Chances are, the first thing you ever knew about New Zealand was the All Blacks and the haka. It’s no accident: we’re famous for our love of rugby. But that’s just the beginning. You’ll find mountains, forests, rivers and oceans, all within a stone’s throw from whereveryou live in New Zealand. Top it off with a deep, blue, southern sky, and you’ll quickly find New Zealand is the place where the outdoors come to life.
If possible, the best way to arrive in New Zealand is by boat! People have been migrating to New Zealand by boat for over 900 years. Surrounded by oceans and with 14,000 km of coastline, we’re proud of our salt water veins. The Hauraki Gulf, the Marlborough Sounds and the Bay of Islands are just three of our world class cruising and fishing grounds. The Abel Tasman National Park is one of the world’s few National Parks navigable by kayak, and there are countless river and lake adventures to be had all over the country.
The art of jumping off bridges with elastic bands tied round your ankles was popularised by a Kiwi called Alan, also known as A J Hacket. But an early form has been practiced in one New Zealand’s neighbours – Vanuatu – for hundreds of years. No flouncy rubber bands there. Just vines. Talk about a leap of faith.
Anyway, with mountains, rivers and bridges galore, New Zealand is the perfect place to score one of the great adrenalin buzzes of our time. The main places for bungee mayhem are Taupo, Queenstown, Hamner and Rotorua. But for urban adrenaline junkies, there’s always the Sky Tower in Auckland.
Being rather mountainous, New Zealand consequently has some spectacular caves. Some have glow-worms. Some have streams and waterfalls. Some have otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites. Waitomo in the central North Island is the place to go.
Cycling in New Zealand is undergoing a transformation. In Auckland, it will soon be possible to cycle over our iconic harbour bridge, with spectacular views of the harbour and city. And in 2015 Auckland Council announced a hundred million dollar investment to increase separated cycle lanes on key commuter routes. Meanwhile, the Government is building a network of long distance, scenic cycle tours across the entire country, and pretty much everywhere has world-class mountain bike trails.
New Zealand’s got rivers. Big ones, and plenty of them. Some of them go quite fast, and quite steep, over some quite big rocks. Naturally, you’d want to strap yourself onto an inflatable raft and go over those rocks, too. With a wide range of options from beginner grade to white knuckle rides that’ll burst your adrenal gland, rafting is a great way to get up close and personal with mother nature.
With numerous volcanic cones in the central North Island, and a mountain range about a thousand miles long in the South Island, we’re not short of some decent snow. In fact, it’s been said that for three months of the year, we’re the only sensible place on Earth to ski, or board, or throw snow-balls. And indeed, it’s not uncommon to find Northern Hemisphere professionals here for their summer training (because who needs summer when you’re high on the slopes, right?).
Walking & hiking
While people have been arriving here by boat for hundreds of years, New Zealand’s interior was discovered almost entirely by foot. The Department of Conservation manages tens of thousands of kilometres of tracks and paths, some of which is world famous, all of which is beautiful, and one of which was nominated by National Geographic for the world’s best one day walk (the Tongariro Crossing). You haven’t really been here until you’ve wandered up a mountain.