Unlike many countries, New Zealand comes alive in the winter, which for the southern hemisphere kicks off this month. In fact, the country thrives on it. Rugged mountain landscapes become off-piste playgrounds, sky-reflecting lakes turn into jet-boat racetracks while ice-blue glaciers open up for exhilarating exploration.
The Kiwis have made it possible to jump, drive, slide, roll, fly or hike through pretty much any part of the country’s terrain – making it a winter wonderland for adrenaline seekers.
Here, Carol Driver explores the top ten adventure activities the North and South Islands have to offer.
Leave your nerves above ground before abseiling 37 metres into a cylindrical hole small enough that you can touch the edge with your feet.
This is the breathtaking beginning to the five-hour underground Black Abyss tour at Ruakuri Cave exploring a secret world which was hidden beneath the sea 30 million years ago.
With two guides and a group of up to 12, you’ll zip-wire, leap, tube, squeeze and wade your way through ice-cold water during this thrilling adventure, stopping along the way to take in the glorious sight of glow-worms.
The grand finale to this daring escapade is climbing two fairly small but powerful waterfalls as you make your way to the surface of Waitomo Forest and the end of this unforgettable journey.
Book from £94pp with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co www.waitomo.com.
Up in the clouds: The Auckland bridge climb is an exhilirating experience
If you’ve ever fancied throwing yourself off a bridge and being able to live to tell the tale – here’s your chance. The Auckland Bridge Climb & Bungy affords its brave victims stunning panorama as you weave your way 67 metres above the glistening waters of the Waitemata Harbour.
The one-and-a-half hour climb may seem like a feat within itself but adrenaline bunnies will be rewarded when they plummet the 40 metres through the air from the ‘bungy pod’.
The ultimate way to get your kicks while enjoying some of the best views of the City of Sails.
From £84 visit www.aucklandbridgeclimb.co.nz.
This is a white-knuckle ride along one of NZ’s most frantic rivers. Get ready to face powerful rapids, broken water and large drops as you snake along this Grade-5 adventure.
There are 10 major Grade 4-5 (the most extreme) foamy rapids on this scenic 12km run which is nestled in the heart of the countryside.
However, it’s an activity for team-players only - you’ll be relying on your group to paddle hard when told and to hold on even harder when instructed – you really don’t want to be going overboard in these conditions!
If you do want to get even wetter, you can jump from a designated cliff edge – but, be warned, the water is ice cold in winter – before tackling the biggest rapid of all. This is a heart-in-your-mouth adrenaline activity.
From £75 www.rivervalley.co.nz.
Flying through the air with the greatest of ease has never been so terrifying and thrilling at the same time.
The Nevis Arc is the world’s highest swing and will give you such a rush of adrenaline that you won’t be able to sleep for a week.
Decide whether to travel 40, 80 or the exhilarating 120 metres as you power through the air, suspended 153 metres above the rugged Doolan’s Creek in Nevis Canyon - a 40-minute ride from Queenstown.
Go with a friend or go solo – but this mind-blowing ride takes guts, as you have to pull the release yourself. Not for the faint hearted.
Prices from £63pp visit www.bungy.co.nz.
Taking the plunge: The Queenstown bungy jump is not for the faint hearted
So you’ve done a bungy jump before and now you’re looking to take things to the next level? How about jumping from a ‘runway’ backwards and flipping 400 metres into the darkness by trying the Ledge Bungy at night?
At 400 metres above Queenstown, you’ll have the stars for company as you ride the gondola to the Skyline Complex to the platform which is cantilevered out from the cliff face.
Choose from a body harness or ankle tie for the bungy of your choice.
Then, take a deep breath, glance at the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range, then confront your darkest fears…
£65 Visit www.ajhackett.com.
Have you dreamed of being an intrepid explorer? Discovering parts of the world previously untouched? Well, this experience doesn’t quite promise that. But after a day climbing the Franz Josef glacier, you will feel an overwhelming sense of achievement.
Here you can have two types of adventure. A heli-hike will take in scenery you couldn’t possibly witness any other way. You’ll land high up on the glacier for a two-hour tour among the ice caves, pinnacles and seracs.
For the hardcore, opt for the full day hike. Equipped with crampons, you’ll feel like a true adventurer as you trek deep into the heart of the ice-blue glacier.
In five hours, you will slide through ice caves, shuffle down near vertical ice walls – and enjoy lunch while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Heli-hike from £180, full-day climb from £74 visit www.franzjosefglacier.com.
It’s not just the spectacular scenery that motivates people to jump from a plane at 15,000ft.
But with a flight that takes in views of Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring - the country’s highest snow-capped mountains – this is arguably the best place in NZ to do it.
You’ll be distracted by the stunning glaciers, river valleys and glistening lakes as your plane takes you over Lake Wanaka.
You won’t need any previous experience as you’ll be attached to a qualified guide.
Then it’s time to jump, falling for 60 seconds through the air – at about 200kmph.
Before you know it, the parachute has opened and you’ll be gliding peacefully back down to earth.
From £180 visit www.skydivewanaka.com.
Powered by twin V8 engines and boasting more than 820 horse power, hold on to your hat while this dynamic jetboat zips across the Buller River for more than an hour.
You’ll be taken closer than ever before to rock walls and craggy overhangs at terrifying speeds over sometimes just centimetres of crystal-clear water.
The experienced guide is fun and informative – offering an insight into the river’s historic and geological features as you cover some 45km.
Listen to him, but don’t be caught off-guard for the 360-degree ‘Hamilton’ spins that will leave you unsure of where you began and where you’re heading.
From £36 per adult visit www.adventuretours.co.nz.
Gain a new perspective on life as you loop-the-loop, twist, turn and feel G forces unlike ever before as you spin while zooming along at more than 300kmph.
Strapped inside this specialist aerobatics aircraft, the Pitts Special, you’ll soar along the ridges of The Remarkables towards Kinston and over Lake Wakatipu.
Although it’s not for the faint-hearted, you’ll be in safe hands for this exhilarating 20-minute journey as at the controls is an ex-fighter pilot with nine years’ experience.
If you’ve seen the Red Bull Air Race on TV, you know what you’re in for – the ride of your life.
From £132pp visit www.jagair.co.nz.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Flying Fox is a ride for kids – there’s nothing childish about this extreme version.
Reaching permanent-smile-inducing speeds of up to 160kmph, you’ll have little time to catch your breath as you’re launched into Gravity Canyon from 175 metres above ground.
The stunning view of the frothing river and jagged mountains will be a blur as you descend the one-kilometre zip line while strapped into a harness.
Take the death-defying plunge alone or with friends – just make sure you wear the goggles provided to avoid ended up with bugs in your eyes.
From £55 visit www.gravitycanyon.co.nz.