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New Zealand adventure travel: our ten highlights
November 6, 2014 | By:

Mountain-climbing, swimming with dolphins, and doing a Great Walk, there’s an adventure for everyone in New Zealand. Here’s our top ten, including a hidden gem. Robin Barton reports

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There are cycle trails suitable for all, including this one, in the Mount Cook Mackenzie region

Climb Mount Victoria

Mount Victoria is where hobbits hid on a forest track from their pursuers in the first of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy – but venture out of the trees and you’ll find yourself on the outskirts of Wellington, overlooking the New Zealand capital city. Walking and cycling trails radiate from the summit road, some leading back down to the harbour. Click here for details.

Swim with dolphins in the Bay of Islands

This idyllic patchwork of almost-interlocking islands, their sheltered bays fringed with white sand, is part of the Northland coast. Its warm waters are home to several species of marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins.

Boat tours take visitors to snorkel among them and may also catch a glimpse of a resident pod of orca, the largest of the dolphin family. Bay of Islands information

Kayak the Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island is famed for its sheltered bays and golden beaches – and one of the best ways of reaching them is by sea kayak.

Several operators offer single or multi-day tours of the pristine coastline and you’ll paddle with seals, camp overnight and return having seen the sun rise and set over the waves. Full details on the government’s website.

Ski the Remarkables around Queenstown

The serrated teeth of the Remarkables mountain range hold Queenstown in their grip, attracting snowboarders and skiers during the southern hemisphere’s winter.

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Skiing the Remarkables near Queenstown

The Remarkables are suited to people of all levels, with lots of beginner-friendly slopes and three terrain parks for the more adventurous. 

Pick a Great Walk in Fiordland: the Milford, Kepler or Routeburn

Each of the three Great Walks in Fiordland offers something special for nature-lovers. On the Milford track it’s the show-stopping finale of Milford Sound.

The Kepler and Routeburn will have fewer hikers; the Routeburn features high alpine passes and beech forests, the Kepler some great lakeside walking. On all three, hikers are surrounded by birdlife and mesmerising scenery. 

Cycle the Great Lake Trail in the North Island

Pedal part of the shoreline of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, on the 71km Great Lake Trail. The ride is split into two sections, linked by a boat shuttle, and both can be ridden all year round, thanks to the weather-proof surface. The trail opened in April 2014 as part of New Zealand’s national Great Cycle Trail, which spans the whole country. 

Trek overnight on the Te Araroa Trail

Te Araroa is no ordinary trail: it runs for 3000km along the length of New Zealand, from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south, through primeval forests, across rivers and over mountain passes. The record for completing it non-stop is 53 days but most hikers will want to break it up into lots of manageable portions, overnighting at camp grounds or huts. 

Cycle through the vines

Take a self-guided cycle tour with a difference: you’ll be meandering around Hawkes Bay’s vineyards on the North Island’s sunny east coast. It’s the perfect way to sip some of the best wines made in New Zealand. And don’t miss the Art Deco architecture of regional capital, Napier. Click here for details of Biking the Vines.

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Biking the vines around Hawke’s Bay

Watch a rugby match

In New Zealand, rugby rules supreme. Around 150,000 locals lace up boots at the weekend and this grassroots appeal plays out at grounds such as Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth, Taranaki. Fans are close to the players, making for an intense atmosphere, with Mount Taranaki brooding in the background. 

Hidden gem: Dive the Poor Knights Islands

The Poor Knights Islands, at the top of the North Island, have some of the richest sub-tropical diving in the world, thanks to warm currents sweeping in from the Coral Sea and clear waters. Kelp forests and undersea caverns swarm with 125 varieties of fish, including giant grouper and stingrays. The islands, a marine reserve since 1981, are what remains of a group of ancient volcanoes.

High50 has partnered with Tourism New Zealand to bring you this guide. To discover more about New Zealand and to book, visit newzealand.com.