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Last updated : Nov 2009
New Zealand Sports
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Adventure sports

Queenstown is generally known as the adventure capital, however not all adventure sports are held here.

The Awesome Foursome is an adrenaline trip that combines a bungee jump, a helicopter flight, whitewater rafting, and high speed jet boating all in one day.

Bungee jumping was first commercialised by New Zealanders, and their country is still known for this sport. Famous jump off points include the Kawaru River Bridge, the Pipeline, Hanmer Springs (which is in the South island), the Bungee Rocket (which is at New Brighton Pier), the Skippers Bridge, the Ledge (near Queenstown), and Taupo and Mangaweka (in the North Island).

Rap jumping is a sport which consists of abseiling headfirst down a cliff and is also currently popular in Auckland, Queenstown, Bay of Islands and Wanaka.

River sledging is a sport that involves riding down a river holding to a polystyrene sledge or boogie board This activity is available in Queenstown (which is on the South island), and on the Rangitaiki river (which is near Rotorua on the North island).

Beginner's courses for paragliding (a sport that is a cross between parachuting and hand gliding and is the closest equivalent to flying) are available near Wanaka and Queenstown, whilst experienced paragliders tend to head to Wanaka, the Daney Pass or Christchurch.

One of New Zealand's other inventions is Jet boating, which takes place on a special powered boat. It consists of a high speed boat trip, and some of the country's best known rivers are renowned for this sport. As it is available for a wide range of ages, this sport has become very popular.

The best locations for surf rafting (which invites visitors to accompany skilled rafters through crashing waves while simultaneously being offered a commentary on the coastline nearby) are Piha Beach (near Auckland, which is on North island) and the Otago Peninsula (near Dunedin, which is on South Island.

Another adventure New Zealand invented is zorbing. This involves being strapped into a transparent, cellophane, inflatable ball which is then rolled onto a river or down a grassy hill. The home town for this sport is Rotorua and Paihia.

Water Sports

New Zealand’s coastline stretches for a total of about 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles), so the conditions for swimming and diving are perfect. A lot of dive spots are easily accessible from the shore, particularly those in North Island. The Poor Knights Islands which are near Whangarei, are particularly renowned among divers (Jacques Cousteau quoted them as one of the world’s top diving destinations).

There are many different types of diving and these are all available in New Zealand:

 Kelp forests, which are at Stewart Island (home to the huge Paua shellfish)  Black and red coral which is in the Fiordlands
 Wreck diving, which is at the Rainbow Warrior, the famous Greenpeace     boat which was sunk off the Bay of Islands.

Divers will need to bring their diver’s certification cards, and many dive stores offer support facilities and equipment rental.

A detailed brochure with information on New Zealand’s best dive sites can be obtained from:

Address: New Zealand Underwater, PO Box 875, Auckland
Telephone: (9) 623 3252
Facsimile: (9) 623 3523
Website address: www.nzunderwater.org.nz

The long coastlines also offer excellent opportunities for surfing, with some of the best breaks located at Palliser Bay (near Wellington), Murawai, Mahia Peninsula (near Gisborne), Piha and Raglan.

Swimming with dolphins is possible in Whakatane, the Coromandel Peninsulathe, Bay of Islands (which is north of Auckland), and Kaikoura (which is on South Island). Advance booking is recommended as numbers are limited.

Whale watching is also possible, on the eastern coast of South Island, all year round (the greatest number of sightings are in winter, from April to August). For further information and details of prices, please contact Whale Watch.

Auckland, or as some people know it, 'the city of sails', is one of the top locations for sailing and yachting. Charters with a skipper and crew can be hired to sail just around the coast, as far as the Pacific Islands, or to the remote maritime reserves in the Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands and Marlborough Sounds.

Many rivers, including the Wairora (which is near Tauranga), and the Mohaka (which is in Hawke’s Bay) are the perfect spots for whitewater rafting trips ranging from a couple of hours to five days. The Kaituna (which is near Rotorua), which also features the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall at 7m (23ft is another popular location for whitewater rafting.

Windsurfing is mainly popular around Auckland, Wellington, Taupo, and the Bay of Islands, while kayaking is broadly practised on rivers throughout New Zealand.

Winter Sports

New Zealand offers good snowboarding and skiing, the ideal conditions are from June to October. The resorts tend to be less crowded than the European ones.

The best ski regions on the North island are Turoa and Whakapapa(both located on Mount Ruapehu). Other good ski slopes can be found in Mount Hutt (where the season is from late May to early November), and in the Southern Lakes region (particularly Queenstown and Wanaka). Heli-skiing trips are available in Queenstown, Mount Hutt and Wanaka, and cross-country skiing is possible on a 26 kilometre (16 mile) trail through the Pisa range near Wanaka. Glacier skiing and glacier walking can be enjoyed at the Franz Josef, Fox, and Tasman glaciers in the Southern Alps.


Climbers are advised to hire a commercial guide or contact a local alpine club before attempting New Zealand's mountains, some of the highest peaks in the southern hemisphere.


The Waitomo Caves are the most visited, ones of these being the ‘Lost World’ cave which can be abseiled into through shafts of sunlight.

Tubing or cave rafting are other ways to explore New Zealand's many underground caves. Participants for tubing are provided with a wetsuit and helmet (with light), then float through the cave system on custom made tyres.


New Zealand has more than 400 golf courses, and green fees are relatively low compared to other countries. Most clubs welcome visitors, but it is best to telephone in advance, particularly at weekends. For further information, contact:

Address: The New Zealand Golf Association, PO Box 11842, Wellington
Telephone: (4) 385 4330
Facsimile: (4) 385 4331
Email address: nzga@nzga.co.nz
Website address: www.nzgolf.org.nz


An assortment of walks are available in New Zealand, many of these footpaths pass through protected forest areas or national parks. Trails are categorised according to 4 different types:

 Paths (which are easy, suitable for all ages and fitness levels including wheelchair users)
 walking tracks (which are easy)
 tramping tracks (which are more demanding and require good fitness)
 routes (which are very challenging and for experienced hikers only)

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has singled out 8 different walks which are generally the most popular and best known, including:

 The Abel Tasman Coastal Track (which is New Zealand’s most widely used recreational track)
 The Lake Waikaremoana Track (which is in The Urewara National Park)
 The Milford Track (which is the country’s most famous track in World-Heritage listed Fiordland Park)
 the Rakiura Track (which is a remote walk on Stewart Island to New Zealand’s southern parts).

These tracks normally take from 1 to several days, with accommodation provided en route, either basic camping and huts, or comfortable lodges. Walkers attempting tramping tracks (a network of these exists) should be well prepared and able to use a compass and read maps.

In most cases, a Great Walks Pass must be obtained from the Department of Conservation. This has local offices throughout New Zealand, For further information, contact the Department of Conservation in Wellington:

Telephone: (4) 471 0726
Facsimile: (4) 471 1032
Website address: www.doc.govt.nz


The fish that are particularly popular are Brown and Rainbow Trout.

Salmon fishing is best in the Waitaki, Rakaia, Waimakariri and Rangitata rivers on the East Coast (the season lasts from mid December to late April). Permits are only required for trout and salmon fishing, there is a special Tourist Licence (only available from the Tourism Rotorua Information Office) which allows holders to fish anyplace in the country for a one month period. For further details contact:

Address: The New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association, PO Box 16, Motu, Gisborne
Telephone: (6) 863 5822
Facsimile: (6) 863 5844
Email address: murphy.motu@xtra.co.nz
Website address: www.nzpfga.com


Many animal and plant species are unique to New Zealand, as the country was separated from other land masses about 100 million years ago. This is particularly accurate in the case of birds, which attract bird watching enthusiasts from all over the world.

Due to the lack of predators, many of New Zealand's birds never fully developed wings so, live on the ground. The best known native bird is the kiwi, which is also the country’s unofficial national symbol. Others include the weka and kea, as well as the endangered kakapo, the world’s largest parrot.

The emu, originally from Australia, is also found here, as New Zealand’s own native equivalent, the moa, has now become extinct.

New Zealand has many famous bird watching points, these include Taiaroa Head (which is near Dunedin), known for colonies of royal albatrosses, and Stewart Island, where kiwis can be seen at night.

Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay is the only gannet colony in the world, and is well worth a trip at low tide, when it is possible to get a tractor ride or walk along the beach.

New Zealand is also home to the world’s largest insect, the weta, which is a mouse sized cricket. Another unique part of wildlife the country's home to is the tuatara, which is a reptile whose ancestry stretches back to the dinosaurs.


The national sports of New Zealand are rugby, cricket and netball.

Other sports particular to New Zealand include sheep dog trials and lawn bowls, which is a popular sport played from September to April with greens in most towns.

A number of triathlon races and endurance events are held throughout the year.

Bicycles can be hired easily and special tours offer lifts up to volcano tops (notably at Mount Ruapehu, the Remarkables Range, and the Otaga Peninsula). Most buses and trains allow bicycles on board and bicycle helmets are essential.