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...10 Must Do New Zealand Adventures - Let your Light Shine Brightly!

Let your Light Shine Brightly!

Ten years of feedback has given us a list of New Zealand's WoW! wilderness adventures. They are not in any particular order - there is not a number '1'.  We actually have enough material to list another 20 cracker adventures - so lets call this part 1 of possibly 2 or 3 posts of top New Zealand Adventures.  Apart from taking place in areas of exceptional natural beauty and offering various outdoor challenges, these adventures all have one thing in common -  our guests have repeatedly absolutely RAVED about each and every one of them. Here you go... 


1) The Lost World Epic Caving Adventure - Waitomo

We consider this to be Waitomo’s best caving adventure and it’s dramatic! You start with a 100-meter abseil (330ft) into the depths of the ‘Lost World’ - this is considered the world’s longest commercial caving abseil (rappel) and it takes some fifteen minutes to get you down – and that is just the beginning!

In the company of a very experienced guide, you start your journey. Once down, you embark on a journey back to the surface through one of the worlds most incredible cave systems. Climbing upstream you follow a challenging underground river by whatever means, so its: swimming, climbing ropes, wading, exploring vaults the size of cathedrals, up waterfalls and monolithic stalactites, squeezing through tight cracks and jumping into deep black pools!

Be warned, this is not one of Waitomo’s run of the mill cave tours.  This is a full-on caving experience and you need to be fit and you are going to get very very wet, but fear not you'll be in the safe muddy hands of some of New Zealand’s most well-trained guides. 

If you enjoy adventure, exploration and the sense of achievement from having completed something amazing, then The Lost World 'Epic' will be for you, a real New Zealand Adventure.

2) Remote Wilderness Kayaking – Doubtful Sound

Known as the ‘Sound of Silence’ and practically untouched by man, the physical grandeur of the towering peaks descending into moody waters of Doubtful Sound is breathtaking. Outstanding waterfalls from high-up ice-age valleys and fiords clad with ancient vegetation create a powerful atmosphere of the sounds solitude and serenity.

More than three times longer than Milford Sound and with a surface area ten times larger, this is an unspoiled wilderness with many moods. Browne Falls cascades 619m (2030 ft) into the fiord near Hall Arm and Helena Falls is a highlight of Deep Cove. Seals and dolphins are frequently seen, as well as the occasional penguin.

A handful of multi-day Doubtful Sounds kayaking trips are allowed into this region by the Department of Conservation each year. This is wilderness sea kayaking at its best but there are no creature comforts you are camping (with no fires allowed). You are in a world heritage area in a remote part of Fiordland national park.

3) The Overnight Chancellor Dome Trek - Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier is one of the most stunning natural wonders and at 13kms (8 Miles) long, Fox Glacier is the longest of the West Coast glaciers, and it is 36 square km (22 square miles) neve is bigger than Christchurch city! The Overnight Chancellor Dome Trek involves a mountain ascent staying at the historic Chancellor Hut thus allowing you to explore the glacier on the second day.

Depending on your fitness or time restraints we can arrange a helicopter flight to the glaciers midway. The Chancellor Shelf just above historic Chancellor Hut is what it is all about and in the summer season, this area is rich with flowering alpine plants - at any time of the year the alpine vegetation is impressive. Chamois, the mountain antelope, can frequently be seen. 

This excision involves Ice climbing and trekking and is suitable for people who are of a good level of fitness & agility. No prior experience is necessary.

4) Four Days Mountain-biking the Remote Heaphy Track

The remote Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ and now is considered New Zealand’s finest multi-day mountain bike ride that has no equal in New Zealand. 80 kilometers (50 miles) of single-track starts in beautiful Golden Bay in the top of the North Islands and traverses the beautiful Kahurangi National Park to the West Coast through a diverse and rugged landscape.

Riders experience dense beech forests, expansive tussock plains and boulder outcrops at the likes of Gouland Downs, the limestone cliffs along the Heaphy River and through nikau palm groves and white sandy beaches found along the West Coast to Karamea making this a challenging but extraordinary ride. There are 4 day guided or unguided options available that will allow you to experience everything the Heaphy has to offer.

The riding is grade 3 to 4 and is suited to mountain bikers with a minimum of an intermediate level of experience. The trails are technical and rocky in places with frequent river crossings that can be very challenging if wet. The weather can change rapidly from snow to rain and intense sunshine. Accommodation is a remote department of conservation huts; they are very basic but comfortable. A good level of cycling fitness is required. 

Mountain Bikers are permitted to ride the Track between May 1 and September.

5) Jet boat into the heart of Fiordland National Park

This journey takes you on 90km (56 Miles) journey into the heart of Fiordland National Park and back. Into a remote wilderness area you otherwise would never get a chance to see - and few do.

Travel across the beautiful Lake Hauroko (New Zealand deepest) to the rugged southern coast via the wild Wairaurahiri River, encountering an intense 27 kilometres (17 Miles) of rugged rock strewn Grade 3 rapids on the way.

Several stops are made to admire some of the magnificent scenery and a couple of guided walks are made into the lush rainforests. After a Kiwi Style BBQ on the rugged coast, the adventure continues, as you will experience the full force of the Wairaurahiri River's mighty current as you move upstream to the original departure point. 

This is a totally unique, full day wilderness adventure in the company of local environmentalists that enthusiastically share their knowledge and enthusiasm for this special place.

6) The Wilkin Canyon, Wildly Beautiful, Wildly Remote - one hell of an adventure

Very few people get into this canyon; it is a hidden and mysterious place of immense beauty. Located on the South Islands West Coast these amazing water carved ravines descend over 800 meters from the bushline, to the main river. The area is overhung with ancient native forest, full of incredibly clear water and deep green pools.

This is not for the faint-hearted and the descent requires the use of many different techniques including big abseils down charging waterfalls, put in the mix a series of large jumps, sliding down perfectly formed water chutes, climbing through a surreal hidden landscape or floating on crystal clear pools. - the scenery is jaw-dropping and the action is 6 hours non-stop – so you need to be fit to enjoy one of the best New Zealand adventures. 

It requires a helicopter flight to get you to the top of this remote canyon with an exhilarating half hour jet boat ride along the glorious Wilkin River to get you out.

7) Lake Waikaremoana Hike

Situated in Te Urewera National Park, the largest area of untouched natural wilderness remaining in the North Island, this hike traces the southern and western shoreline of beautiful Lake Waikaremoana. It is considered one of the countries ‘ Great Walks’ Hiking through dense native rainforest in the most diverse botanical region of New Zealand hikers experience spectacular geological formations, abundant birdlife (kiwi, kaka, kereru, tui) and rich Maori history with plenty of opportunities for swimming in the lakes secluded beaches 

This 43 kilometer (27 miles) track can be done over 3 or 4 days and is a moderate hike requiring a reasonable level of fitness and agility. Hiking is up to 6 hrs per day and accommodation is in basic huts.

8) Whanganui River Canoe/Camping Journey

Meandering from the slopes of Mt Tongariro all the way to the Tasman Sea the Whanganui River is New Zealand’s longest navigable river and a National Park. Explore the beauty and tranquility of the upper reaches of the Whanganui River with a three-day river safari, which starts in Taumaranui and ends in Pipiriki, taking you through stunning bush-clad hill country and long narrow gorges of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful rivers.

For a few days, you can enjoy some peace and tranquility while catching glimpses of the many native birds in the treetops - you cannot help become a part of the magic that surrounds this great river. Each night you stop at one of the campsites along the way. 

A reasonable level of fitness is required to enjoy this journey, as 4 or 5 hours of physical activity is required per day.

9) Breakfast on a Volcano: Pre-Dawn Tongariro Crossing

With the Milky-Way at your fingertips and shooting stars screaming in the night sky’s clarity that only the pre-dawn hike can achieve, come and see the sunrise at the Red Crater Summit and enjoy breakfast on Mt Tongariro. The route is the one hiked during the day with...NO CROWDS!

The 12-mile Tongariro Crossing is considered the best hike in New Zealand. This volcanic terrain offers a fascinating look at a very alien environment, complete with volcanic steam vents, twisted lava formations along with vast craters, active volcanoes, broiling lakes, barren desert, lush forest, crystal-clear mountain streams, steaming geysers and emerald green lakes. WoW!

Experience a diversity of landscapes unlikely to be found together anywhere else on the Planet.

This is a fully guided trip and departs at approximately 1-2am and returns at approximately 9-10am. You need to be reasonably fit to enjoy this 9-hour excursion.

10)  The 3 Day Routeburn Track 

This is one of the shortest of New Zealand’s Great Walks but packs in some of the biggest scenery in the country. The Routeburn Track is a 2 - 3 day alpine hike linking two iconic national parks, Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park. The highest part of the track is 1255m above sea level so the views are out to snowy mountains, mirroring lakes and valleys carved by glaciers. In winter, this alpine location is prone to ice and avalanches so hiking the Routeburn in the cold season is not recommended.  Kepler Track: Most of New Zealand’s Great Walks are historic trails, carved by Maori or by pioneers.

See a great Itinerary that includes the 3 Day Guided Routeburn Track Itinerary and Prices

Alternatively, you could do the  3 Day Self-Guided Routeburn Freedomwalk Itinerary and Prices

First Light Travel

We believe that the best New Zealand itinerary will be as unique as you are. It's the itinerary that fits your timeframe and includes everything you wish to do and see.  Get in touch – we’re keen adventurers and road trip enthusiasts, and we’ll help you plan the New Zealand trip you’ve always dreamed of!

To get your very own, custom itinerary please enquire here and we'll get back to you within 24 hours

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Last updated on the 23rd of November 2018 by Elizabeth 

First Light Travel's Hiking Tours
New Zealand
Caving and Canyoning
Brent Narbey
Submitted by
Brent Narbey
: 27 Jan 2009 (Last updated: 13 Mar 2020)

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