The beginning of autumn in New Zealand means you get to soak in the gorgeous outdoors – and the adventures that come along with it – without the sun’s scorching rays burning a hole through the back of your head. We round up activities on lake, land and sky to check off your dauntless bucket list. But be warned, (most of) these are not for the faint of heart.
Take to the skies
If the thought of flinging yourself out a plane and tumbling thousands of feet to the ground doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you, go ahead and skydive. But really, it isn’t as terrifying as it sounds. Once you muster the courage to take that first step, the rest is as easy as, well, falling. You’ll be parachuting over scenic landscapes like Mount Aspiring, the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu, with a bird’s-eye view so beautiful you’d be hard-pressed to find it elsewhere.
Just book ahead with operators like Nzone Skydive (www.nzoneskydive.co.nz) and Skydive Paradise (www.skydiveparadise.co.nz). For something relatively tamer, try Gforce Paragliding (www.nzgforce.com), which launches tandem flights off the top of Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola. This is one jump you won’t regret.
Hurl yourself off a cliff
Addicted to the adrenaline rush of freefalling? AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand (www.bungy.co.nz) offers five types of jumps to satisfy your madcap cravings. Nevis Bungy is, without a doubt, reserved for those who fall just inside the line between ‘brave’ and ‘stupid’. At a mind-boggling 134 metres above the Nevis River – with almost 9 seconds of free fall – this leap of faith is the highest in New Zealand. There’s also Nevis Swing, where you can fall any way you want; The Ledge Bungy, which uses a harness that frees your feet to perform all sorts of twists and flips; The Ledge Swing, a self-release rope-style swing in the city; and Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the only tandem jump in Queenstown that lets you take the plunge with a fellow fearful friend.
There’s also Shotover Canyon Swing (www.canyonswing.co.nz) that, residing at 109 metres above the Shotover River, is considered the tallest cliff on the globe.
Free your inner movie geek
Let’s not mince words – New Zealand is Middle-earth. And to make like Frodo and explore its mountains, rivers and forests, get help from LotR experts. The family-owned Pure Glenorchy Tours (www.pureglenorchy.com) and Nomad Safaris (www.nomadsafaris.co.nz) will guide you through the awe-inspiring experience with their extensive knowledge – the latter even provides costumes and props to make your snapshots that much more authentic. Ask and they’ll point out locations featured in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Chronicles of Narnia, too.
Speed through the waters
Imagine slicing through a river with the bluest, clearest water, racing in between narrow canyons and clinging on for dear life as your boat executes wild 360º spins. If that gets your heart pumping in excitement, check out Skippers Canyon Jet (www.skipperscanyonjet.co.nz) or Shotover Jet (www.shotoverjet.com) – the hair-raising experience will leave you on a euphoric high for the rest of the day.
For a ride that leans towards family-friendly, KJet (www.kjet.co.nz) provides stunning views of two rivers – without the white knuckles and sweaty palms after. Plus, it’s conveniently located right smack on the Main Town Pier. Alternatively, if you’re not one to shy away from the weird and wonderful, try Hydro Attack (www.hydroattack.co.nz), where you’ll pack 15 minutes inside a shark-shaped machine as it dives underwater, jumps in the air and basically makes you feel like you’re the killer marine creature. Or make like a superhero and strap on rocket boots at Flyboard Queenstown (www.flyboardqt.com) – these jet-propelled contraptions will boost you up to heights of almost 30 feet in the air. Just be ready to pick yourself up and try again, ’cause you’ll be crashing into the water multiple times before you get the hang of it.
Get down and dirty
Sitting pretty atop a canopy of trees above the city, Skyline Queenstown (www.skyline.co.nz) is so much more than a buffet restaurant and gift shop. You can take the gondola up and zoom down the luge tracks with your little ones or whizz through one of the 27 mountain biking trails at Queenstown Bike Park. For speedier adventures, Ziptrek Ecotours (www.ziptrek.co.nz) sends you zip-lining among treetops, with a spectacular view of the nearby mountains and lake. Prefer to explore nature’s very own waterpark? Canyoning Queenstown (www.canyoning.co.nz) takes you to three different gorges where you can abseil waterfalls, slide down ravine walls and splash around in glistening natural pools.