Thousands of kilometres of coastline, lakes and rivers herald New Zealand as a water sports mecca.
Thousands of kilometres of coastline, beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers make New Zealand the perfect place for fun in and on the water.
Rafting is a fun way to experience New Zealand’s outdoors and there’s a range of rafting trips on rivers around the country. White water rafting on fast-flowing rivers is an adrenalin adventure, or head underground for the unique experience of black water rafting on rivers running through subterranean caves.
Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is popular in New Zealand and you’ll often find equipment for hire at beaches and lakes around the country. It’s a great activity for a wide range of ages and abilities.
Sea kayaking is a fantastic way to see some of New Zealand’s most beautiful coastline and there are many guided trips available. Popular kayaking spots in the North Island include the Bay of Islands, Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, the Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty. At the top of the South Island is the beautiful Marlborough Sounds and Abel Tasman National Park, with the chance to paddle a Māori waka. Lakes and rivers around the country offer the fun of a kayak trip, with white water kayaking options as well. A kayak trip on Lake Taupō is the best way to see the iconic Māori rock carving.
New Zealand has world-class surfing, whether you’re an experienced rider or keen to learn at one of the many surf schools. Some of the best places for surfing in New Zealand are on the North Island’s west coast at Raglan, Piha and Muriwai in the north, and plenty of spots along Surf Highway 45 through Taranaki further south. On the east coast, Gisborne is the place to go.
There’s great surfing in the South Island at Westport, Kaikōura, Banks Peninsula and Dunedin.
Snorkelling and diving
Another side of New Zealand is waiting under the water. There are spectacular spots for diving and snorkelling right around our coastline with fish and other sea-life around wrecks, drop-offs and sub-tropical reefs.
Northland is home to some of New Zealand’s best diving and it’s here you’ll find the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve, rated as one of the world’s best dive sites by renowned diver and adventurer Jacques Cousteau.
There’s a range of dive tours and trips available for experience certified divers and beginners, with learn to dive lessons available too.
You’re never far from a swim in New Zealand. Our beaches range from golden shores with gently lapping waves to sweeping black sands and crashing surf. There are lakes, rivers and waterfalls to explore too. For unique experiences, head to Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula to dig your own hot pool at low tide, or swim in the glacier-fed azure blue waters of the famous Blue Pools in Wanaka.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to scenic and wildlife cruises around New Zealand. Vessels range from smaller boats for short trips to large luxury launches with on-board cafés and expert commentary, and even overnight boats. Go whale and dolphin spotting in the Bay of Islands, Auckland and Kaikōura, and see the endangered Hector’s dolphin in Akaroa. Popular scenic cruises in the North Island include the Hole in the Rock in the Bay of Islands, Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula and Auckland’s gulf islands. In the South Island, there’s Abel Tasman National Park, a unique glacier boat tour in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and cruises on the majestic Milford and Doubtful Sounds in Fiordland.
Feel the adrenalin and watch the scenery flash by on a jetboat trip. The Shotover Jet in Queenstown is an iconic New Zealand attraction, or feel the spray as you pass by the mighty Huka Falls in Taupō. You can jetboat on the Whanganui River and see its Bridge to Nowhere, experience the thrill of a ride in the unique braided shallows of the Waimakariri River near Christchurch, or even jetboat through stunning Fiordland National Park.
Stay safe around the water
Whether you’re going for a swim or heading out on a boat, make sure you know how to stay safe around the water in New Zealand.
Many of our beaches can have strong rips (fast-moving currents) that can catch swimmers out. Look for signage and always swim between the flags at beaches with surf patrols. You’ll find useful beach safety tips on the Surf Lifesaving NZ website or visit AdventureSmart for advice on how to stay safe around New Zealand’s coastline and waterways.