The secret of adventurous travel is an eye for signposts and an open mind
For many people, a holiday is a quest for adventure – a chance to explore unfamiliar territory, try something new, and perhaps test some personal limits along the way. This needn’t mean climbing Mt Everest or swimming the Amazon. Opportunities for inspiring and achievable experiences will often take you by surprise.
If you’re searching for an adventure holiday, New Zealand is sure to satisfy. Although famous for epic hikes through idyllic scenery, and adrenalised activities such as jet boating and bungy jumping, a mountain of other wonderful memories can be made off the beaten track. Discovering them is easy in a Britz campervan – just look for signposts with words like walkway, waterfall, cave or lake. Double-check your food supplies and fuel gauge, then follow them.
Here’s a short selection of surprises we’ve encountered along the back roads of New Zealand.
Walk, kayak & spot birds, Okarito (West Coast)
Magical Okarito is a small coastal settlement at a quiet road end, half an hours’ drive north of Franz Josef Glacier. Established during the gold rushes, alongside a large lagoon, it’s home to around 30 people. The community-run campground is a laid-back base for exploring the area: fossick on the wild beach or tackle the hike to Trig lookout. Take a Kiwi-spotting tour through the forest after dark, or a boat trip on the lagoon to see other amazing birds. Okarito’s ultimate adventure, however, is kayaking. The lagoon’s shallow, predominantly calm waters offer an unforgettable nature experience ideal for novices; guided trips are also available.
Go caving at Waitomo (King Country)
Hidden beneath the hilly farmlands of the central North Island is one of New Zealand’s most weird and wonderful places – Waitomo Caves. Beyond their somewhat sci-fi entranceways lie a series of chambers and passageways, lined with eerie formations licked by mineral drips while pinpricks of light beam down from a galaxy of glowworms. Each cave can be explored on tours ranging from gentle walks and an utterly beguiling boat trip, to ‘blackwater rafting’ on an inner tube through an inky subterranean river. If you’ve ever wanted to head underground, but haven’t known where to start, Waitomo may well be the answer. Waitomo Top 10 is a lawny spot with a lovely swimming pool.
Hiking, white-water rafting & horse trekking, Peel Forest (Canterbury)
A rare remnant of native forest in the Canterbury foothills, Peel Forest Park is less than 15 minutes’ drive off the Inland Scenic Route (SH72). As well as a peachy conservation campsite, the area offers outdoor action from mild to wild. Take it easy on a short bush walk, or hike to the summit of Little Mount Peel – an achievable challenge for those of moderate fitness. Nearby is the spectacular Rangitata River, one of NZ’s best rafting rivers. Trips range from family-friendly to freaky grade five. If that idea doesn’t float your boat, check out the equine adventures for all-comers offered by Peel Forest Horse Trekking.
Cycling & walking, Karangahake Gorge (Coromandel)
A bit creaky on a bicycle? You’ll fit right in riding Karangahake Gorge, which passes rusty gold-mining relics of monumental proportion. Part of the multi-day Hauraki Rail Trail and secreted into the mountains at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula, this super-cruisy half-day return ride follows an old railway line, through a bushy gorge with a pretty river running through it. Information displays paint pictures of the region’s colourful past. Take a torch for the spooky railway tunnel, and allow time for the Windows Walk – a rewarding stroll with some strange sights and a few shivery bits. To cycle the gorge, park at Waikino Station where there’s bike hire and a delightful cafe). Nearby Waihi Beach has two fab holiday parks – Bowentown and the Top 10.
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