I was lucky enough this month to attend TRENZ, a tourism exchange held each year in New Zealand to enable operators from all over the country to showcase their tourism offerings to buyers and media from all over the world.
Boy – what a lot to take in. Over 300 exhibitors. As my mission is to find something my teens would like, I decided to focus on adventure. And obviously NZ has that in bucket loads.
Here is my NZ bucket list.
1. Waitomo Caves – Black Abyss and Black Odyssey.
This looks awesome and something I know my cave-dwelling teens would love. Waitomo Caves is worth visiting anyway, not just for the amazing rock formations, but the glow worms that light up the ceilings of the caves.
You can go “black water rafting through them, floating on inner tubes through what looks like a fairly fast flowing underground river.
OR. You can zip-line through them. On the Black Abyss tour, you descend into the seemingly bottomless black depths of the glow worm studded Ruakuri Cave on a five hour expedition that combines abseiling the 35 metre tomo, climbing, whizzing down a flying fox and cave tubing underneath glow worms.
Or if you want to take it up a notch further, the Black Odyssey tour is a 4-hour underground rock climbing tour, in which you’ll edge over crossings high above roaring streamways, spider-walk through ancient rift passages and experience the challenges of technical high rope work and flying foxes. More information on their website.
Actually I can tick this one off, as I managed to fit this in while at TRENZ – but – the teens have yet to, so it can stay on this list. (That’s me there, totally rocking the zipline accessories.)
Waiheke Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland Harbour and it’s famous mainly for it’s wineries. I have fond memories of Waiheke Island, having visited some 20 years ago when I had a day to spare on a business trip.
Back then, I hopped off the ferry, got on an old yellow school bus and passed through farmland to the beautiful but rather deserted Onatangi Beach.
It’s changed. Still beautiful, but rather more populated and Onatangi Beach is lined with million dollar ‘batches’ and a couple of fancy looking restaurants. I bypassed these and headed for Waiheke Eco Zipline.
At your starting point on Eco Zipline ,on the highest part of the island, there are stunning views back across the harbour to Auckland city, which you can enjoy briefly before whizzing over the vineyards at high speed to the next platform.
Three zip lines take you over vineyards and a patch of lush virgin forest to the bottom of the valley and then you’re taken on a guided hike back up the hill, through the rainforest, where you can learn a bit about the natural environment and the history or Western settlement here. More information on the website.
Nothing says adventure like skiing down a live volcano. Mt Ruapehu is a pretty impressive sight, and with 1,050 hectares of patrolled terrain and over 1,800 hectares of lift accessed terrain across both the Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas, this ought to challenge our fitness levels!
I’ve skied in Queenstown but I haven’t skied on the North Island and I had no idea how enormous this mountain park is.
Whakapapa is on the North-Western slopes of Mt Ruapehu and with its North facing basin, many steep faces, slopes and gullies, it’s relative adventure playground for skiers and riders of all abilities.
Turoa is on the South-Western slopes of Ruapehu and has spectacular views out towards the west coast and Mt Taranaki.
By all accounts there’s an excellent variety of terrain to suiting every level of skier and snowboarder and for those who want to get out of the pack and off of the groomed path, there are three main off-piste areas accessible directly off of the 1.4km, 6 seat, High Noon Express Chairlift.
Also recommended is a hike to Mt Ruapehu’s Crater Lake. Worth the effort for the 1000m vertical ride back down.
If that isn’t enough to turn your legs to jelly there’s always the option of a backcountry guide to take you on an adventure into uncharted territory just outside of the ski area boundary.
More information on the website.
4. Kaitiaki Whitewater Sledging.
Apparently invented in the late 70’s by some keen Frenchmen lying on bags full of life jackets and polystyrene, floating down stream, so not in fact that new, but it now has a name, and it’s now a professional sport in Europe – hydrospeed or hydrospeeding.
The attraction of white water sledging (so I’m told) is that you are in control – propelled by the flippers on you feet. The sledges are river purpose designed craft.
Equipped with a padded wetsuit, booties, life jacket, helmet and fins for kicking, propulsion and steering, you jump head long into the rapids. And you don’t need any experience, just a love of hurtling through rapids at high speed.
Kaitiaki Adventures also offer a range of activities that you can package together for a one or 2-day adventure, combining sledging, white water rafting, mountain biking or perhaps even a hike to the crater of Mt Tarawera. More information.
Last but CERTAINLY not least! Diving the Poor Knights Islands off the Tutukaka Coast on the North Island.
I had a vague idea there were some wrecks off the coast of New Zealand (it has a coastline so what are the odds?) and that the water was likely to be rather cold.
I had no idea there was an area so rich in marine life as the Poor Knights dive site. Even Tourism New Zealand’s CEO Kevin Boland raved about it to me. (He dives, he’s a keen mountain-biker – he’s a bit of an action man. Very fitting to head up tourism in the land of adventure!)
23km off the Tutukaka Coast, the Poor Knights Islands are up for World Heritage Status.
The island’s 11 million year old volcanic origins provide myriad spectacular drop offs, walls, caves, arches and tunnels, all inhabited by an amazing array of underwater life.
Converging warm water currents, a micro -climate and thousands of years of separation from the mainland have resulted in a unique biodiversity. Below the water, for 800 metres around the islands, is a marine reserve.
This I’ve got to see. I might need a dry suit though. More information here.
I attended TRENZ this month as a guest of Tourism New Zealand to find out what’s new and what’s hot in New Zealand. Over 300 tourism operators showcased their unique offerings at this year’s event in Auckland.