rotorua rafters about to get hit by a wave

12 Crazy Adrenaline Activities To Try In New Zealand

While Queenstown gets all the glory for being New Zealand’s adrenaline capital, we know a few more hotspots to suit your mood and adrenaline tolerance!

North Island
South Island

Keen to base jump off New Zealand’s tallest building? Climb, leap and zipline underground? Tempt fate on an active volcano? Here are our suggestions for adrenaline activities and where to do them.

Scuba diving & Snorkelling

Bay of Islands

Diving in Northland 

Channel your inner Jacques Cousteau and ease into New Zealand’s adrenaline with something adrenaline-light. Kilometres of rugged coastline and sheltered subtropical waters mean Northland proffers an aquatic paradise with hundreds of world-class diving sights for old pros and novice scuba-discoverers.

Oxygen tank a bit much? Opt for a swimsuit and snorkel and swim the surface with up to 45m visibility into pristine marine environments. Discover the Poor Knights Islands Marine and Nature Reserve for underwater cliffs and fish-filled caverns and some of the Bay of Islands’ 144 islands for top-notch shipwreck dives.

Where to Stay

 YHA bay of Islands Paihia hostel accommodation

In the Bay of Islands, you're spoilt for choice with a land based option at YHA Paihia, or a seaworthy stay at YHA Bay of Islands, The Rock Adventure Cruise. This overnight boat cruise will even incorporate some snorkelling and night kayaking into your trip!

YHA Bay of Islands Paihia
Bay of Islands The Rock

 Adventure cruise in the Bay of Islands


Jump off a building

Skyjump & Skywalk, Auckland


It’s a bird…it’s a plane! No, it’s you and you’re about to base jump by wire off New Zealand’s tallest building. Harness up on the 60th floor of the Sky Tower and then walk the gangplank before the adrenaline-conscious staff count you down: 3… 2… 1…


Skywalk Skywalk in Auckland City

Keep your eyes wide for the 192 metre, 85kph, 8 second descent to enjoy views of New Zealand’s largest city. Amp up the adrenaline? Before you jump, circumnavigate the Sky Tower’s pergola. No balcony. No railings. And no worries – with a full body harness you can relax and enjoy 360° views.


Hot air ballooning


Balloons over Waikato

Head up, up and away at the crack of dawn in a hot air balloon over the Waikato region’s lush lowlands, farmlands, bush-clad extinct volcanoes and New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato River. On clear days spy two of the North Island’s mighty mountains: Mt Ruapehu (2,797m) and Mt Taranaki (2,518m). The wind is boss and dictates speed, direction and the destination so no two flights are the same. The folks in Hamilton are so hooked on ballooning, they throw an annual festival to celebrate it all, launching 30 balloons into the skies over five days.

White water rafting


Rafting in Rotorua

Rotorua is New Zealand’s hub of all things geothermal (hot springs, geysers, boiling mud pools). It’s also a home New Zealand’s most popular white water rafting run: the Kaituna River. World-class guides say a Māori karakia/prayer of thanks and protection before sending you down a (very forgiving) grade 5 river. Raft through a narrow bush-lined gorge with sheer rock walls, rapids, waterfalls and pools steeped in Māori history. During past tribal wars women and children were hidden in caves behind and around the 7 metre Tutea Falls, today the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world and the heart-pumping climax of your trip.


Black Water Rafting


Black water rafting in Waitomo

Sound like white water rafting’s lesser-known evil twin sibling? Not at all. Black water rafting itself is tamer but takes its adrenaline underground. From the sunlight of the Waitomo forest, abseil into a seemingly bottomless abyss and enter the world of labyrinthine caves, tunnels, sinkholes and rivers where stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms are ripe for discovery. Climb, leap and zipline to the Waitomo River where you’ll plant your bum in a rubber tube and float down the black water rapids with only your head torch and galaxies of glow worms to guide you.

Where to Stay

YHA Waitomo Juno Hall YHA Waitomo swimming pool YHA Waitomo Juno Hall

Waitomo has always been a famous location for it's glow worm caves, and YHA Waitomo, Juno Hall provides a great atmosphere to wind down after a day's adventure. Their large swimming pool is a perfect spot to laze about, or if you fancy a bit of a stroll, you can explore the farm grounds at your leisure.

YHA Waitomo

Ski or snowboard an active volcano

National Park

Skiing near Ohakune

Carving up the freshies down the side of a volcanic cone is an exercise in unadulterated adrenaline. Welcome to Mt Ruapehu, host to not one, but three ski fields! From beginner slopes to snow-filled basins, steep chutes, powder stashes and long runs to backcountry, bumps, bowls and drop-offs, few places in the world give snow enthusiasts their fix on an active volcano. Amp up the adrenaline? Trudge to the crater rim and saddle and put your legs to the test with Australasia's longest vertical descent at 2,000 metres.

Where to Stay

 YHA National Park

YHA National Park is an excellent base to explore the Tongariro Crossing, nearby cycle routes, or the Whanganui River. The region's ski fields are no exception! The hostel can help arrange your transport and ski hire, and has stunning views of Tongariro National Park to enjoy when you put your feet up at the end of the day.

YHA National Park

Mountain Biking

Marlborough Sounds

Queen Charlotte track

For seasoned mountain bikers, the 70km, shared-use Queen Charlotte Track guarantees grunt and uncontestably beautiful coastal scenery with every wheel rotation. Digest adrenaline on skyline ridges, with sweeping downhills, challenging climbs, technical descents and other tricky sections. Begin in Picton with a boat ride to Ship Cove (there’s no road to the start of the track), have your luggage portaged to your accommodation stop each night and finish 70 hard-earned-kilometres later in Anakiwa. If two - three days’ peddling doesn’t appeal, day rides for the less seasoned, but no less enthusiastic, offer flat sections and well-graded inclines. 
Want other places to hit the trails? Read more

Where to Stay

YHA Picton YHA Picton

Our staff at YHA Picton, The Villa are poised and ready to help organise your transfers and accommodation on the Queen Charlotte Track, but they also make a great home base to return to after your ride. Hot apple crumble with ice cream and free breakfast are some special favourites among returning guests from May - October, and the spa pool and courtyard fire will be a welcome sight for your aching muscles too.

YHA Picton

Paragliding & Hang Gliding


Paragliding in Nelson

Join the seabirds in sunny Nelson (averaging over 2,400 sunshine hours per year) and tap into humanity’s universal fascination with flight. Go tandem paragliding and hang gliding with updraughts, ridges and thermals aplenty. A mix of adrenaline and serenity, paragliding and hang gliding suit the faint-of-hearts and the not-so-faint-of-hearts as both can be adrenaline fuelled or light. Here, you won’t be asked to run off a cliff, start up an engine or carry a heavy frame. Simply strap in to your trusty pilot and enjoy the bird’s-eye-views over mountains, gold sand coastlines and three National Parks. 

Where to Stay

YHA Nelson YHA Golden Bay

We've got you covered with a 5 star Qualmark-rated hostel right in the center of town. YHA Nelson by Accents can help you book your paragliding or sky diving experience, or simply point you in the direction of the nearest beach or winery if you've had enough excitement for one day. YHA Golden Bay, Annie's Nirvana Lodge is located a little bit closer to the famous Abel Tasman National Park which makes for some excellent kayaking adventures if you prefer water based activities nearby.

YHA Nelson
YHA Golden Bay

Thrillseekers Adventures

Hanmer Springs

Quad biking in Hanmer Springs

Get past the soporific façade of this alpine village and it all gets a wee bit adrenaline mad. Best known for its thermal pools rich in salts and minerals, Hanmer’s wild side is a thrillseeker’s playground with so much going on. You want jetboating? White water rafting? Bungy jumping? Quad biking? Paintball and claybird shooting? Hanmer’s got it. And then some. And it’s all backdropped by sculpted mountains and river valleys, towering forests and braided rivers. So get ready to get your heart racing for a fast-paced, non-stop thrills kind of day. The only downside? You might not be able to wipe that grin off your face. And if it all gets to be a bit too much, you can still soak in those thermal pools.

Where to Stay

YHA Hanmer Springs YHA Hanmer Springs

Amidst this hub of activity is YHA Hanmer Springs, Kakapo Lodge, complete with log fire, movie hire, and a view of the Southern Alps for when you retire at the end of the day. The hostel is conveniently located next to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools complex, in close proximity to the town's restaurants and pubs.

YHA Hanmer Springs

Hike a Glacier

Franz Josef & Aoraki Mount Cook

Hiking Fox Glacier

New Zealand is home to over 3,000 glaciers so lace up your boots, strap on some crampons and lasso in a skilled guide, we’re going ice hiking! The West Coast is known for rainforest, wild coastal weather and two tunnel and cave-laden glaciers. Fox (13km long) and Franz Josef (12km) Glaciers are relics of the last ice age and are unique in the world for their descent into and rise above rainforest and their extent almost to the sea. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is 35km inland from Franz Josef as the crow flies and a 5 ½ hour drive around the Southern Alps where ice junkies can scope out the big daddy of New Zealand glaciers, the Tasman Glacier (27km). Fly past the east face of Aoraki Mount Cook to discover ice caves and spectacular glacier formations.




Skydive Wanaka

Step 1: Strap yourself to a beautiful stranger. Step 2: Throw yourself from a perfectly good aeroplane. Step 3: Freefall fast and furious at 200kph from a whopping 12,000 or 15,000 feet before pulling the chute to enjoy unrivalled views of Wanaka’s lush valleys and mountains, lakes cradled by hills and cliffs, pristine rivers, tumbling glaciers and two of New Zealand’s titanic mountains: Aoraki Mount Cook (3,724m) and Mt Aspiring (3,033m). This activity-filled, four-season alpine town and region has a bit of it all, and it’s best seen while airborne. (Skydiving—been there, done that? Try jumping from a helicopter for a 12,000 foot heli-skydive.) After you’ve jumped from the bluebird sky, grab a pint at one of the nearby historic pubs. 




Canyoning New Zealand

Queenstown is undoubtedly New Zealand’s adrenaline capital with bungys galore, skydiving, canyon swinging, jetboating and more. Include canyoning on that adrenaline-worthy list! Jump, slide, abseil, zip, float, plunge, scramble, leap and swim through canyons, narrow gorges with rock slide chutes, waterfalls and clear deep pools tucked beneath canopies of ancient rainforest for a most excellent downstream multisport adventure. The region’s glacial history and unique mountainous terrain lends itself to deeply eroded valleys, carved high-walled canyons and towering walls where rain, melting snow and ice create fast-flowing water and pounding cascades. Novice and advanced canyoneers take note! Pick a canyon to conquer from a National Park, picturesque valleys or a mountain peak. You can even opt in for heli canyoning.

More Recommended YHA Hostels

YHA Hanmer Springs viewed from the outside view more

YHA Hanmer Springs

Sitting adjacent to the town's main attraction, the hot springs, YHA Hanmer Springs is a modern backpacker hostel with all the home comforts you might need.

Find out more

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