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Top 10 Water Sports Activities to Do in New Zealand


There is a lot of water in New Zealand – a lot.

If it isn’t in the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean surrounding the 15,000km of coastline, it’s the obscene amount of lakes (3,820 of them to be exact). New Zealand has made the most out of these waters by hosting some incredible water sports. From a casual exploration trip by kayak to fighting to keep inside your raft in white water rafting, there are plenty of ways to be entertained on the water in New Zealand.

No wonder so many Kiwis love to get out on the ocean, whether it’s to sail to the many offshore islands or surf the pumping waves. Make like a New Zealander and tick off the eight epic water sports activities from your New Zealand adventure bucket list!

Where can you do some of these awesome water sports in New Zealand? Check out New Zealand’s 10 Largest Lakes or 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand.

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1. Kayak

Explore New Zealand’s hard-to-reach places on the coast, such as the caves and islands near Cathedral Cove or see the 10-metre high Maori carvings at Mine Bay, Taupo. Test your sea kayaking skills on the waters of the sheltered Auckland harbour by kayaking to these 10 Islands to Kayak to From Auckland.


2. Surf

The North Island is especially surrounded by some “gnarly” waves. There are popular beaches in Raglan and Piha, but you can find some great surf all over the coast. Try the Taranaki Surf Highway 45 or the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland for some big surf. You can find some hidden gems in the South Island, especially along the east coast.

Check out the 7 Best Places to Surf on the North Island and the 5 Places to Surf on the South Island.
 Dave Young

3. Jet boating

A Kiwi invention and therefore a New Zealand must-do, jet boating is a super-speed activity that has you hurtling downriver gorges and steep canyons. The nippy boat can even do full 360-degree spins! Check out the 7 Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.


4. Parasailing

What a better way to get the most spectacular and highest views of the coastline? Parasailing of course! When you visit the stunning Bay of Islands and its 144 islands, you have to experience New Zealand’s ultimate parasail. Fly solo, tandem or even triple as high as 1200 feet. (That’s over 350 metres high!) It’s seriously a “must do” when you visit the Bay of Islands. With a bit of luck, you’ll even spot dolphins from up there. 
Parasail Bay of Islands

5. White water rafting

The river gorges that make jet boating so good in New Zealand also makes excellent rapids for white water rafting. Whatever your ability or fear level, there are rapids from grades 2 to 5 all over the country. Check out some fun places to raft in our article: The 7 Places to Go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.


6. Great white shark cage diving

Off the coast of Stewart Island, you can join the great white sharks. It must be the most badass dive around.

Check out our full guide to Stewart Island for backpackers here.
Joachim Huber

7. Sailing

There are scenic sailing tours around New Zealand’s national parks, such as Abel Tasman, or hire a sailboat to go out to sea. Check out the best places to sail here: 5 Places to go Sailing in New Zealand.


8. Scuba diving

See an array of colourful coral, sponges, stingrays and fish in waters such as Poor Knights Island, White Island and Bay of Islands. There are freshwater options too such as Riwaka Caverns near Nelson. Have a look at some top diving spots here: 7 Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand.


9. Stand up Paddle Boarding

This water sport is huge in New Zealand, not just for doing competitively in races, but as a way to relax and explore too. Most tour operators will give you a quick lesson before hitting the water.


10. Canyoning

This involves a lot of water, a lot of streams, rivers, waterfalls and jumping into the water. A good way to see some of nature’s most extreme places in New Zealand is canyoning where you follow a river canyon on its course – no matter what obstacles lie ahead. Find out more in 7 Impressive Canyoning Locations in New Zealand


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