Surrounded by both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, water is an essential lifeline in New Zealand and one of the top 10 countries in the world for water quality and quantity. With an abundance of rivers, lakes, underground aquifers, and good rainfall, it’s no wonder the Kiwis have learned to get a little wet and wild. East to west, top to bottom, you can find unique water attractions all over the North and South Island. Get ready to get splashtastic because in New Zealand, all you need to pack is a swimsuit and an adventurous spirit.
The unlaziest river you’ll likely ever encounter, blackwater rafting in Waitomo is less like whitewater rafting and more like river tubing through a glowworm cave. With only a headlamp to guide you, make no mistake; this isn’t a chill, lackadaisical float in the park. Despite the wetsuit, freezing temps will shock your system as your eyes try to adjust to the dark, making you hyper alert to the twinkling wonders around you. You’ll be trusted to take a leap of faith, jumping backwards down waterfalls as the icy groundwater steers you through the underground cave system.
Water Touch Bungy
For the adrenaline junkies out there, bungy jumping was invented in New Zealand and Taupo Bungy just so happens to offer the world’s highest water touch bungy. Shackled by the ankles, you’ll plunge, face-first off what looks like a high dive platform suspended 47 meters in the air. You can request either a hand touch or full submersion and go at it solo or tandem for the ultimate dunk tank experience.
If you feel the need, the need for speed, jet boats are an iconic Kiwi experience. A thrilling way to traverse the narrow rivers and gorges, hold on to your hats (and shades, they offer croakies) as these passenger boats can go up to 85 mph and whip you around in dizzying 360 degree spins that’ll have you giggling like a little girl and begging for more. Shotover Canyon is a popular option, but we recommend the Huka Falls Jetboat in Taupo. They’re the only company permitted to take you right up to the base of the mighty Huka Falls, which just so happens to be the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand.
Another crazy kiwi invention, zorbing involves rolling down a hill in a giant hamster wheel. There are both wet and dry tracks, but we say the wetter the better. Called the sidewinder at Ogo Rotorua, the ball is filled with 40 liters of water (cool in summer, warm in winter), and changes directions each time it comes in contact with the corners, sending you laughing and tumbling over yourself inside. What may feel like slosh ball as you zig zag your way down the hill is really just a great way to cool off in the summer heat.
New Zealand’s finest coastal national park, the brilliant turquoise waters and calm conditions of Abel Tasman Park make for a dreamy day on the sea. A bit of an upper body workout, kayaking is one of the essential Kiwi experiences and one of the best ways to get close to Split Apple Rock.
A more mellow water activity, the guided river punt through Christchurch’s botanic gardens will magically transport you to the canals of Venice in the 50s. Dressed in traditional Edwardian attire, skilled guides will steer your flat-bottomed boat along the river as you leisurely take in the beauty of the Garden City.