Skydiving. Bungy jumping. Canyoning. Snowboarding. White-water rafting. It’s not hard to see how Queenstown got its nickname. Known as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is filled with nearly every thrilling activity and extreme sport you can imagine. One trip just isn’t enough – it’s only after my second visit to Queenstown, that I feel I truly experienced most of what the city has to offer. That being said, I could still return and fill up an entire week with new activities if I wanted to. If you’re heading to Queenstown in search of some adventure, definitely check these out:
Shotover Jetboat: Flying through canyons at around 85kph, you’ll make sharp turns, do 360° spins and miss rocks by just millimeters! You’ll be thankful for the windproof jacket they provide when you get sprayed by glacial river-water and feel the frigid wind on your face. What an adrenaline-rush though– definitely the most exhilarating boat ride I’ve ever been on. Their tagline “the world’s most exciting jet boat ride” is no lie… But adrenaline-rush aside, even the scenery makes for an awesome ride. The steep walls of rocky canyons filled with rushing icy blue water is quite a spectacular site on its own.
Heli-Rafting (Helicopter Ride & White-Water Rafting): After changing into wetsuits for white-water rafting, you’ll be picked up by helicopter from the Heli-pad, which is on a scenic lookout to majestic mountains and patchworks of farmlands. Choose either the Shotover River (grade 3-5 with a flight through canyons over the Shotover River rapids) or the Kawarau River (grade 2-3 with a flight featuring spectacular views of the Remarkables mountains). Post flight, you’ll divide into raft groups and hurtle down the raging rapids, hoping you’re not in the one raft that flips… It’s hard to say which is better between Kawarau and Shotover – it really depends on the level of white-water you prefer.
Bungy Jumping: While there are a variety of places to go bungy jumping in Queenstown, I’ve only done The Ledge Bungy, which is located at the top of the Gondola 400m above Queenstown overlooking the city. It features a full-body harness that allows you to jump however you like (flip, dive, cartwheel off… anything goes!) This was lucky for me, a first-time jumper, as I never would’ve been able to make myself jump headfirst. The Ledge is also open at night during the winter, so you can ski by day and bungy by night – pretty cool! The Ledge was plenty enough for me, but if you crave even more adrenaline, check out the Nevis Bungy (134m and 8.5 seconds of free fall) or Nevis Swing (highest swing in the world).
Skyine Gondola & Luge: While not an “adventure activity” per say, the Gondola makes it onto the list for the breathtaking panoramic view it provides of Queenstown as you rise up the mountain, and because it’s the means of reaching additional adventure activities. At the top, hop into a luge cart and race down the track as you try not to be too distracted by the gorgeous scenery.
A more adventurous (and free) option to the Gondola is to walk to the top via the Tiki Trail, which starts just at the bottom of the Gondola entrance. This trail takes about an hour as you zigzag up through the forest, passing scenic overlooks of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. This path also takes you past Ziptrek ziplines and insane-looking mountain bike trails (make sure you don’t accidentally go up one of these, as my brother and I did)! If you’re looking for a hike of moderate difficulty, Tiki Trail is about the closest good hike to the city center. You can also continue on to complete the Ben Lomond summit (adding another 4-5 hours return), which is one of the highest peaks in the Wakatipu basin, so you’re guaranteed some extraordinary views.
Skydiving: While bungy jumping absolutely terrified me, skydiving was much easier, and to this day remains not only my most memorable experience in NZ, but also the most memorable experience of my entire life. I made the jump with NZone Skydive from 15,000ft and enjoyed 60 seconds of exhilarating free fall and the most beautiful views of sapphire blue lakes, snowcapped mountains, and rolling green farmlands. While skydiving is an exciting experience from anywhere in the world, Queenstown is a particularly stunning place to go. Read more about my first skydiving experience here.
River Surfing: Taking place in the Kawarau River (which starred as the River Anduin in The Lord of the Rings), river surfing is a thrilling adventure, especially considering most people have never heard of it before. Holding onto a boogie board and kicking your flippers, you’ll follow the guide around rocks and through dangerous rapids that whisk you down the river, stopping at times to surf standing waves and ride whirlpools. Fun fact: Queenstown is actually the birth of river surfing!
Canyoning: Literally turning the world into your natural playground, canyoning involves getting down a mountainous waterway by various means including abseiling, sliding, jumping, and swimming. I did the Routeburn Canyon trip, which is the full-day option available to beginners. (The other beginner option available is the ½ day Queenstown Canyon, but I’d highly recommend the full day as even that felt too short). The Routeburn Canyon lies an hour outside of Queenstown in World Heritage area Mount Aspiring National Park, full of waterfalls, natural water slides, and pools. The guides will show you how to slide down natural waterfalls, jump off waterfalls into pools, and abseil down steep cliff faces, keeping your adrenaline pumping the whole time.
Paddleboarding/Kayaking: Along the beach of pristine Lake Wakatipu are a few stands that rent out paddleboards and kayaks. The sparkling blue lake is picture-perfect, juxtaposed nicely with the rugged mountains. *Note: You can save some cash by heading to Wanaka, where paddleboards are only $15/hr (they’re $25/45 minutes in Queenstown), and Lake Wanaka is equally as scenic.
Along with the above activities are many others that I have yet to try in Queenstown: Wakeboarding/Waterskiing, Skiing/Snowboarding, Jet Skiing, Paragliding, Hang-gliding, Mountain Biking, etc… Although I jam-packed each day of my trips to Queenstown, there were just too many action-packed adventures to do them all. Oh well. Just another excuse to go back again…
Have you been to Queenstown? What were your favorites?
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌