Surrounded by beautiful oceans, with scenic and tranquil lakes punctuating the inland landscape, New Zealand is a haven for watersports, especially kayaking. A kayak tour of New Zealand is essential during your visit to this incredible country, and there are many great destinations to choose from, from sea kayaking off the shores of the Abel Tasman National Park to paddling on the gentle waters of the lakes of Queenstown. Across both the North Island and the South Island, here are our favourite kayaking locations across New Zealand.


Haruru Falls, Bay of Islands


Home to over 160 islands and endless crystalline waters, the Bay of Islands offers the perfect backdrop for kayaking. You’ll find a whole host of water activities in the Bay of Islands, and the kayaking route up the Waitangi River to Haruru Falls is not to be missed. After setting off from the departure point, you’ll paddle up the river through mangrove forests, spotting nesting birds and Maori sites as you go, before arriving at the breathtaking Haruru Falls. Here you can get up close to the falls and even take the plunge beneath them if you are feeling adventurous, before a paddle back to the start.

The iconic Milford Sound


Arguably the most spectacular fjord in the Fjordland area of South Island, Milford Sound offers a majestic setting for your kayaking adventure. Surrounded by forests and towering waterfalls, as well as towering mountains such as Mitre Peak, the views around Milford Sound are even better from the water. Paddle around this stunning fjord with Southern Discoveries and enjoy an intimate kayaking experience, where your guide will take you through the area’s nature and show you amazing views of the Harrison Cove and Pembroke Glacier. The kayak tour also includes a relaxed cruise around Milford Sound, entry to the Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory and a tasty picnic lunch.


For even more incredible things to do nearby, head to the local adventure capital and check out all of the water activities in Queenstown.


The Abel Tasman National Park


On the northern edge of South Island, renowned for its sandy beaches and granite cliffs, the Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s premier location for kayaking, with several kayak rental and kayak tour facilities throughout the park. Among the very best kayak tours is the Seal Sanctuary Tour provided by Abel Tasman Kayaks, combining captivating wildlife with wonderful scenery.


This adventure begins with a water taxi into the heart of Abel Tasman, before embarking on a sea kayaking journey around Tonga Island, stopping off at the sanctuary to meet the resident New Zealand Fur Seals and little Blue Penguins. After lunch, which is provided, choose to paddle back to Marahau, or relax on a beach for the afternoon before your return.

lake taupo kayaking new zealand

Image credit: Taupo Kayaking Adventures

Lake Taupo


Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand and offers a wealth of amazing spots to kayak to. Our favourite is the paddle out to the rock carvings at Mine Bay with Taupo Kayaking Adventures, starting from the sheltered waters of Acacia Bay. All around you you’ll see native bush, steep jagged cliffs and small bays and inlets as you glide along the tranquil waters before reaching the incredible Maori rock carvings.


A staggering 14 metres high, the main carving is of the artist’s ancestor Ngatoroirangi, tying the family to the land. It is also surrounded by smaller sculptures of ancestors and guardians important to the local Maori tribe. After admiring the carvings, you can paddle back or, if the wind is heading in the right direction, even effortlessly sail back across the lake, stopping for refreshments and a quick swim halfway.


If you’re looking to have the ultimate kayaking experience, New Zealand is one of the very best destinations you can visit. With our guided tours of New Zealand, you’ll have the chance to visit all of these stunning aquatic locations to take in the stunning scenery and explore them as you wish – whether it’s on foot around the shores, by boat or, of course, by kayak. Hotels and transport are all arranged for you, meaning all you have to do is decide how best to spend your time at our hand-picked destinations.