5 — Paparoa National Park

This morning we set off on a hike that follows the Pororari River upstream into the Paparoa National Park. We’ll pass through the Pororari River Gorge, a valley lined on both sides by dramatic limestone cliffs and bluffs towering over the gorge and river. Return to Punakaiki for a visit to the fantastic Pancake Rocks, then continue to Hokitika and enjoy free time to wander through town or stroll the beach. (6 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Beachfront Hotel Hokitika (B, L, D)

Day 6 — Okarito

Hit the trail in Okarito, taking in a magnificent panorama of wild coastline and soaring, icy peaks including, on a clear day, Mount Cook, the highest summit in New Zealand. Continue into Westland Tai Poutini National Park, part of southwest New Zealand’s extensive World Heritage area. (5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Te Waonui Forest Retreat (B, L, D)

Day 7 — Franz Josef Glacier

Set out on a hike this morning with our guide to explore the Franz Josef area by foot. Weather permitting, perhaps choose to book an optional flightseeing helicopter ride for views of the glacier (additional cost). This afternoon, relax at a café, or enjoy the glacier hot pools. (2 miles hiking, 2–3 hours)
Te Waonui Forest Retreat (B, L)

Day 8 — Southern Alps/Wanaka

Travel into the Southern Alps today, crossing the Main Divide on our way to the Southern Lakes District and the charming town of Wanaka. Trace the shores of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, and stop for short hikes along our route.
Grand Mecure Oakridge Resort (B, L, D)

Day 9 — Mt Aspiring National Park

Follow the Matukituki River valley into Mount Aspiring National Park. Spend the day hiking the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain tracks, and take in stunning alpine views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. (6 miles hiking, 4–6 hours)