Getaway Compass

10 Bucket List Adventures in New Zealand You Can’t Miss

New Zealand is one of the top adventure destinations in the world. With a vast range of landscapes from beaches to snow-capped mountains the list of adventure activities never ends. Spend time exploring the north island where you can find unbelievable geothermal features and unique hikes. Experience the South Island with a helicopter tour or kayak in Milford Sound. There are the 10 bucket list adventures in New Zealand you can’t miss.

1. Take a Helicopter Flight Over New Zealand's Tallest Mountain and Longest Glacier

Mount Cook Helicopter Tour
Mount Cook New Zealand
Glacier at Mount Cook National Park

The number one bucket list adventure you cannot miss in New Zealand is a helicopter flight over Mount Cook and Tasman Glacier. This 40-minute Mount Cook Mountains High Helicopter Flight with an alpine snow landing is the best way to fully experience Mount Cook National Park. The helicopter flight includes a landing on Tasman Glacier where you will get to spend about 10 minutes walking around and enjoying views of Mount Cook and the exceptional alpine landscape. It can be chilly during the snow landing so make sure to bring layers!

2. Kayak in Milford Sound

Kayak Milford Sound

The most extraordinary way to experience Milford Sound is to kayak in the Fiord. You can book a kayak experience with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks which offers a 2-hour paddle option (Milford Cruiser) and a 3-hour paddle option (Sunriser Classic). We did the Sunriser Classic which is about 10 km of kayaking in 3 hours. It was wonderful to be out on the water early when the sun first starts shining into the Fiord. We got to kayak near Bowen Falls, which at 162 meters is taller than Niagara Falls. 

For a shorter kayak trip combined with a boat cruise, book this Cruise and Kayak Tour with Southern Discoveries. For this tour no prior kayaking experience is required. You will have about 90 minutes to explore Harrison Cove in a group of up to 8 kayaks including a nature guide who will share information about fiord features and wildlife.

3. Hike New Zealand's Best Day Hike: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Emerald Lake Tongariro
Emerald Lake Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The best day hike in New Zealand is located in Tongariro National Park on New Zealand’s North Island. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4 km (12.1 miles) hike takes you through a volcanic alpine landscape with incredible views. On this remarkable hike you will get to see the red crater, emerald lakes, and blue lake. The emerald lake color is caused by minerals from the thermal environment and on a sunny day the color is very vibrant. Due to the acidity level of the water you cannot touch the water. 

The hike is an adventure, with about 2,800 ft of elevation gain and 12 miles long it can take between six and eight hours to complete. Tongariro Alpine Crossing was so intense that we had to change our plans for the following days since we needed to rest.

FREE New Zealand Google Maps List with 140+ Destinations

Get access to our FREE New Zealand google maps list with over 140 destinations across both North and South Island. Many destinations include detailed notes to help you adjust your day on-the-go. You will find hidden gems, hiking trails, viewpoints, activities you can’t miss, picturesque wineries, delicious restaurants, and more for the perfect New Zealand adventure. Make sure to download the offline version of our google maps so you can navigate to these destinations even when you don’t have service in remote areas.

4. Tandem Skydive Over Franz Josef

Skydive Franz Josef New Zealand
Skydive in New Zealand

Skydive in one of the most beautiful places in the world on this bucket list adventure in New Zealand. The most incredible experience we did in New Zealand is a tandem skydive over Franz Josef Glacier from 16,500 ft. We got to see views of the Tasman Sea, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and Mt Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak. There were breathtaking views from the plane as we were rising to 16,500 ft, but nothing beats the experience of falling with these views all around you. After free-falling for 60 seconds the instructor pulls out the parachute and you get to leisurely float down while enjoying the sensational views.

If you want to skydive but don’t want to jump from as high there are options to skydive from lower elevations. You can book this skydive from 13,000 ft or this skydive from 10,000 ft. The lower you skydive from the less time you will be free-falling and the cheaper the experience will cost. 

5. White Water Raft Down a Waterfall in Rotorua

New Zealand Bucket List Activity Rafting
White water rafting Rotorua

One of the best adrenaline-filled activities on the North Island of New Zealand is white water rafting down the Kaituna River. You will float down three waterfalls, including the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world called Tutea Falls (7 meters high). Make sure to book your rafting experience ahead of time so that you don’t miss out!

Rotorua Rafting provides a wet suit, booties, helmet, life vest, and paddle. All you will need is to bring a bathing suit to wear under the wet suit and a towel to dry off after. A photographer will be taking pictures of you throughout the white water rafting session, with a focus on pictures as you go down Tutea Falls, the highest waterfall. We are so glad we purchased the pictures after as it was a great way to remember our adventure.

6. Kayak in Abel Tasman National Park

Split Rock Beach Kayaking

A bucket list adventure in New Zealand that you can’t miss is kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. We rented kayaks for a few hours and explored the coastline, kayaking by Split Rock and around Ngaio Island. You could also kayak further into Abel Tasman National Park and stop at different secluded beaches. This one-day kayak rental provides all the equipment you need to kayak along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park. One benefit of this kayak rental is that you are not tied to a group and can explore at your own pace.

7. Fly over Fiordland National Park

Milford Sound Boat

A once in a lifetime experience in New Zealand is flying over Fiordland National Park. Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park takes a long time to reach by car from Queenstown. The round-trip drive to Fiordland National Park from Queenstown takes 8 hours. Instead of spending so much time in the car, experience a scenic flight to and from the park. This Milford Sound Flight and Boat Cruise from Queenstown offers a unique experience to fly over the Southern Alps and see Milford Sound from the air and water. On the flight you will see panoramic views of waterfalls, lakes, valleys, and snow-covered peaks. The scenic return flight is via a different flight path so that you get to see even more astonishing views.

8. Hike Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park

Hooker Valley Track
Hiking Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley Track is a 6.5-mile trail in Mount Cook National Park which guides you through the valley to Hooker Lake with Mount Cook towering above. You can spend time on the shore of the lake where you can see icebergs floating in the water during warmer months. The trail has no shade so make sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen on a sunny day. Hooker Valley Track is one of the best hikes in New Zealand.

9. Jet Boat Experience: Queenstown, Wanaka, Taupo, or Rotorua

An adventure activity that you need to do at least once while in New Zealand is go on a jet boat ride. You can find jet boat rides on several lakes and rivers throughout New Zealand including in Queenstown, Wanaka, Taupo and Rotorua . The most popular jet boat ride on the South Island is this Shotover River Extreme Jet Boat Ride in Queenstown. On the North Island this jet boat ride from Taupo takes you to Huka Falls on New Zealand’s longest river. 

10. Explore Geothermal Wonders in Rotorua

Frying Pan Lake
Inferno Crater Lake

Rotorua is a beautiful geothermal wonderland with many unique geothermal attractions. Start with a visit to Waimangu, the world’s youngest geothermal system and where you can see the aftermath of the 1886 volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera . The highlights here are Frying Pan Lake, one of the largest hot springs in the world, and inferno crater, a bright blue-colored hot spring. There are a number of different trails you can choose from to explore Waimangu Valley, ranging from 1.5 to 4 km, which can take 1 to 2 hours. Book your self-guided walk of Waimangu Volcanic Valley to explore this sensational destination at your own pace.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is another colorful and diverse geothermal area located near Rotorua. As you follow the trails you will see mesmerizing geothermal features including the largest mud pool in New Zealand, a bright green-colored lake, and the famous Champagne Pool. While at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, don’t miss Lady Knox Geyser which erupts once a day at 10:15 am and can reach a height of 10-20 meters.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Reut and Zack Elopement-5

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