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IN A CAVE
This is a great way to get the heart racing while being in a beautiful place – and there are some world-class spots only a few hours’ drive away.
The Sleeping God Canyon, Atuatumoe, is in the beautiful Kauaeranga Valley near Thames.
This adventure takes you on a vertical descent of more than 300m down a steep set of waterfalls – the directions on the operator’s website read something like this: scramble, abseil, abseil, slide, jump, abseil, jump, slide, abseil. (Canyoning is not for the faint-hearted.)
The Piha Canyon’s caves and jumps are all optional – unlike the Sleeping God Canyon – so you can do it at your own level. It’s set in a beautiful rock valley and you’ll gain access to hidden natural rock pools and water-sculpted gorges as you make your way down.
Both the Piha Canyon Trip and a Raglan Rock canyon trip down the stream of Mt Karioi can be done during the day or at night. Seeing glow worms twinkle as you descend waterfalls in the dark is a magical way to spend an evening.
IN THE SKY
There are two types of people – people who love jumping out of tiny planes 4000m off the ground and normal people. If you are one of the former, there is an excellent spot where you can indulge your flight/fall of fancy. At one Taupo skydiving operation they claim that fear is temporary and achievement is permanent, which you can repeat to yourself as you hurtle through a 200km/h freefall towards Earth for approximately 30 life-questioning seconds. Once the parachute opens you can appreciate the stunning landscape. Beautiful Lake Taupo is below you and you’ll hopefully see the snowy peaks of Tongariro National Park.
IN THE SAND
At the less-expensive end of the thrills spectrum is sand boarding – that is, racing down an enormous sand dune on a boogie board, whooping all the way. The two most famous spots for doing this are the Hokianga Dunes and the Te Paki Dunes, both in Northland. In the Hokianga there’s a charter boat service for ferrying people to the base of the boat-access-only dunes, and sand boards and instructions are included in the price. You need to be reasonably fit to walk to the top of the huge dunes, but once you’re zipping down the sand dune at high speed, and finishing by gliding out over the water of the harbour at the bottom (if you’re there at high tide), you’ll be convinced that you’ve got just one more in you.
At the giant sand dunes in Te Paki, about 20 minutes south of Cape Reinga, you can hire boards in the carpark for about $15, or rent a board from the locals for even less. These dunes are massive and it will take you a few minutes to walk up them but boy is it worth it – it can’t be done without a silly grin on your face.
You can also choose to do it as part of a tour that includes a drive along wild Ninety Mile Beach and a visit to Cape Reinga.
IN THE TREES
If you’re feeling the heat then take to the treetops for your thrills. Rotorua Canopy Tours offer an exciting three-hour tour through beautiful native forest – you’ll go on ziplines, swingbridges and treetop platforms on your adventure – or head to Glenbervie Forest in Whangarei for your tree-top experience. There’s a range of tree-climbing circuits, ziplines and canopy walkways suitable for a range of ages and abilities.
For a more challenging course head to Adrenalin Forest between Rotorua and Tauranga – there are more than 100 challenges across six levels – each one harder than the last. It’s a massive achievement to conquer the whole course and a hit with adrenalin junkies.
ON THE RIVER
River rafting is a great way to get the heart racing in stunning scenery (I’m starting to think this should be something for which New Zealand is well known).
Rangitikei River in the Manawatu offers many options from the more extreme to more sedate family options. The most exciting is a half-day trip with 10 major Grade 4-5 rapids (Grade 6 is “considered so dangerous that they are effectively innavigable on a reliably safe basis” so 4-5 will get you some pretty big thrills). Or whitewater raft your way down the pristine Tongariro River on more than 60 Grade 3+ rapids, visit a secret waterfall and see native wildlife.
Mohaka River in Hawke’s Bay offers The Big One – a Grade 4-5 trip that involves a reasonable level of fitness and some rafting experience from the paddlers. If you meet those criteria, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular gorges in the North Island and one of Aotearoa’s best whitewater runs.
One thing that most adrenalin activities in Aotearoa have in common is the high cost – it’s usually expensive to throw yourself off or out of things, or go really high or really fast. So here a couple of options that aren’t …
Slide down a volcano – the cheapest and tamest of the adrenalin options – all you need is a cardboard box. Head up any of Auckland’s many volcanoes and find the well-worn slide tracks on the sides. Pull the sides of a bit of cardboard up around you and off you go. Recommended volcanoes for box sliding in Auckland are Takarunga Mt Victoria in Devonport and the north side of Maungawhau Mt Eden but across the country any old volcano will do. Another adrenalin-raising activity that costs nothing is practising your bombs (or staples, manu, or back flips) at the nearest wharf. If you’re in or around Tauranga you’ll find like-minded leapers at the Fish Market wharf on Dive Cres (and get some great fish and chips for afterwards). Whangamata Wharf is another popular spot for jumping off, and the footbridge between Pataua North and Pataua South yet another. Jump with caution – always be aware of the depth of water into which you are throwing yourself and also of the tide and the current.