Take on 'The Big One' on the Kaituna River, Rotorua. © Julian Apse

10 Adventures to kick off your Summer

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There’s nothing like a change of season to spark excitement. Here, we’ve pulled together some adventurous ideas around New Zealand that will inspire your summer escapes.

1. Visit volcanic White Island near Whakatāne

If you want to get up close to a bit of live volcanic activity, you can take a guided tour of White Island. Once ashore, you’re greeted by an eerie landscape of volcanic desolation. One of the unique features of White Island is that there is no exhausting climb up sliding scree slopes or flinty lava flows to get to where the action is. Access to the central crater is a short stroll over packed dirt that may as well be flat. It takes you past hot springs, mini geysers and fissures in the rock through which steam hisses. A crater lake has been intermittently present, changing colour depending on the weather and the mood of the volcano, from milky grey to vivid green or azure blue.

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#Repost @gabriellamorton ・・・ Forever fascinated by New Zealand's geology. The wild forces of nature have an agenda of their own, creating new paths while simultaneously destructing others... it's quite daunting! ☄ —————————— Us too, mate, us too! 📸: @gabriellamorton . . . . . . #whiteislandtours #whakaari #whakatane #whiteisland #bayofplenty #newzealand #NZmustdo #volcano #marinevolcano #activevolcano #roamtheplanet #natgeotravelpic #ourplanetdaily #theglobalwanderer #travelgram #stayandwander #thisisnz #discoverearth #gottalovenz #traveltheworld #lonelyplanet #instagood #instatravel #worldtravelbook #explorenewzealand #passionpassport #discover_newzealand

A post shared by White Island Tours (@whiteislandtours) on Oct 22, 2018 at 5:23pm PDT

2. Mountain bike the Rameka Track in Nelson

Mountain bikes are not allowed in the Abel Tasman National Park – except for one area, the Rameka Track from Tākaka Hill down into the Rameka Gorge. The first section of the track is a gnarly, snaking trail through beech forest, with plenty of branches, tree roots, boulders and potholes to keep you concentrating. You’ll have to dismount from time to time to cross the stream, but most of it can be negotiated from the saddle. As you emerge onto the tops, you get a panoramic view of Golden Bay and the misty peaks of Kahurangi National Park. You’ll also get a pretty good sight of the track ahead as it plunges down into the Gorge. Then there’s nothing for it but to stand up on your pedals, brace yourself and let your shocks do the work as you rattle down to the bottom.

3. Skydive in Taupō

Taupō is the skydiving capital of the world. Tens of thousands of people fling themselves out of planes here every year. That bright blue lake, those snow-capped peaks, the bountiful, beautiful New Zealand landscape just stretching away from 4,500 feet. When you want to be ‘of’ the landscape, rather than just looking at it, the best way is to skydive. You’ll get the thrill of the free-fall and then the slow dive as you take in 360 degrees of stupendous natural beauty. There’s plenty of time for a good look around while you’re up there before a gentle finish at the drop zone.

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😮😮😮 @steponyaaa

A post shared by Taupo Tandem Skydiving (@taupotandemskydiving) on Jan 22, 2018 at 2:02pm PST

4. Ride the Rere Rock Slide in Gisborne

50 kilometres along the Wharekōpae Road is a little reserve that incorporates the Rere Falls on the Wharekōpae River. But pretty as waterfalls are, that’s not the main attraction here. A little way up the stony riverbed, you’ll find the Rere Rock Slide, a 60-metre tract of slick rock, made slippery by the swift, shallow water flowing over it. Throw yourself onto your belly on your boogie-board at the top of the slide and hang on for an exhilarating, wet and wild ride to the bottom. It’s not steep, but what it lacks in gradient it also lacks in friction. You’ll be flying – just make sure you stop short of the falls. You don’t have to be an extreme sports fanatic to shoot the slide and love it.

5. Go hot air ballooning in Canterbury

Hot air ballooning is probably the most relaxing form of transport ever devised, like floating down a river on an inner-tube, only in mid-air. It feels more adventurous when you think about how you’re staying up: it’s kind of hard to believe that you’re being kept a hundred metres aloft by nothing more than a big hamper, some rope and a few hundred square yards of the stuff they make boxer shorts out of. But in the end, there’s nothing to do but relax and admire the view – the Canterbury Plains laid like a tablecloth to the very foot of the Alps in the west, their expanse a patchwork of crop and pasture.

6. Raft the Kaituna River in Rotorua

The upper reaches of the Kaituna River are pretty and placid enough as you paddle down in your inflatable raft. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed the guides’ odd mention of something they refer to as ‘the Big One.’ Once you’re gasping, shaken and splashed at the foot of the first waterfall and they explain it’s a tiddler compared to ‘the Big One,’ you start to get a sense of what you might be in for. ‘The Big One’ is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the southern hemisphere and the reason the Kaituna is grade five water (grade one is flat; grade five is not). Wet, wild and wonderful.

7. Swim in the Blue Pools of Haast

Don’t be deceived by the tropical-looking hues, the blue pools of Haast are icy, even in the peak of summer. Near the Wānaka end of the Haast Pass road, just inside the boundary of Mount Aspiring National Park follow the sign into the bush where a short walk to yet another of New Zealand’s scenic masterpieces. The Makarora River begins in the icefields of the Young Range and flows through a series of deep, rocky pools, faintly blued by their mineral content. The pools are reached by a gentle walk which winds through beech forest to a swing bridge high above the river. Take the plunge if you’re feeling really brave.

8. Go deep underground in Waitomo

There’s a range of activities at Waitomo from the sedate to daredevil, suiting all ages, abilities, temperaments and tolerances for enclosed spaces. For the adventurous, Mangapu is a 100-metre tomo (vertical shaft) into which visitors with no previous experience can abseil. The sunlight reaches the floor of this deep hole and picks out threads of mist hanging in the twilight and tendrils of plants clinging to the walls. If that isn’t wet or racy enough for you, there’s always black-water rafting through the Ruakurī Cavern.

9. Visit the gannets at Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers hosts the largest and most accessible mainland colony of the big, yellow-headed birds in the world, with over 2200 breeding pairs. You can get to this ornithological marvel under your own steam on foot, or you can join any one of a number of guided, motorised tours – the most entertaining is aboard a large dray drawn by a tractor. Full-grown gannets weigh two kilos – more than a size 14 chook – and have a wingspan of two metres. They’re quite a sight wheeling in from the sea. Over the summer months, the nesting sites on the high, humped spine of the Cape are a bustling, pungent, feathery furore. 

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Gannets against ornithophobia.

A post shared by Jorge (@appellemoirorre) on Apr 7, 2018 at 2:16am PDT

10. Spot whales in Kaikōura

Around 80 kilometres off the Kaikōura coast, the 3.5-kilometre deep Hikurangi Trench is a place where warm and cold currents meet, so it attracts a wealth of deep-sea marine life. Hence, the whales: sperm whales, orca, blue whales and humpback whales, whose migratory patterns bring them about as close to whale-watchers as they can get without actually hitting the beach. Very few places in the world can offer encounters with the giants of the deep as intimate and awe-inspiring as those available here.

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