Australia and New Zealand are two of the top tourist destinations in the world, but when it comes to adventure, which country takes the cake with the most badass opportunities for time well spent in the outdoors?
Ask any Aussie or Kiwi, and they’re sure to go on and on about how much better their country is than the other. So, we took out the guesswork and created this guide to all our favorite activities and which country provides the ultimate adventure experience. The adventure between these two countries ranges from surfing to paragliding all the way to mountaineering.
Now let us break this hard comparison down for you and explain why we think one country may top the other when it comes to adventure. We divided our list into 15 categories ranging from skydiving to spelunking. The country with the most badass destinations for each category will win a point, and whoever has earned the most points at the end will be crowned the ultimate adventure destination down under.
South Cape Bay, Tasmania: With a 7.7km trek through world heritage wilderness, intense coldwater breaks, and waves this place if for you. If you enjoy a little “me time” while surfing this is the place to go, allowing you to surf in an uncrowded place.
The Gold Coast: Filled with countless beaches great for surfing and home to some world class surfing. What surfer does not love year-round warmth and some of the best variety of breaks? There is everything from smaller “beginner” swells at Broadbeach all of the ways to Surfers Paradise. The Gold Coast may be the furthest thing from a “secret” surf spot, but this place has more than enough of world-class surf and a wave of your choice.
Bells Beach or the “spiritual home of surfing” in Australia: There are swells up to 5m and home to the Rip Curl Surf and Music Festival originally called the Bells Beach Surf Classic, which is the world’s oldest surf competition- beginning in 1961 and has been going on annually ever since then. This beach has been a popular surf spot for the past fifty years and counting.
Taranaki: Along the surfer Highway 45 you will be blessed with big waves, unpredictable surf, lava reefs, and a spot for serious surfers only. Not only do you get to ride a few nugs you also get to drive along the beautiful scenic Highway 45.
Kaikoura: Big swells that come up from the deep, break in all directions, and lots of wildlife to see. This may not be the most consistent place to surf but on those lucky days, you will have some nice swells.
Great Barrier Island: A break in all directions with swells up to 6ft, be on the lookout for rocks and great whites! The waves here come from all directions, keeping even the most experienced surfers on their toes.
The surfing legacy in Australia is undeniable. Surf enthusiasts from around the world, professional and amateur alike, flock to Australia for its warm sandy beaches and world-class waves.
Australia – 1
New Zealand – 0
Skiing and Snowboarding
Perisher: Just a six-hour drive from Sydney is the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere with four different areas for beginners all the way to experts. There are more flat terrains and easy slopes for the beginner skiers and the there are halfpipe and steep runs through gum trees for the more advanced shredders. There are almost thirty different visitor amenities and accommodations as well as bars and restaurants for some R&R after a long day of skiing and snowboarding.
Mount Hotham: This place has more than enough to offer. There is everything from chutes and steeps around Mary’s Slide, to bumps on Blue Ribbon, all the way to blacks in Heavenly Valley, for snowboarders, there are gullies, bowls, hits, berms, lips, and open stashes. This is heaven for skier and snowboarder. Mount Hotham is easily accessible from car drive on the Great Alpine Road or short flights out of Sydney or Melbourne. If you want to cross a ski resort off of your bucket list this is THE “Snow Capital of Australia”. This is a more advanced place to ski and snowboard so if you are just getting used to the slopes, begin your journey at Dinner Plain’s to break in that new gear on some beginner slopes.
Thredbo: This place has 50 runs and home to the most challenging near- vertical middle section. Thredbo is not only home to some of the craziest winter sportings but it is also home to the highest peak in Australia, making Kosciuszko National Park one of the most popular resorts throughout every season. There is everything from a golf course to bobsledding, to fly fishing. Most popular for being home to Australia’s highest skiable point of 6,683 feet (2036 meters)
Craigieburn Valley: This is not a place for you beginners to try and pick up skiing or snowboarding. Craigieburn Valley includes all intermediate and advanced runs with an infamous 600-meter descent down the Middle Basin- which is comparable to heli-skiing. There is also access to advanced freeriding, steep narrow chutes, wide-open powder bowls, and uncrowded runs. This is not a very touristy place to hit the slopes, which gives you advanced skiers and snowboarders access to some untouched snow.
Treble Cone: largest ski resort on the South Island with awesome steep and challenging terrain, this resort even offers advanced guided tours to Motatapu Chutes. This is a great place for advanced riders to experience some of the steepest and extreme terrain. This may be a giant playground for the extreme riders, but there is still more than enough easier runs for the beginner’s skiers and snowboarders.
Skiing and Snowboarding: New Zealand
New Zealand’s mountains are tough to beat, not only for relatively flat Australia but anywhere in the world. They don’t call them the Southern Alps for nothing. New Zealand’s slopes are undeniably incredible.
Australia – 1
New Zealand – 1
Uluru (Ayer’s Rock): One of the most iconic rock formation which is, no doubt, best viewed from the air above (preferably while jumping out of a plan!). This one of a kind and beyond unique experience made the qualification which names Ayers Rock to be one of the world’s greatest examples of randomness within nature.
Whitsunday Islands: These islands are some of the most beautiful islands in Australia. They are covered with white sand beaches, extremely close to the Great Barrier Reef, making it an amazing place for sightseeing. The white beaches call for one of the most amazing places to take your lovebird on your honeymoon. Why not add a 14,000-foot jump to that itinerary?
Rottnest Island: This beautiful island is the only island skydiving available in Western Australia. Here you can see the skyline of nearby Perth as well as tons of aquatic wildlife, the beautiful island, beaches, and bay views. Here you can jump as high as 15,000 feet from the air and landing on the beautiful bays of Strikerland or Bickley.
Fox Glacier: Located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. This place allows you to jump from up to a wapping 16,500 feet. If you are lucky enough to jump here, you will be jumping from one of the highest jumps in New Zealand. If that is not enough, you will be actually landing on the world-famous Fox Glacier of New Zealand. The peak surrounded by multiple national parks and more mountain scenery than you could ever imagine.
Wanaka: One of the most beautiful mountain, lake, and forest scenery in New Zealand. This is Kiwis favorite place to vacation, not only because it is the backdrop to Lord of the Rings, but the panoramic view of the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka will leave you breathless.
While New Zealand is an amazing place to go skydiving, it’s impossible to stack against falling from the sky in the vast expanse of the Outback surrounding Uluru or over the Great Barrier Reef. Those inimitable experiences get our vote for most badass skydiving locales.
Australia – 2
New Zeland – 1
Australian Alps Walking Track: Winds 650km through Victoria and luckily enough through multiple national parks throughout Australia. This trail is home to Australia’s highest peaks, forests, alpine lakes allowing for the most “Australian Experience”. This trek brought the dream of connecting the Australian Alps a multiple stage trail. Passing through eight different Australian National Parks, multiple National Reserves and Wilderness Parks, this Australian trail is a true bucket list hike for you extreme backpackers.
Te Araroa: Pack up and get ready for a 3,000km from Cape Regina to Bluff. This trail crosses the entirety of both New Zealand islands and is comparable, if not harder, than the PCT, AT, or CDT. Accompanied with tons of mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, historic sites, and cities- basically all of New Zealand in one long trek. This is the hike of all hikes and definitely ranks in the top five for backpacking experiences. If you are planning on attempting this hike, prepare for a five-month excursion through New Zealand. My advice to you on this hike: DO NOT GIVE THIS HIKE AN END DATE! Take your time and enjoy this hike of a lifetime.
Backpacking: New Zealand
With a 3,000km treck to rival the great thru-hiking trails in the United States, New Zealand is an easy choice for most badass backpacking. Though Australia has plenty of room to grow, existing opportunities just don’t stack up against the Te Araroa.
Australia – 2
New Zealand – 2
Mitchell Falls, Mitchell River NP: Everyone loves a beautiful waterfall. Why not make a 16-hour road trip from the nearest major city (Kununurra) and set out for a 6km hike to the waterfall? Okay, I have to admit this is not the most ideal waterfall to get to but I promise the trek to get here is more than worth it. Make sure to bring all you need for this camping adventure for this is one of the most remote areas in Australia.
Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park: Filled with beautiful white sand beaches, surfing, walks through the bush, and yes- heated showers. This is a “must have” camping trip to add on your bucket list. With just a 40 minute drive from Esperance, you will experience blue waters and bushwalks leading to wild coastal sceneries.
Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park: One of the most remote places to experience “nightlife”… well, because of the best-isolated stargazing in the country that is. If you are looking for a place to cool down after a hike, feel free to head over to some of the permanent watering holes around the area.
Kai Iwi Lakes: Home of some of the most crystal clear water in New Zealand. Because of the beautiful forests, there are plenty of places to get on some day hikes. If you like water sports this is definitely the place for you! Not only can you camp but you can have a grand time with all this place has to offer.
Matauri Bay Holiday Park: If you want to experience beachside camping with beautiful clear water, with views of the bay of islands, and sea. There are so many excursions available here, almost making it like a “camping resort”. Everything from fishing today hikes are available at the Matauri Bay Holiday Park.
Maitai Bay: If you are into boating and camping, this is the place for you! There is everything from snorkeling to see an amazing variety of sea life while swimming in the most beautiful water. The camping spots are first to come, first serve so plan ahead and get there early before the weekend rush! But if you happen to get to the party a little late, no worries! There are plenty of more secluded places to camp but first, maybe get some advice from the locals of the area. This place offers beautiful hikes, giving you a taste of the true New Zealand scenery.
It’s nearly impossible to find anywhere on Earth more remote than the Outback. Australia’s vast, undeveloped backcountry provide endless opportunities to get away from it all and kick back beneath the stars, earning it our vote for the camping category.
Australia – 3
New Zealand – 2
National Pass, Blue Mountains NP: This extremely epic trail was built into the side of cliffs while passing through several waterfalls. This is a beautiful hike but does not underestimate this challenging trail! But the views make the challenge all the more worth it.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro National Park: Get ready to experience the greatest day hike of all time! Going through volcanic mountains and sights of Mount Doom can be seen also (Mt. Ngauruhoe). This 19.4km trek in New Zealand does not call for any hiking permits but plans for transportation to and from the area because it is amazingly secluded!
Hiking: New Zealand
We told you New Zealand’s mountains are hard to beat. Its location at the boundary of two tectonic plates have given rise to some insane geology which can transport you into a whole new world once you leave the trailhead, and for that, the Kiwis have our vote.
Australia – 3
New Zealand – 3
Did you know Australia has more animals within than just kangaroos and koalas? Australia is not called the “Outback” for nothing! It is also home to saltwater crocodiles, Indian taipan (the world’s most venomous snake), platypus (egg-laying, a venomous mammal with a bill), Tasmanian devil (one of the strongest bites per unit of body mass of any animal). Needless to say, if you are even slightly uncomfortable with the thought of weird, venomous animals- maybe stay away from the Outback for it is home to some of the biggest crawlers around.
This place, on the other hand, is home to some of the most beautiful animals around. The Hector’s Dolphin roams about the water, being the world’s smallest dolphin around but sadly it is very endangered. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot- yes an ALPINE PARROT. There is also the yellow-eyed penguins. This animal is one of eight species of penguin in New Zealand. And lastly, the Tuatara. This is a large lizard but it is so much more than that, being the only surviving species of reptile from the dinosaur era! If you want to visit some of the world’s most unique and beautiful wildlife, New Zealand is the place to go.
This one should be a no-brainer. New Zeland’s animals are incredibly unique, don’t get us wrong, but with Australia’s eclectic collection of venomous reptiles (and mammals), quirky marsupials, and downright terrifying crocodiles, it’s no wonder the world’s most famous animal lover, the late, great Steve Irwin, hailed from the lucky country.
Australia – 4
New Zealand – 3
Mount Wellington, Tasmania: With beautiful views of mountains, city (Hobart), and the sea, Tasmania is the wild of Australia. There is a little bit of everything from a view oh so high. Tasmania is one of the most mysterious places in the OZ, so why not set off on a paragliding adventure to see all the sights this amazing place has to offer!
Wanaka: For more of a scenic view lets try paragliding 800m over snow-covered mountains, Lake Tanaka, forests, waterfalls, and multiple valleys of beautiful New Zealand. Seeing these beauties from a bird’s eyes view on a clear day to experience New Zealand in a one of a kind way!
Paragliding: New Zealand
Soaring effortlessly over the peaks, valleys, lakes, and waterfalls is an experience that would be hard to beat anywhere on Earth. The country’s plentiful peaks and outfitters also allow for paragliding experiences throughout both islands that will leave you speechless.
Australia – 4
New Zealand – 4
The outback is full of land to explore. But the Gibb River Road is one of a kind. Spanning over 930 km of track through Western Australia explore the freshwater gorges, waterfalls, and outback scenery through this overland experience. Try and tackle this course during the dry season, but if your experiences and the right set up, get ready to submerge your rig in some water.
The one of a kind 42nd Traverse stretches over 44 km track through forested mountains, crosses streams, and some nice scenery. Not only can you get some fun off-roading done, but do not forget to bring your mountain bike along for the ride! This place is filled with amazing trails of all kinds, but be prepared and make sure you have some experience beneath your belt.
Take us back to the outback, where the open expanses of wilderness stretch farther than your mind can imagine. This place is practically an off-roader’s paradise; you might just want to make sure to bring some extra petrol.
Australia – 5
New Zealand – 4
Cairns, Queensland: Offering a 50m bungee jump with tropical surroundings, beautiful scenery and a party atmosphere why not choose one of the sixteen different jump styles to pick to descend in style. This is home to the FIRST bungee jumping site in all of Australia and, not to mention: this place holds the World Record for the most plunges in a full twenty- four hours of jumping!
Nevis, Queenstown: Yes, here is a wapping 134m jump over the Nevis River being ranked as the #1 best places to free fall. Do not forget to open your eyes, as your hanging head first, to see the endless scenery around you. This is an ultimate experience so take in your journey to the jump. Whether you are as young as 13 years old or as old as 110 – take the plunge of a lifetime! Your dramatic jump start with a crazy trip to the tower and ending with a freefall lasting 8.5 seconds- so make sure to take it all in!
Bungee Jumping: New Zealand
Thanks to glaciers present during the last ice age, New Zealand has been carved into a maze of valleys and canyons just waiting to be conquered. With a jump from nearly three times the height of Australia’s tallest, and one of the largest in the world, New Zealand was an easy choice for the ultimate bungee jumping destination.
Australia – 5
New Zealand – 5
Mount Arapiles: With thousands of routes and once home to the hardest route in the world (Punks in the Gym) this place is one of the world’s premier rock climbing destinations. There is something for everybody, but more the extreme and experienced climbers. This an amazing place to get your hands dirty. There are dense quartzite-sandstone to grab on to and so much more. If you talk to a real climber, Mount Arapiles will without a doubt be on their bucket list of “top places to climb”.
Fiordland: Darran Mountains and Cleddau Valley are home to the best climbing rock in the country. It is near the famous Milford Sound in New Zealand. These rocks hold some of the most perfect stone for those experienced climbers. Definitely check out this place to enjoy some epic climbing!
Rock Climbing: Australia
While it may seem like New Zealand has more opportunity for climbing, Australia’s outback has Fostered a thriving community for rock climbers. The numerous escarpments of sheer rock face scattered around the country have given rise to some world-class routes and draw climbers from around the world.
Australia – 6
New Zealand – 5
Mount Warning, New South Wales: If you are not too much into water sports around Byron Bay, this mountain is home to an ancient volcano, this 1156m summit receives Australia’s first rays of sunlight. To watch this amazing sunrise, set out for a 9km, or 5-hour hike. Give yourself some extra time as you will be assisted with a chain throughout the hike.
Aikikai Mount Cook: This is New Zealand’s highest mountain with a summit of 3,742m. This is a serious mountaineering adventure. Prepare for a 6-days mountaineering experience filled with climbing on ice up to 50º. Come here to experience beautiful glaciers. This is more than just a hike, it is an expedition, filled with guided tours making all the beauty here a reality. I am sorry Australian but New Zealand definitely wins this one.
Mountaineering: New Zealand
Once again, it’s hard to beat those New Zealand mountains. With numerous peaks over 3,000m, stacking up against New Zealand just isn’t in the cards for a nation whose highest peak barely breaks the 2,000m threshold. New Zealand is also where Adventure Consultants, the legendary mountaineering guides who take those they can to the top of Everest, call home and offer high elevation mountaineering experience to those who aren’t quite ready to take on the world’s tallest.
Australia – 6
New Zealand – 6
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park: With 600-1000 limestone caves in the park to explore, get ready to climb into some of the smallest caves around. This place includes self-guided walks through the caves, but remember to not go alone and keep an eye out like you in the home of plenty of bats sleeping and flying around.
Waitomo: Now this is a MUST SEE place to visit in New Zealand. If you do not visit this place, can you even say you went to New Zealand? Home to a huge cave, blackwater rafting, abseiling, and yes, the Hobbit Movie Set Tour of course! Come experience some real adventurous tours of all kind. This is not your average spelunking cave walking tour. There is everything from land to water, and even glowing worms that hang from the ceiling making it a truly one of a kind New Zealand experience.
Spelunking: New Zealand
New Zealand offers something Australia just hasn’t been able to up to this point: a true spelunking experience in an active cave system. While most of Australia’s caves are either dry, developed, or not discovered yet, New Zealand allows you to really get your feet wet exploring its caves. Oh, and did we mention the glow worms?
Australia – 6
New Zealand – 7
The Great Barrier Reef: HELLO! This is the go-to place. Yes, the name makes it famous but there is so much more to it. This reef is literally the largest thing living on this Earth today. Home to countless sea life swimming between hundreds of islands. The following are the foundation of the Coral Sea. The Osprey Reef is home to multiple species of sharks, while Heron Island is a great spot to see manta rays and sea turtles. The Agincourt Reef lies along the Coral Sea trench so there’s tons of biodiversity, and the Hardy Reef (in the Whitsundays) is tough to beat. Nonetheless, the SS Yongala Wreck of the coast of Cairns is a beautifully preserved shipwreck perfect for diving; and lastly, the Lady Elliotts Island is known for manta rays, sea turtles, and humpback whales
White Island: New Zealand’s most active volcano is here! The crazy currents bring in a variety of marine life and some massive fish. Dive from three different spots and gain the unique opportunity to swim near sea vents.
Scuba Diving: Australia
Come on now, you didn’t think we were going to overlook the world’s biggest coral reef system when deciding which country had cooler places to scuba, did you? The Great Barrier Reef truly is something you can’t experience anywhere else on Earth. But, you might want to hurry; scientists are getting increasingly worried that the reef won’t survive today’s warming climate.
Australia – 7
New Zealand – 7
Sydney Harbour: If you want to experience kayaking with a city view this is the place to be. Take a lap around Rose Bay to explore the scenery of the Opera House. From there, make your way under the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Make sure to pack a lunch and make this a day trip, paddling anywhere from 15- 35km!
Cathedral Cove: Not to brag, but this is top for one of the most beautiful stops along the Coromandel Peninsula. Kayak in and out of various caves and along the coast to explore the water, sea life, and beaches. Do not forget to bring your snorkeling gear and hop out of your kayak to truly explore all the beauty this place has to offer. (While you are here exploring part of the Coromandel Peninsula a MUST STOP is the Hot Water Beach along the way. This is a beach that can transform into your very own bubbling jacuzzi. All you have to do is dig a hole in the sand and enjoy the spa with an ocean front view!).
Kayaking: New Zealand
Sydney Harbor is beautiful, but it’s hard to top kayaking through the waters of Cathedral Cove. With dramatic cliffs dropping into the sea, stunning rock formations that jut out of the water like bell towers, and wildlife to spare, this New Zealand destination is a world-class place to do some kayaking.
Australia – 7
New Zealand – 8
Champion: New Zealand
So, after reading through all of these different adventure activities available through the top adventure countries in the world, I think it is safe to say – New Zealand wins as number 1. Yes, the two are very comparable, but come on. If you had to make it into a tally, adding up all the scenery and adventure, there is no doubt that New Zealand wins it all. I am sorry Assiess, but hey, someone had to do the research to see who was number one!