Eight Brilliant On-Water Experiences That You Should Book for Summer
Nose dive into an underwater network of caves, go island hopping on a jet ski tour or jump behind the wheel of a high-performance sailboat.
With 15,000 kilometres of watery borders in New Zealand you don't have to go far to dip your toes. If you've already conquered stand-up paddle boarding and perfected the manu, there are plenty of other on-water experiences to tick off the list. Dig out your swimmers and nose dive straight into an underwater network of caves, go island hopping on a jet ski tour in the winterless north, or let wild short tail stingrays give your tootsies a cuddle.
GO ISLAND HOPPING ON A JET SKI TOUR
A journey to New Zealand's winterless north brings you to sleepy towns that roll on to crystal clear inlets and more than 144 undeveloped islands. One of the best ways to explore those islets by jet ski with an experienced guide. With Tango Jet Ski Tours you'll get to see what the islands have to offer from an ocean pocket rocket. The company offer several tours, from a 30-minute zip to the calm waters of Moturoa to a three-hour island experience which makes its way past caves, tunnels, sparkling lagoons and white sand beaches. All tours are guided by a professional skipper with local knowledge.
GET UP CLOSE TO WILD STINGRAYS IN GISBORNE
Fifteen minutes down the road from Gisborne is an interactive marine experience where you can get extraordinarily close to stingrays and other sea life. In fact, visitors on Dive Tatapouri's Reef Ecology Tour have the opportunity to let two short tail stingrays (Pancake and Waffle) sit on their feet and wait for a gentle stroke. The unforgettable experience will see you head across the reef at low tide as experienced guides provide commentary about different species. As well as Pancake and Waffle, you might get to interact with eagle rays and other reef dwellers in their natural habitat.
HELICOPTER TO A SECLUDED BREAK ON GREAT BARRIER ISLAND
For those big on adventurous spirit but short on time, Heletranz's Great Barrier Island Experience is a five-hour hop between some of the best surfing spots in New Zealand. From the departure point in Auckland you'll witness the region's stunning scenery — with eagle eyes likely to spot dolphins, whales and stingrays in the water below. The heli-surfing experience will transport you to epic waves in out-of-the-way surf spots. And then, a gourmet picnic lunch is provided on a private beach.
EXPLORE AN UNDERWATER WORLD AT THE POOR KNIGHTS ISLANDS
Northland's Poor Knights Islands and its underwater network of caves, cliffs and tunnels are renowned for their diving and snorkelling. Jacques Cousteau once rated the area as one of the top ten dives in the world. The sea surrounding the islands has been a marine reserve since 1981, and offers a great variety of underwater habitats to explore — from kelp forests and sponge gardens inhabited by a multitude of exotic fish, to black coral found in deeper waters and the steep cliffs that plunge up to 100 metres below sea level. Alongside a rainbow of reef fish and bottom dwellers, you may encounter a squadron of stingrays during the warmer months.
HEAD OUT ON A MUSSEL CRUISE IN MARLBOROUGH
Wine might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Marlborough, but the region is also the world's largest supplier of Greenshell mussels. Havelock's Greenshell Mussel Cruise is one of the best ways to enjoy the sheltered waters of the Marlborough Sounds and tick off lunch at the same time. The three-hour tour makes its way down the calm channels bordered by regenerating native forest before visiting an active mussel farm. Once anchored, a generous feast of steamed mussels will arrive from the galley as the skipper gives an informative session about the ins and outs of the industry and the succulent bivalves. Served au naturale, you'll learn to understand the flavour profile of the mussels and how well they go down with a glass (or two) of crisp Marlborough sauv.
PADDLE A TRANSPARENT KAYAK AT GOAT ISLAND MARINE RESERVE
Found 90-minutes from Auckland, Goat Island is part of the country's first marine reserve. The stunning clear waters make for the perfect destination to spot a variety of marine life. If you'd rather not don a mask and snorkel, Clearyak hires 100 percent clear kayaks so you can paddle to outer reaches of the reserve and marvel at the sea life below. It's likely you'll see a variety of fish, such as snapper, red moki, blue maomao and even some eagle rays. Each Clearyak seats two people and costs $60 for 30 minutes.
JUMP BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A HIGH-PERFORMANCE SAILBOAT
If you've ever been curious about the top speed of a high-performance sailboat, there's now an opportunity that will throw you right in the driver's seat. Explore Group offers a two-hour sailing experience where you can take the helm of an America's Cup vessel, exert energy on the grinders or sit back and soak up the beautiful Waitematā Harbour. The guided experience offers the thrill of sailing a race vessel ahead of the 36th America's Cup battle in 2021.
SPOT MARINE LIFE ON A RESEARCH VESSEL
You don't need to visit the South Island's east coast to go whale spotting. Leaving from the Viaduct Harbour, the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari promises encounters with New Zealand marine wildlife including whales, dolphins, seals and rare seabirds. A trip on the 65-foot research vessel directly contributes to protect the local marine environment, with proceeds going towards marine mammal research and the protection of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari also works with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and universities to conduct vital research during its tours. You can expect the marine researchers to share some of their knowledge during your tour.
Top image: Clearyak.
Published on November 17, 2020 by Stephen Heard