Aotearoa New Zealand is the home of high-adrenaline adventure activities, and Kiwi trailblazers have made the unthinkable possible by pushing innovation to the edge and coming up with unique ways to keep thrill-seekers on the edge of their seats.
Renowned as an adventure destination, Aotearoa is a place where adrenaline junkies jump off bridges, roll down hills, and jet through canyons. New Zealanders have historically pushed the boundaries to come up with new and innovative ways to give people an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
Taking part in extreme activities has become almost a rite of passage for visitors looking for that high rush. Here are four extremely ingenious adventure activities that originated in New Zealand, and continue to thrill locals and visitors looking for a good time.
If you fancy jumping off of a bridge attached to an elasticated cord, then you’ll be wanting to try Bungy Jumping. Bungy Jumping derives from ‘land-diving,’ a custom that originates from Vanuatu. For centuries, people would throw themselves from towers with vines around their feet. This ancient ritual inspired the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club in the 1970s.
Their videos inspired AJ Hackett and, in true Kiwi fashion, his imagination took over. He and Henry van Asch started developing bungy cords with help from Auckland University scientists. After extensive testing, they needed a radical way to demonstrate their faith in their new bungy ropes – so in 1987 AJ Hackett did just that by jumping off the Eiffel Tower.
The event made headlines around the world and the world’s first commercial bungy operation opened at the Kawarau Bridge, Queenstown, soon after. Now, with three decades and a 100% spotless safety record under its belt, AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand operates across six sites in three iconic destinations – Queenstown, Auckland and Taupo.
The first jet boat was developed in the 1950s by New Zealander William (Bill) Hamilton so farmers could travel up shallow Canterbury rivers and offer transport to otherwise inaccessible agricultural land.
The Shotover Jet took jet boating from its humble beginnings to become one of New Zealand’s most iconic ‘must do’ visitor activities. Their jet boats will take you on a hair-raising ride, powering through narrow river gorges, almost brushing against sheer rock faces. Since 1965 this New Zealand invention has thrilled over three million people, but the innovation hasn’t stopped – with a prototype electric jetboat now weaving its way through the rivers of Queenstown.
Ever rolled down the hill in a giant plastic inflatable ball? You’ll be in for a wild ride. The ZORB hails from Rotorua and dates back to 2001. Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis were fresh out of university when they invented the double-skinned inflatable sphere in 1994. For the scientifically inclined, the outer layer is only 1mm thick, but strong enough to support a baby elephant.
Officially documented in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2001, the New Zealand invented, manufactured, and operated company produces ZORB balls for the North American, European, and Asian markets.
It’s no ordinary swing through the trees. You’ll be thrown off a cliff upside down and into a 182-metre gorge below, with 60-metres of freefall before swinging 200 metres across the Otago Valley – whew! Shotover Canyon Swing was designed and engineered by Hamish Emerson and Chris Russell, a couple of climbers who’d been jumping off cliffs for years and wanted to share their love of the experience.
The pair built the track, swing, and platform by hand, hauling 1.2 tonnes of wire cable and 1.5 tonnes of concrete to create the world’s highest cliff-jump rope swing. Shotover Canyon Swing was released to the world in 2002 and is still swinging 20 years later.
Looking for a place that uses extreme ingenuity to have a good time? We know a place.