5 adrenaline-fueled New Zealand adventures

For adrenaline junkies in search of their latest fix, New Zealand delivers on the action-packed goods. Adrenaline-fueled adventures abound, with this country’s dramatic landscapes presenting the perfect playground for white-knuckled thrills in the great outdoors.

Think you’ve done it all? New Zealand offers just about every adventure activity you can think of—and many more you’ve likely never even considered. Choose from heart-pumping classics like rafting, rock climbing, rappelling, and more, or amp it up a notch with quick-fix adventure thrills like bungee jumping, sky diving, jet boating, and beyond.

But to really step outside your comfort zone, these five amped-up adventure activities sprinkle on the fear factor especially thick, for brag-worthy outings geared toward only the bravest of thrill seekers. You’ll be telling these tales till you’re old and gray—and might even get some new grays to commemorate them.

1. Pilot a Stunt Plane

Ever wanted to be a pilot? Or a stuntman? Knock ’em both out in one fell swoop—literally—with the ultimate adventure stunt-piloting excursion offered by U-fly Extreme. Take off from Motueka, near Abel Tasman National Park, where you’ll slip into a flight suit and goggles, buckle into the harness of an open-cockpit aerobatic biplane (a stylin’ 1940’s Pitts Special), and take the reins as the expert onboard flight instructor talks you through some 15 minutes of hands-on ultimate thrills. Tackle loops, rolls, and figure eights, or even fly the plane upside down—all piloted with your very own (sweaty) hands at the controls.

2. Set Out for Subterranean Rappelling, Blackwater Rafting, and More
Waitomo Caves

Combine rappelling, caving, zip-lining, and blackwater rafting into one unforgettable high-adrenaline adventure, courtesy of The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company’s half-day “Black Abyss” outing. Begin your with a 115-foot-high rappel into a narrow canyon slit before diving deeper into the black abyss of the Ruakuri Cave on a pitch-black zip-line course. Next up: Plunge from a ledge into the ice-cold cave waters, where you’ll alternate floating on an inner tube and hoofing it through the cave’s secret world of subterranean streams, as glowworms shimmer overhead. Want out? You’ll need to scale not one, but two, rushing waterfalls to get back to Earth’s refreshingly solid surface.

3. Swing into a Canyon Abyss

Channel your inner Tarzan-gone-mad with the gravity-defying Shotover Canyon Swing in Queenstown (New Zealand’s true adventure capital). Forget bungee jumping—you’ll take the ultimate plunge as you leap off of the world’s highest cliff jump, plummeting some 360 feet into the depths of the river-carved Shotover Canyon. More than 70 solo and tandem jump styles run the gamut from the “Chair of Death”—essentially flipping you off a cliff’s ledge while seated in a lawn chair—to the deceptively difficult “Pin Drop”—a seeming simple sidestep off the platform into the abyss below (that is, if your knees don’t buckle before you get to do so). A 200-foot vertical free fall ensues, followed up by a massive arc swing across the canyon at speeds of up to 93 mph.

4. Leap from a Tower Top

Leap from atop New Zealand’s tallest tower with SkyJump, on offer at Auckland’s landmark Sky Tower. This unique twist on base jumping invites adrenaline junkies to jump from the nation’s highest manmade perch. A special jump suit, harness, and cable are in place to help control your 11-second plummet from 630 feet above, while you free fall at speeds of up to 53mph, before landing squarely on your feet in the Sky City plaza below.

5. Hop a Chopper to Ice Climb a Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier

Set out for a scenic chopper ride and touch down upon a remote stretch of the fantastical ice-coated landscapes of frigid Franz Josef Glacier, where an exhilarating introduction to ice climbing awaits. After your heli-transfer out to the midst of this ice-blue terrain, you’ll be outfitted with all of the technical equipment needed, like crampons and ice axes, and led by expert guides on an action-packed half-day adventure to shimmy down near-vertical ice walls and squeeze through narrow ice caves.