New Zealand is a mecca for adventure outdoors – from hiking “Mount Doom” to bungee jumping & thermal pools
Hiking “Mount Doom”
New Zealand’s Mount Ngauruhoe may be more familiar to you as “Mount Doom,” thanks to a starring role in “The Lord of the Rings” films. If an active, 7,500-foot volcano doesn’t seem daunting, then an excursion along the 12-mile Tongariro Alpine Crossing should be your outdoor adventure of choice. The route travels through the country’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showing off steaming vents and the scars of past eruptions. The first portion of the hike travels through Mangatepopo Valley, where the terrain is relatively flat. From there, the route gets steeper, ascending more than 1,100 feet to the flat expanse of South Crater and the base of Ngauruhoe. The ambitious can even continue up an even more demanding trail to the volcano’s summit. Get a firsthand account of hiking Mount Doom here.
If you’re going to leap off a bridge, where better to do it than the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping? The Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown is just that place. Located in a picture-perfect setting, the bridge offers a 143-foot drop toward the water below – and attracts more than 400,000 people every year. For another gravity-defying option, thrill seekers can also bungee jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The height of this jump is about 130 feet, bolted beneath the bridge’s busy highway. Find out what it’s like to bungee jump in New Zealand here!
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, located about 18 miles south of Rotorua, is part of a sprawling volcanic zone that offers the rare opportunities to see geothermal wonders up close. One highlight for visitors is the Champagne Pool, a scalding volcanic pond that formed more than 700 years ago and spans 215 feet in diameter. A slew of minerals turn the waters minty green and form a vibrant orange crust around the rim. While visitors can’t climb into any of the hot springs here, take a short drive to a collection of pools fed by water from Te Manaroa spring, the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. Here, bathers can experience a collection of private and public pools heated to a range of temperatures, surrounded by stunning views.
For something a bit more active, head to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, filled with steaming volcanic lakes, bubbling geothermal springs, and the Inferno Crater. The park’s Mt. Haszard Hiking Trail offers incredible views of Tarawera Volcano and Lake Rotomahana as well as the unique native ecology and wildlife. Over in the Whakarewarewa Valley, Pohutu Geyser is the star, shooting superheated water up to 100 feet into the air. Learn more about New Zealand’s geothermal attractions here.
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