By Ben Groundwater
Kiwis are crazy. There’s no doubt about it. Find something big, and they’ve climbed it. It was a New Zealander after all – Sir Edmund Hillary – who first reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain. Find something steep, and they’ve skied down it. Just check out all the ski resorts across the country. And, of course, find something high, and they’ve jumped off it. Have you ever heard of the bungy?
New Zealand might just be the greatest adventure sports destination on the planet, so it would be absolutely criminal not to harness that and experience an adrenalin rush for yourself. Climb something big. Ski down something steep. Or, for the best experience, leap off something high.
You’re spoiled for choice. This is the home of the bungy jump, and the world’s first commercial bungy, on the Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island, is still in operation. That leap, is an eye-popping 43 metres above the ground. There are also jumps of 47m, and the Queenstown Ledge, 40m, at Auckland Bridge, and a whopping 134m at the Nevis Bungy in Queenstown. You could also try the Bungy Swing at Nevis, which whips you through a 300m arc over a deep gorge. Good times.
For those who’d prefer a little more distance between them and the ground, there are great sky-diving locations in Wanaka and Nelson on the South Island, and Auckland and Taupo on the North Island. Sweet as, bro.
There’s something of a misconception when it comes to New Zealand. Yes, the country has a thing called “Freedom Camping”, which is a truly great concept that means travellers can pitch a tent or park their campervan in the wilderness for free. Doesn’t have to be an official campsite at all.
However, that doesn’t mean you can just camp anywhere. You can’t pull over to the side of the road when the sun is going down and just set up shop in a field. Freedom camping is permitted on public conservation land only – protected areas that aren’t farms or other private property – and even then, you may see a sign specifically prohibiting the activity in that particular area if there have been problems with Freedom Camping in the past.
Even where Freedom Camping is permitted, there are rules: you have to take out all rubbish – leave no trace of your presence – plus if you’re in a campervan it has to be certified as being self-contained.
Follow all the rules, however, and you’ll be able to legally enjoy this fantastic concept, and ensure future travellers also get to benefit.
Find out more insider tips about other destinations: read all the articles in Ben's "One Thing" series here.
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