New Zealand outdoors: An introduction

New Zealand pioneered the idea of adventure tourism in 1988 when the world’s first commercial bungy jumping experience was launched in Queenstown.

Adventure tourism

Exciting outdoor adventures can be enjoyed right around the country – from abseiling in the Bay of Islands to rafting on the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall in Rotorua, climbing the country's highest mountain, Mt Cook, or exploring White Island, New Zealand's only active marine volcano.

New Zealand also provides some of the most exhilarating caving, extreme skiing, surfing and windsurfing in the world. Zorbing, invented here, offers a surreal ride from hilltop to valley bottom inside a giant plastic ball.

The Southern Lakes region is the southern hemisphere’s premier skiing destination, offering a wide choice of world-class ski areas with everything from snowboarding to cross country and heli-skiing.

Queenstown has attractions for all seasons, including tandem parachuting, parapenting and paragliding, jet boating and white-water rafting on the famous Shotover River, kayaking, waterskiing and four-wheel drive experiences.

Great Walks

New Zealand has no shortage of walking and trekking opportunities, including the nine "Great Walks". Hikes of up to a day’s duration are located everywhere, even in city greenbelts, but the internationally acclaimed multi-day tracks are found in more remote areas of the country. Most of New Zealand’s premier walking tracks offer guided and fully catered options.

Routeburn Track can be completed as a three-day alpine trek or combined with the Greenstone Track in a six-day traverse of the World Heritage areas of Fiordland National Park and Mt Aspiring National Park. These award-winning treks pass through rainforest areas, lakes, waterfalls and high alpine pastures.

Hollyford Track is located in Fiordland National Park north of Milford Sound. Hollyford, in a World Heritage wilderness area, offers glimpses of rare New Zealand birds, seals and dolphins, as well as historical sites of early Māori and European settlement. The track passes through rainforests and past snow-capped mountains and rivers to a wild West Coast beach.

The Abel Tasman National Park, drenched in sunlight at the top of the South Island, offers spectacular ocean views, glittering beaches and clear turquoise waters as part of the perfect coastal walking experience on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. A diverse range of wildlife inhabits this area, including penguins, a seal colony at Tonga Island, and tui and bellbirds in the forest. One of the best ways to experience the Abel Tasman is a kayak-and-walk option.

The Queen Charlotte Track at the northeastern tip of the South Island is full of contrasts. Lush subtropical rainforest gives way to sheltered shorelines and skyline ridges, with unsurpassed views of the sunken river valleys. Water transport on this track allows flexibility and the option of walking with a light day pack.

Whirinaki Track is set within a 60,000 hectare (148,260 acre) native rainforest in the central North Island that has five native tree species, some towering more than 65 metres (213 feet). It is also home to a wide range of rare wildlife and bird species, some dating back to the Jurassic era 200 million years ago. Professional Māori guided tours through the forest provide detailed interpretations of the flora and fauna.

The Rakiura / Stewart Island Track offers one of the best chances most people will ever have of seeing New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi, in its natural environment. Many centuries ago, Māori came by canoe to Rakiura (Stewart Island) to harvest shellfish and muttonbirds, traditions kept alive today by local iwi. Stewart Island is located south of the South Island and home to New Zealand's newest national park, Rakiura National Park, which covers about 85 percent of the island.

The Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track in the south-west corner of the South Island links Te Wae Wae Bay on the southern coastline with New Zealand’s deepest lake, Lake Hauroko. The Hump Ridge Track climbs above bush and gives views across the southern glacial lakes. Highlights include Blue Cliffs Beach (the start and end point), sandstone tors and a chance to see the highest remaining wooden viaduct in the world, the Edwin Burn viaduct. The Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track is a three-day hike covering 53 kilometres (33 miles).

Finest walk in the world

Often referred to as one of the finest walks in the world, Milford Track is a 55 kilometre (34 mile) encounter that boasts deep lakes, fiords, rainforest and canyons carved from granite.

The Cape Brett lighthouse stands at the entrance to the Bay of Islands in Northland. The Cape Brett Track from Oke Bay at Rawhiti to the lighthouse (and hut) takes approximately eight hours to complete and covers about 20 kilometres (12 miles) of undulating ground. The track takes in panoramic views of the Bay of Islands, historical pa (Māori village) sites, kauri forest, beaches and private coves.

The seven distinctive peaks that mark the spine of the Cape Brett peninsula are said to represent the seven waka (canoes) on which Māori sailed when they migrated from their mythical homeland of Hawaiiki. The Cape Brett Track is open year-round.

Fishing and diving

Whether fresh or saltwater, New Zealand is an angler’s paradise, offering some of the most beautiful locations imaginable. The country is crisscrossed with rivers and lakes and the introduction of brown and rainbow trout in the latter part of the 19th century has created excellent fly-fishing opportunities.

New Zealand has 15,811 kilometres (9,824 miles) of coastline – making it longer than the coast of the mainland United States), which means there is almost unlimited potential for ocean fishing. It has been estimated that almost one in four New Zealanders takes part in sea fishing.

New Zealand was put on the map of big game saltwater fishing in the 1920s, following the visit of legendary American writer Zane Grey. The country is also a diver’s dream. Coastal waters teem with fascinating sea life and the often exceptionally clear waters make for spectacular viewing, especially from February to June.

The clear waters of the marine reserve around the Poor Knights Islands (offshore from the port of Tutukaka in Northland) are considered one of the country’s best diving spots. An amazing range of fish, including many tropical species, led the late Jacques Cousteau to rate the Poor Knights as one of the world’s top 10 diving locations.


Highest point
Mount Cook (3,724 metres or 12,217 feet)

Deepest lake
Lake Hauroko (463 metres or 1,519 feet)

Largest lake
Lake Taupo (616 square kilometres or 238 square miles)

Longest river
Waikato River (425 kilometres or 264 miles)

Largest glacier
Tasman Glacier (23.5 kilometres or 14.6 miles)

Deepest cave
Nettlebed, Mount Arthur (889 metres or 2,916 feet)

More information:

New Zealand overview

New Zealand's South Island

New Zealand's North Island

New Zealand creativity

New Zealand cuisine

New Zealand events

New Zealand indulgence

New Zealand nature

New Zealand people

New Zealand sport

New Zealand wine

Visiting New Zealand - Information