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Credit: Zorb Rotorua

Best (Alternative) Adrenalin Activities in NZ

Should you happen to fall into the category of individuals who enjoy being dropped from a great height and leaping into thin air or otherwise get a kick from the idea of being catapulted, rolled, suspended by various body parts or whizzed at great speed, New Zealand is the destination for you.

Seemingly endless operators around both the North and South Islands are armed and ready to scare you stupid in any number of inventive ways ensuring ultimate white-knuckle highs to satisfy even the most kamikaze of adrenalin junkies.

Bungee jumps and skydives are where most of the country's visitors get their fix but the Kiwis are super-inventive and have far more than this on the menu for the adventure seeker. Here are a few of the alternative adrenalin activity options available.

Credit: Shotover Canyon
Credit: Shotover Canyon

Canyon Swings

If the word 'swing' in the title conjures up images of sedentary children's playgrounds you might think very differently when you see what it can mean in New Zealand. Even dyed-in-the-wool adrenalin junkies have been known to cry a little while experiencing this mix of human catapult, bungee and enormous pendulum.

Here's how it are escorted to a ledge, platform/cliff where the next thing below you is a loooong way down. Safety straps are applied and at whichever moment your nerves feel steeled enough you can release yourself (or sometimes the releasing is done for you) to complete a free-fall of up to 60 metres, after which the pendulum effect hits in. The arc you will trace in the air as you laugh or scream at the top of your lungs will see you hitting speeds of up to 150 kph. Check out some of the hundreds of You Tube videos of others who have been before you to get some idea of the nerves needed to partake.

Where: The Shotover Canyon Swing - Queenstown, South Island – the launch is from 109 metres, the free-fall element 60 metres and the setting a rocky cliff face which just happens to be the world's highest. The jump menu – forwards, backwards, upside down etc - has a choice of 70 styles which includes enjoying your terror strapped to a buddy. Scenery – stunning. There is also a Canyon Fox here – an extreme flying fox experience described by the folk who run it as 'the world's first running, flying, dropping, screaming, foxing thing'.

Mokai Gravity Canyon – Taihape, South Island – 50 metres of free-fall from a bridge launch which will see you swinging wildly 80 metres above the river bed; a beautiful setting. Gravity Canyon also offer an extreme flying fox experience too where those who dare will reach speeds of up to 160 km/100 miles per hour on the kilometre long zip-line.

Taupo Cliffhanger – Taupo, North Island – Another setting of the lovely variety, this time in the Waikato River Valley. Here you can opt in for the release countdown or go for the 'don't-tell-me-just-do-it' choice. Either way, you'll drop around 34 metres until 10 metres or so above the water after which you will find yourself racing at anything up to 70 kph, making like a human pendulum with an arc of almost 180°.

Credit: Zorb Rotorua
Credit: Zorb Rotorua


Kiwis are crazy inventive when it comes to adrenalin activities. The totally bonkers concept of placing humans inside a giant see-through ball and then rolling them down some kind of incline was christened 'zorbing' and born right here in New Zealand.

Settings matter little with this fun ride because it's unlikely you'll see much of it besides the odd blurred glimpse and probably from an upside down perspective. The variations on a theme see double-occupation zorbing so you can get giddy with a pal or you can opt for an orb half-filled with water.

Where: Rotorua

White Water River Surfing and Sledging

If conventional white-water rafting seems a little old hat you might be interested in signing up for its modern cousin – white water sledging. Thrills and spills are still very much the theme but you swap the raft for a specially-designed body board of which you are the solo pilot and steer (allegedly) by means of the flippers on your feet. The perspective is eye-level and – as with conventional white-water rafting – there will be serene sections where you can get your breath back and take-in some of the stunning river scenery around you. Otherwise your white-knuckle ride involves a great deal of racing, lurching, shooting rapids, playing with whirlpools, tackling standing waves and testing your mettle with mighty rock jump entries.

Experiences range from mainly tranquil floats on grade 2 rated river sections to extreme surfing on rather more challenging grade 4 offerings.

Where: Rotorua and Queenstown

Base Jumping

If you are an adrenaline-experience collector you'll gain no greater kudos than by being able to say you have a base jump under your belt. Chances to do this commercially around the world are few but New Zealand of course makes it possible. Your setting and launch site for your wire-attached base jump is Auckland's iconic Sky Tower. Here you can experience a gut-wrenching 11 seconds of free-fall as you plummet towards earth at 85 kph followed by a dignified, controlled landing in the Sky City Plaza surrounded by the admiring gazes of onlookers.

The Skytower is also home to the Skywalk which allows thrill-seekers to take a saunter around a very narrow platform without walls or barriers of any kind at 192 metres above the city. 

Where: Auckland

Credit: Mark Downey
Credit: Mark Downey

Giant Dune Sand Surfing

Unlike most of the other high adrenalin activities this one won't cost you a penny. This is how you do it. First – find an enormous dune. Second - trudge your way to the top, not forgetting to take with you a body board/tea-tray/piece of cardboard etc. Third - launch yourself head-first down a seemingly vertical slope.

Speeds are high and should your ride end in a wipe-out expect to be finding sand in the most unlikely of personal places for the next few days. Assuming a belly-down body board position is the way most go but there are also the crazy few who do it standing up.

Where: The number one spot are the Te Paki dunes at the north end of Ninety Mile Beach in the Far North of the North Island but there are a few other spots as well.

Anti-Gravity, Bodyflying

Calling all those who cherish dreams of flying like a super hero. In reality this isn't a true anti-gravity experience but rather an unattached suspension at the top of a mighty blast of air around 4 metres from the ground. Your flight master will have kitted you out first with a flight suit and shared his secret tips and tricks for optimising your gravity-defying fun.

There is currently only one place in New Zealand where you can bodyfly and that's in Rotorua.

Where: Rotorua


The Skywire is another 'one of a kind' experience for all those whose day is not quite complete without a little terror. Imagine a combo with elements of both flying fox and four person chairlift, soaring 150 metres above the ground and perhaps you are now picturing this particular attraction which will whizz you through the most extreme sections at 100 kph.

Where: Just outside Nelson, South Island


Here's a potential heart thumper for all those who like a little variety in their dare-devil exploits. Canyoning will see you racing down zip-lines, abseiling waterfalls, shooting down challenging water chutes, swimming across pools, jumping from great heights and otherwise utilising any kind of scrambling, climbing, slipping or sliding method of choice to make your way across wet rock surfaces. Being thoroughly soaked for the entirety of your canyoning fun is standard but wetsuits and hard hats are supplied.

Where: There are lots of canyons in New Zealand so there are plenty of places to try your hand at canyoning. These include Auckland/Piha and the Coromandel on the North Island and Wanaka, Queenstown and the Abel Tasman on the South Island.

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