9 Adrenaline Pumping Adventures on the North Island

Adventure and New Zealand have become synonymous and there's no shortage of heart-pumping activities on the North Island. Would you expect anything less from the country that invented bungee jumping?


Photo © Liz Carlson


You don’t have to go far from the international terminal once you’ve landed in Auckland for a unique thrill. Get epic views of New Zealand’s biggest city by walking outside the top of the iconic Sky Tower and hang off the edge, or if you’re up to it, base jump off the top with a wire on your back.


As you head north of Auckland, you have hundreds of miles of wilderness right at your fingertips. With ancient forest and giant trees galore, you can take part in many epic adventures in a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park.

Try scuba diving at Poor Knights Island, which is considered some of the best in New Zealand. From canyoning at Piha in steep volcanic valleys to paragliding over 90 Mile Beach or swimming with wild dolphins in the Bay of Islands, take your pick.

Sandboarding the Te Paki Sand Dunes

There is no adventure quite so thrilling as sandboarding at Te Paki Sand Dunes, near Cape Reinga. Hold on tight to your boogie board, because you’re not stopping till you hit the bottom.

Tāne Mahuta is a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of Northland Region, New Zealand. Photo credit: Liz Carlson

Western North Island


Everyone knows the seaside town of Raglan for its epic left-hand break. A great place to hang out, chill and learn to surf, few travelers dig deep enough to know there are plenty of other ways to get the blood pumping, like canyoning, caving and climbing.


The most famous glowworm caves in New Zealand are in the rural area of Waitomo, and the best way to experience them is to abseil into them on a black water rafting tour, where you cave, climb, zip line, and raft underground.

Whanganui River

Head south and do a multi-day paddle of the Whanganui River, a place so important it was the first river in the world to be given legal status as a person.

Climb Mt. Taranaki

One of the best adventures on the North Island is to climb the perfect volcanic peak of Mt. Taranaki. Normally a day return trip, in summer you can often see clear halfway across the North Island.

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The Coromandel Peninsula is a stunning part of the North Island, with rugged terrain and stunning coastline, you’ve got to dig around to find adventure here.

Adventure in Cathedral Cove

Skip walking and head out to Cathedral Cove by kayak or even sign up to go diving there. Jump and abseil your way through some of the stunning canyons, and build in some time for some of the hikes and day walks in the area.

You can even explore some of the Coromandel riding on horseback with locals.

Central North Island


Rotorua, nicknamed Roto-Vegas by locals, is home to almost any adventure you could imagine. From zip lining through a native forest to zooming down the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall, you can do it all in a day.

There are plenty of hidden hot pools and geothermal parks work exploring. Be sure to grab a mountain bike and hit up some of New Zealand’s most famous downhill trails and jumps on the Skyline or in the Redwoods Forest.

Walk along the boardwalk to see (and smell) Rotorua. Photo credit: Liz Carlson


Nearby in Taupo, you can opt to touch the water on their famous bungee jump or chuck yourself out of a plane strapped to a stranger over the biggest lake in New Zealand.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

An adventure around the North Island would be incomplete without hiking the famous Tongariro Crossing, a day walk which weaves its way near three stunning volcanoes: Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe – which you might recognize from the Lord of the Rings.

In winter, there are two local ski resorts on Ruapehu that serve up some of the best skiing on the North Island.

Views like these are totally worth taking on the Tongariro Crossing. Photo credit: Liz Carlson

Bay of Plenty

White Island

The Bay of Plenty is home to some great surfing and seaside activities, like swimming with wild dolphins. You can skydive here over the stunning blue waters, or boat/helicopter out to White Island and hike around an actively erupting volcano – hardhats are included, just in case.

Bay of Plenty. Photo credit: Liz Carlson


You can kayak to see glow worms after dark nearby, though perhaps one of the most unique adventure activities in all of New Zealand is blokarting. Invented in the Bay of Plenty by locals, you can race a land style go-kart with a sail around the race track.

Adventures without the wine glass in Hawkes Bay

While the Hawke’s Bay is best known for its wine scene, there are plenty of adventure activities you can also join in on that don’t involve Merlot.

From mountain biking to horseback riding or hiking and whitewater rafting, adventure is everywhere here if you know where to look. If you have a few thousand dollars to spare, you can even go for a joyride in a fighter jet.

The Wairarapa

The lovely region where Wellingtonians escape to wine and dine on the weekends is also home to some unique and local adventures, like a sunrise hot air balloon flight or a walk to the weirdly formed Putangirua Pinnacles.

Hiking through the Tararuas

With the Tararuas on your doorstep, there are plenty of hikes through these wild and challenging mountains. Check out some of the local backcountry huts here on a multi-day adventure, but be sure you know what you’re doing.


New Zealand’s coolest capital of Wellington is home to far more trendy bars and hipster cafes than tourist adventures. But its location right on the water, with the top of the South Island looming in the distance, makes it an adventurer's playground.

From catching waves in Lyall Bay to grabbing your SUP board and hitting one of the many peaceful beaches, adventures in Wellington generally mean being by the sea.

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