12 Bucket-List Adventure Tours In New Zealand For 2024

New Zealand is one of those places that continues to impress at every turn. The rugged landscape provides an endless opportunity for adventure – whether it be adrenaline-fuelled or a more peaceful admiration of the unfathomable beauty encompassing the country.

We fell in love with New Zealand from the moment we flew over the snow-capped peaks and set foot on the vibrant and friendly island. That love continued to flourish as we discovered just how many adventure tours New Zealand had to offer!

The Kiwis have done an incredible job at utilising their natural wonders to produce thrilling adventure experiences – some you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. We were fortunate enough to join several of the best adventure tours in New Zealand and each one left us wanting more – especially the Kaituna River Rafting!

There are still some on this list that we are yet to complete, but they are at the very top of our bucket list! Most adventure tours we’ve listed below are ones you’ll likely only do once in your lifetime and we strongly suggest considering New Zealand to be your chosen destination for them.

So keep reading to let us help you plan your holiday in New Zealand to its fullest potential!

Cruising through Milford Sound on a rainy day on one of the best adventure tours in New Zealand

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12 Best Adventure Tours In New Zealand To Add To Your Bucket List

*All prices below are current as of March 2024 and are shown in NZD

Experience The Magic Of Milford Sound With A Cruise & Kayak Tour

Starting Location: Milford Sound
Price: From $275
Duration: 5 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Southern Discoveries Sustainability Commitments
Rating: 4.8/5 – based on 198 reviews

Cruise ship under waterfall during a Milford Sound Cruise Tour

If there is only one day tour you do on your New Zealand South Island Road Trip, make it the Milford Sound Cruise & Kayak. Words cannot express the awe you’ll feel once you step foot on the deck of the ship and cruise through the incredible waterfall-strewn fiord.

The Milford Sound Cruise & Kayak Tour provides great value when visiting Milford Sound. You’ll not only get to gaze at the impressive landscape from the boat, but you’ll also partake in the bucket-list experience of kayaking in the beautiful fiord.

The tour starts from the cruise terminal in Milford Sound, then guides you through the fiord, with brief stops at the main waterfalls before turning back at the ocean. Next, you’ll explore the underwater observatory (exclusive to Southern Discoveries) before enjoying a relaxing kayak in Harrison Cove.

Kayaking in Milford Sound with a Rainbow over the horizon

While we would have loved to explore further by kayak than only Harrison Cove, just being in the water with nothing more than your group and the sound of distant waterfalls was an incredible experience.

Learn more from our full review of the Southern Discoveries Cruise & Kayak Tour in New Zealand. And if you’re visiting Milford Sound but don’t know where to stay, check out our guide on camping in Milford Sound.

Note: If you’re looking for a more immersive kayak experience, check out Rosco’s Milford Kayak Tours.

Fly From Queenstown To Milford And Cruise Through The Fiord

Starting Location: Air Milford Hanger, Remarkables Park Shopping Centre (central Queenstown pick-up available)
Price: From $588
Duration: 5 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Air Milford Sustainability, Southern Discoveries Sustainability
Rating: 5/5 – based on 55 reviews

Flying over the Southern Alps on Milford Air during a tour in New Zealand

If you’re basing yourself out of Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital, and only have time for a day trip to Milford Sound, then we highly recommend choosing a flight and cruise tour for the best experience.

While the price might make you consider the bus instead, we believe the flight is highly worthwhile. The bus ride takes 3.5 – 4 hours one-way and only becomes interesting in the last hour! But aside from saving precious time on your holiday, the experience of flying over the Southern Alps and witnessing the wonders of Milford Sound from above is something that will stick with you forever!

Flying over Milford Sound on a scenic flight in Milford Sound

This particular tour includes the same cruise that we did with Southern Discoveries that we’ve explained above – including the underwater observatory but excluding the kayak.

We haven’t had the chance to take a flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound yet, but my parents got to experience this incredible adventure tour while they visited us and they couldn’t stop raving about the day once they returned.

Experience The Thrill Of Heli-Skiing

Starting Location: Queenstown, Wanaka or Mt Cook
From $1,545
Duration: 6 – 8 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.9/5 – based on 35 Google reviews

This is the ultimate New Zealand adventure experience for intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders – and something that we are itching to do!

New Zealand is renowned for its epic ski fields, but the backcountry is even better, offering sensational views and thrilling terrain! The three best locations for heli-skiing in New Zealand are Wanaka, Queenstown and the Mt Cook region. Harris Mountains Heli-Ski offers packages for each of these locations and is one of the biggest providers, meaning your likelihood of your trip being cancelled due to insufficient numbers is far lower.

Harris Mountains Heli-Ski is a little more expensive compared to the competition, but they have the best reviews over a range of websites – including Powderhounds.

If we had to choose a destination to go heli-skiing, we would pick Mt Cook. This region is not only incredibly beautiful, but it receives a higher annual snowfall and offers longer runs!

Another company that gets great reviews and offers a slightly lower price (but doesn’t offer packages to the Mt Cook region) is Southern Lakes Heli-Ski.

Skydive Over Wanaka And The Southern Alps

Starting Location: Mustang Lane, Wanaka (both companies run from the same base)
Price: From $265 NZD
Duration: 3 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.8/5 – based on 63 reviews

Skydiving over Wanaka one of the best adventure tours in New Zealand
Image sourced from Get Your Guide

What better way to gawk at the formidable landscape of New Zealand’s South Island than by dropping out of a plane!? We skydived in Wollongong, near Sydney, and loved every second of it – but we couldn’t imagine how much better it would be surrounded by monstrous mountains!

Skydiving in Queenstown is a well-known thrill, but we will argue that the adventure would be even more extraordinary in Wanaka. Not only is it slightly more affordable, but it also offers the breathtaking opportunity to freefall while gazing at two of New Zealand’s most renowned peaks – Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring!

You have two options for your skydiving experience – Skydive Wanaka and NZONE Skydive. Both companies provide jumps from 9,000, 12,000, or 15,000 feet, but NZONE Skydive offers a slightly lower price point on Get Your Guide, so this is the one we recommend.

🏔 Your Ultimate Wanaka Resource List

Wanaka is our favourite destination in New Zealand and to help you plan your vacation, we’ve put together loads of resourceful guides to show you the hidden side of this wonderful town.

🧗 Best things to do in Wanaka for adventurers
🏡 Accommodation in Wanaka for all budgets
🏕 Best Campsites in Wanaka
🥾 Hiking the Cascade Saddle Route
🥾 Corner Peak Hike

Plunge Over Waterfalls On A Kaituna River Rafting Tour

Starting Location: Okere Falls – near Rotorua
Price: From $100
Duration: 2.5 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.9/5 – based on 204 reviews

Rafting off the worlds largest commercially rafted waterfall on the Kaituna Cascades Rafting Tour

We’ve been on our fair share of white water rafting tours, but none have come close to the thrill of plunging over the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world!

The Kaituna River rafting experience was easily our favourite adventure tour in New Zealand’s North Island. We went with Kaituna Cascades and loved every minute of paddling down the dense rainforest-clad river, playing in the rapids and swimming alongside the raft.

But the best part is, you don’t need to have any prior experience white water rafting. The expert guides will teach you everything you need to know, while taking care of the technical side of things.

To learn more about this day tour in New Zealand, check out our detailed guide on our Kaituna River Rafting experience.

Float Beneath A Thousand Glow Worms At Waitomo

Starting Location: Waitomo
Price: From $170
Duration: 3 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Discover Waitomo Sustainability Commitments
Rating: 5/5 – based on 202 reviews

Waitomo Glow Worms Cave tube tour in New Zealand

The Waitomo Caves, located on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, are a must-visit on your North Island road trip. The caves are famous for the thousands of glow worms that illuminate the extensive cave systems.

The Labyrinth Black Water Rafting Experience is an awesome way to combine adventure with relaxation and the chance to lay back and absorb the incredible experience of floating beneath the twinkling glow worms.

This day tour in New Zealand involves wandering through the weaving cave system, navigating the underwater river by floating on a tube and jumping off mini waterfalls.

The sheer volume of glow worms and the eeriness of floating through a cave was well worth the price for this tour. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, loving the fact that you were able to have some adventure and also time to soak in the scene around you.

But if this isn’t adventurous enough for you, then maybe The Abyss is more your style – a 5 hour canyoning tour that involves abseiling, zip lines and tubing through the fast-flowing underground river.

Slide Through Deep Canyons In A Jet Boat With Shotover Jets

Starting Location: Shotover River, Arthurs Point, Queenstown
Price: From $146
Duration: 25 minutes
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.9/5 – based on 288 reviews

Slicing between the canyon on the Shotover Jet Boat in Queenstown

While many of the adventure tours in Queenstown involve throwing yourself from a gut-wrenching height, the Shotover Jets offers a slightly less intimidating experience – slightly.

You’ll jump on a boat that barely skims the top of the turquoise water and hold on while the highly skilled driver flies through the deep canyons, getting impossibly close to the towering rock walls.

I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the Shotover Jets, expecting the tour to be a little lacklustre. But from the moment we sat down, our driver gave it her all and I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for the entire 25 minutes.

This is an awesome New Zealand adventure activity to choose for a group of friends or family. Better yet, you can finish off with a pint of locally brewed beer and delicious food at Canyon Brewing.

Drop Into The Abyss On The Nevis Swing

Starting Location: Queenstown
Price: From $280
Duration: 4 hours
Sustainability Efforts: AJ Hackett Sustainability Commitment
Rating: 4.9/5 – based on 214 reviews

Diving off the Nevis Swing in Queenstown on one of New Zealand's best day tours
Image sourced from Klook

If the thought of bungy jumping is just too scary, then grab your friend or partner for support and take the plunge with the tandem Nevis Swing instead!

The AJ Hackett Nevis Swing is a world-famous swing that drops into the Nevis Valley with a 300 m arc. The best thing about the swing is that you get to experience the thrill with your bestie by your side and you can choose whether to go upside down, backward, forward or even upside down and backward!

It’s a fantastic option if you can’t quite bring yourself to step off a ledge of your own accord, as the staff will send you into the abyss instead. I have done both bungee jumping and the Nevis Swing and can honestly say that the Nevis Swing is just as exciting – maybe even more because you can share the experience.

Admire The Majestic Peaks Of Mt Cook On A Scenic Flight

Starting Location: Mount Cook Aerodrome
Price: From $440
Duration: 45 minutes
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.8/5 – based on 85 reviews

Sunset over Mt Cook in Mt Cook National Park New Zealand

Of all the mountain ranges that we explored in New Zealand, none captivated us quite as much as Mt Cook National Park. We dream of one day witnessing the sheer beauty of the snow-capped peaks piercing the clouds from above, so we can truly grasp their greatness. 

If we had to choose one spot to splurge on a helicopter or ski plane tour, it would undoubtedly be Mt Cook National Park! This adventure tour will allow you to soar over New Zealand’s tallest mountain and offer you the chance to set foot on the country’s largest glacier!

Plane landing on a glacier in Mt Cook National Park during a scenic flight tour
Image sourced from Get Your Guide

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to scenic flights over Mt Cook, which isn’t always a positive. But after sifting through the reviews of several options, we would choose the plane and helicopter flight with Inflight – which includes a glacier landing. But be sure to try and snag the latest possible time to witness the soft light before sunset caressing the snowy peaks.

🏔 Your Ultimate Mt Cook Resource List

Mt Cook National Park is an adventurer’s playground and to help you plan your vacation, we’ve put together loads of resourceful guides to show you the best of this wonderful destination.

🧗 Ultimate guide to Mt Cook National Park
🏡 Accommodation in Mt Cook for all budgets
🏕 Best hikes in Mt Cook
🥾 Hiking the Mueller Hut Route
🥾 Witness the might of Mt Cook from the Hooker Valley Track

Get Lost In The Wilderness On An Overnight Cruise In Doubtful Sound

Starting Location: Manapouri Visitor Centre
Price: From $752
Duration: 2 days
Sustainability Efforts: RealNZ Sustainability Commitments
Rating: 5/5 – based on 154 reviews

Sunset on the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise in New Zealand's South Island
Image sourced from RealNZ

Doubtful Sound is the wilder, more unkept cousin of Milford Sound and offers a unique and rich experience – without the crowds.

Spending the night on Doubtful Sound, surrounded by the sounds of the wilderness and losing yourself in the inky night sky, will be a moment you’ll never forget. RealNZ offers an incredible tour that involves a cruise on Manapouri Lake, a bus ride over Wilmot Pass and a journey through Doubtful Sound, with a delicious buffet breakfast and dinner included.

However, if an overnight cruise is out of your budget, then you can opt for the day cruise instead.

Nevis Bungy Jumping

Starting Location: Queenstown
Price: From $345
Duration: 4 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.9/5 – based on 214 reviews

Budgy jumping off the Nevis Ledge in Queenstown
Image sourced from Klook

If you’re searching for an epic adrenaline rush, then you can’t pass up the tallest bungy jump in New Zealand! The Nevis Bungy forces you to plummet 134 m into a deep ravine, guaranteeing a chorus of screams.

The tallest bungy jump I have ever done was only 60 m and that was exciting enough, I can’t imagine the adrenaline that would pulse after free falling for 8.5 seconds! It may not sound like much now – but wait until you’re hurtling toward the rugged valley floor.

Luckily, AJ Hackett Bungy has over 35 years of experience and has thorough procedures in place to ensure your safety.

Immerse In The Wonders Of Our Night Sky With The Lake Tekapo Summit Experience

Starting Location: Lake Tekapo
Price: From $179
Duration: 2 hours
Sustainability Efforts: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.5/5 – based on 96 reviews

Watching the milky way on the Tekapo Night Observatory adventure tour in New Zealand

While not exactly an adventure tour in New Zealand, this experience is worth mentioning because it’s so damn cool! Lake Tekapo and the surrounding region form part of the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve, which means that this area offers some of the best stargazing on earth!

On this tour, you get the unique opportunity to peek through a high-powered 16″ telescope and learn about the mysteries of our southern night sky. Your guide will also point out some fascinating sights visible to the naked eye.

Get Up Close And Personal With Icebergs On A Tasman Lake Glacier Kayak Tour

Starting Location: The Old Mountaineers’ Cafe
Price: From $295
Duration: 5 hours
Eco-tour: Qualmark Gold
Rating: 4.5/5 – based on 96 reviews

Sea Kayaking on Tasman Glacier Lake in Mt Cook National Park
Image sourced from Mtcook.com

Leave the crowds on the shores of Tasman Glacier Walks and embark on an epic kayaking tour that will allow you to paddle past giant icebergs and lose yourself in the monstrous landscape surrounding the proglacial lake.

If you have some paddling experience and you’re looking for something unique to do on your visit to Mt Cook in summer, then you don’t want to pass up this opportunity. You’ll be guided across the remarkably magnificent lake by highly experienced guides, who will share their knowledge of the dramatic landscape.

Note: Due to the lake freezing in winter, this adventure tour is only available from mid-October to the end of March.

Final Thoughts

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the possible adventure tours in New Zealand. But each suggestion we’ve listed is either on our own bucket list or something we have already thoroughly enjoyed.

We hope that you’ve found great value in our guide to the best adventure tours in New Zealand. If you have any further questions, please feel free to drop a comment below or reach out to us via Instagram.

Happy adventuring 🙂