By Lisa Owen

Following my trip to beautiful Costa Rica where I tried everything from bungy jumping to rappelling down the side of a waterfall, I was looking to go one better and do something even more exciting and adrenaline pumping.

I knew what I had to do - jump out of a perfectly good plane, of course. And there's no better place to do it than New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown.

Skydiving had been high on my bucket list for a long time but I wanted to do it somewhere special, somewhere with unparalleled views and where I knew I was in good hands.

On the day of my jump Queenstown did not disappoint, delivering a brilliant sunny day with not a cloud in sight across the deep blue sky and not a breath of wind. I knew luck was on my side and I had picked the perfect day to skydive.

 

As I headed out to the NZONE Skydive dropzone from Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu shone a brilliant blue with The Remarkables mountain range towering majestically. I couldn’t wait to see them from above.

The NZONE Dropzone is located about 15 minutes out of town. You have a choice of jumping from 9,000, 12,000 and 15,000 feet. On a budget, but wanting to have a reasonable amount of freefall, I opted for the happy medium of jumping from 12,000 feet, which has a freefall of 45 seconds.

I was quickly suited up in jumpsuit and goggles and introduced to my tandem skydiving partner. There was not much time to back out before I know it I was on the plane and we were off.

Swinging my legs over the side of the plane, balancing precariously on the edge as the wind rushes past, and knowing any second I was going to be falling through the air was probably one of the scarier moments of my life. I think bungee jumping was worse because it’s up to you to take the leap but this was pretty close.

The freefall felt like it lasted longer than 45 seconds – and it was a surreal feeling seeing Queenstown from so high up – getting unspoilt views of the lake, mountains and city itself.

Scary but thrilling at the same time – words cannot totally describe the feeling of just casually floating through the air a few hundred metres above Queenstown.

I became so relaxed with the falling bit that I was surprised when we shot up as the parachute opened and then continued our descent down to the dropzone. An absolutely amazing experience and one of my favourite adventures to date.

 

If skydiving isn’t enough adventure for you, then you can bungy jump from various heights across Queenstown depending on if you want to swing above a canyon or right in the centre of Queenstown. Seeing as I’d done bungy jumping about a month earlier, I opted instead for whitewater rafting down the Shotover River.

Spring is meant to be the best time of year to do whitewater rafting in Queenstown as snowmelt and rain brings river levels up. But if you’ve never done whitewater rafting before, it’s a good introduction to do it in the summer months on the Shotover River. These rapids are graded 3-5 or there’s also 2-3 grade rapids on the Kawarau River.

The water is a clear blue turquoise colour and the road getting into the departure point is an adventure in itself as you drive along a narrow dirt road with sheer cliff drop offs into Skippers Canyon.

It’s a bit of a workout as you paddle down the river and in and out of the rapids with names such as the Squeeze, Aftershock, Toilet, Pinball and Jaws. Towards the end, you go through a 170 metre tunnel and out onto the Cascade Rapids.

 

I did my whitewater rafting excursion with Queenstown Rafting.  I was provided with full wetsuit, booties and lifejackets and the raft was manned by an experienced guide. You can also combine the rafting with the Canyon Swing, a 134m bungy jump, or a jetboat ride to add even more fun to your New Zealand adventure.

Once I had spent most of my money in Queenstown on adventure activities, I decided to wind down with a few cheaper and free activities within walking distance of the city centre.

The Skyline Gondola and the luge were great fun. I paid $A45 for the gondola and two luge rides, but for a couple of dollars more you can purchase a few more rides.

On a clear day, the 1.5km gondola ride provides a great view of the river and you can watch the paragliders take off and glide around the hillsides.

 

The luge starting point is adjacent to the gondola where you grab a helmet and head up on the chairlift up to the track. Your first ride is on the scenic route, then you can go on the main track.

 

The luge track is only short and will take only a couple of minutes down, but is good fun for children and big kids alike.

For a free activity during the summer months and to work off the Fergburgers you’re very likely to consume in Queenstown, follow the signs from the gondola to the Ben Lomond track, which winds to the left of the gondola.

You don’t have to walk all the way up to the Ben Lomond summit for spectacular views – but if you’re keen, expect the return trip to take between four to six hours depending on how good you are going up steep mountain sides.

The track up is a narrow and often steep dirt track that is very exposed in places so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. It’s also popular with mountain bikers so keep an eye out.

 

If you don’t want to go the whole way, about halfway up to the saddle is a couple of hills which offer expansive views over Queenstown.

After working up a sweat on Ben Lomond – there’s always the opportunity to really cool off in Lake Wakatipu. Even in summer, the lake temperature sits around 10 degrees.

If swimming in cold water is not your thing, then you can just kayak or paddleboard on the lake, or just sunbake. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are offered lakeside for $A23 for 45 minutes.

Things you should know:

  • All activities listed in this article are within walking distance to the city centre or activity operators provide shuttles to starting points. If you’re staying downtown, you’re not likely to need a car until you head out of Queenstown.
  • It can get pretty hot up on the hike to Ben Lomond during the warmer months so be prepared for the heat with water, a hat and sunscreen. But you’re in the mountains so the weather can also change quickly – so be prepared for wet weather just in case.
  • You’re likely to blow your budget in New Zealand with so many fun things to do. If you’re looking to save a few dollars, most adventure activities such as skydiving are also offered in other parts of the South Island and are often a bit cheaper than Queenstown.

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors.

Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.