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10 Best Kayak Tours in New Zealand


New Zealand’s best kayaking trips!

With more than 15,000km of coastline, 180,000km of rivers and 3,820 lakes, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot to be explored in New Zealand by kayak! Kayaking gets you to all those hard-to-reach locations, with the added satisfaction that your efforts have got you to an amazing place. No wander kayaking in New Zealand is such a popular way to see the country! With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of best kayak tours in New Zealand!

What we love about kayaking in New Zealand is that you don’t have to be an experienced kayaker to have an awesome time. You almost always get an introductory lesson, with guides giving you paddling tips throughout the tour, so you’ll have the most cruisy experience possible. There’s no excuse, get out there and discover the hidden gems of New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and coastline!

Flying Kiwi

1. Doubtful Sound kayak Tour

Kayak among some of New Zealand’s most isolated and grandest landscapes in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park. You might have heard of Milford Sound, but Doubtful Sound is its big brother being twice the size! If you want that wilderness kayaking experience where you hear nothing but the water and the calls of native birds, then consider a day or multi-day trip in Doubtful Sound.

Location: Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island
Steve Cadman on Flickr

2. Lake Mapourika Kayak Tour in Franz Josef

A must-do kayak tour in New Zealand for beginners, the often placid Lake Mapourika offers cruisy kayaking trips. This lake created by the Franz Josef Glacier has dark reflective waters with a backdrop of rainforest and the Southern Alps making for plenty of awesome photo opportunities. While you’re in the area, check out these other 5 Franz Josef Glacier Must-Dos.

Location: Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, South Island

3. Clear Kayaking at Goat Island

See the underwater world in a unique way with a clear kayak! The Goat Island Marine Reserve in Leigh (north Auckland) is a protected area for marine life so there are plenty of fish, stingrays and even marine mammals to be seen under your kayak. You don’t even have to get wet!

Location: Leigh, Auckland, North Island

4. Glowworm Kayak Tour in Tauranga

If there are two things that New Zealand does well it’s kayak tours and glowworm tours! Stick them together and you get an awesome glowworm kayaking! Kayak down secluded creeks which are home to thousands of glistening glowworms. It’s a great way to see these fascinating creatures. Check out more 7 Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.

Location: McLaren Falls Park, Tauranga, North Island.

5. Waterfall Kayak Tour in the Bay of Islands

There are plenty of kayaking operators that can take you through the mangrove forest, i.e. a water forest, of the Waitangi River. Kayak through the trees and up to the impressive Haruru Falls! Those who dare can kayak right underneath the falls for a natural shower! Check out more 10 Must-Dos in the Bay of Islands.

Location: Waitangi, Bay of Islands, North Island.

6. Hobbit Kayak Tour in Marlborough

Lord of the Rings fans, don’t miss this kayaking tour on the Pelorus River! Visit the very same filming locations featured in The Hobbit for those infamous “barrel run” scenes. Aside from nerding out, this kayak tour in Marlborough offers stunning river gorge scenery and plenty of fun gentle rapids to tackle in your inflatable river kayak. Add it to your Marlborough must-dos!

Location: Havelock, Marlborough, South Island

7. Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour in The Coromandel

The Coromandel is renowned for its stunning beaches, most famous of which is Cathedral Cove. While most people take the Cathedral Cove walk to access the beach, an alternative way is along the coast by kayak. Visit offshore islands, paddle into caves and land on the beach of Cathedral Cove to explore its archways and white cliffs. Check out more things to do in the Coromandel to add to your itinerary.

Location: Hahei, Coromandel, North Island
Tourism NZ

8. Golden Bay Kayak Tour in Abel Tasman

One of the Abel Tasman National Park‘s most popular activities is kayaking. That’s unsurprising considering the coastline is full of golden sand beaches backed with forest! Our favourite part of the Abel Tasman coastline is on the Golden Bay side near the town of Takaka. The coast is rugged with islands full of wildlife, arches to kayak through and, of course, lots of secluded beaches!

Location: Tata Beach, Golden Bay, South Island

9. Packrafting Tour in Te Anau

Kayaking with a difference! Packrafting is a sport where your raft or kayak can be packed into a backpack giving you full flexibility to explore both on land and New Zealand’s waterways. A place to experience packrafting in New Zealand is in Te Anau on the edge of the Fiordland National Park. Travel along Te Anau’s rivers to mind-blowing lakes, then pack up your gear and tackle one of the many Fiordland hikes. Check out more things to do in Te Anau right here.

Location: Te Anau, Southland, South Island.

10. Milford Sound Kayak Tour

Milford Sound is on most people’s bucket lists when they come to New Zealand, so if it’s on yours consider seeing the famous fiord by kayak! Multiple companies offer amazing kayak tours to paddle up-close to waterfalls, seals, mountains and whatever surprises may come your way. Check out more things to do in our 5 Milford Sound Must-Dos.

Location: Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island.

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