Where you can have an Olympic experience in New Zealand
The Lake Dunstan Trail weaves along a steep gorge, with platforms clipped to cliffs and a floating coffee shop.
If watching the Olympics has you entertaining visions of sporting glory, why not change up your usual flop-and-drop holiday for something a little more active?
Whether your idol is canoe sprint champ Lisa Carrington or trampolining trailblazer Dylan Schmidt, don’t forget that our top athletes all had to start somewhere. And who knows – after getting a taste of a sport, perhaps you too could end up securing a ticket to Paris in 2024.
From world-class watersport experiences to venues that specialise in niche events, here are some places where you can have an Olympic experience in New Zealand.
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Kayaking on Lake Karāpiro
Lake Karāpiro, located near Cambridge in the Waikato region, is famous for being the training ground for some of our rowing legends, including Mahe Drysdale, the Evers-Swindell twins, and Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. It’s also where you’ll find a high-performance training base for Canoe Racing New Zealand, which was built off the back of Lisa Carrington’s success.
You can experience New Zealand’s lake of champions by booking a Lake Karāpiro kayak trip with local operator The Boatshed Kayaks. They offer an all-ages guided adventure around the lake in their easy-to-use sea kayaks, where you can get a closer look at the world-renowned rowing course.
Cycling in Cambridge
While you’re in the Waikato, be sure to check out Cambridge’s Avantidrome – the home of New Zealand cycling. The venue boasts a 250-metre indoor velodrome track, and anyone can book in an hour-long “have a go” session, which costs $25 and includes a bike, helmet and coach.
It’s no wonder former Olympic cyclist Sarah Ulmer and BMX champ Sarah Walker call Cambridge home – this is a town that revolves around two wheels. Next door to the Avantidrome is the Gallagher Bike Skills Park, which is a great place for kids to practise, or for a more leisurely experience try the Te Awa River Ride, a scenic new cycleway that follows the Waikato River from Ngāruawāhia to Horahora.
Surfing in Raglan
Surfing might have only made its Olympic debut this year, but Raglan has long been considered one of the world’s best surf destinations, particularly renowned for its long left-hand break. It’s also where top Kiwi surfer Billy Stairmand – who famously defeated Kelly Slater – hails from.
Dip a toe in with the long-standing Raglan Surf School, which offers group lessons for beginners at the reliable Ngarunui Beach. You’ll be taken through all the basics during the two-hour session, and will be paddling into the waves by the end of it.
Climbing in Christchurch
Another brand new Olympic sport is climbing. New Zealand didn’t have any climbers at this year’s Games, so if you reckon you’ve got what it takes to be our next rock star, then you should try adding some climbing to your itinerary next time you’re in Christchurch.
The city is home to New Zealand’s largest climbing centre, Uprising, which offers bouldering – one of the three disciplines at the Olympics that sees climbers scale small rock formations without ropes or harnesses. At Uprising, you can rock on up (sorry) and give it a go, with an all-day pass costing $18.
Trampolining in Queenstown
Dylan Schmidt made history at these Games by winning New Zealand’s first medal at Olympic level in gymnastics and trampolining, claiming the bronze. And with trampoline parks springing up all over the country, there are plenty of places to work on your moves.
Queenstown’s SITE Trampoline venue is about as epic as they come, with seven Olympic-quality trampolines and two massive supertramps – considered the world’s largest and most powerful trampolines. All ages and abilities are welcome, with an hour-long freestyle jump session costing $26.50.
Archery in Nelson
New Zealand hasn’t sent an archer to the Olympics since 2004, so you might be in with a good shot. And there’s a place in Nelson where you can hone your skills – and have a whole lot of fun in the process.
Archery Park Nelson offers archery adventures set in native bush, such as their popular “Dragon Hunt” that sees you shooting 3D targets. It’s perfect for beginners, as you’ll get in-depth traditional archery lessons from an experienced coach. If you’re more interested in medals than slaying dragons, there are also regular sessions that are focused purely on technique.
Curling in Naseby
Let’s not forget about the Winter Olympics – and the tiny town of Naseby in Central Otago is New Zealand’s ice sports capital, home to the southern hemisphere’s first Olympic standard indoor curling rink, as well as the only outdoor ice luge south of the equator.
Often described as bowls on ice, curling is a sport that anyone can pick up. Grab some mates and book in at the Naseby Indoor Curling Rink, where you’ll be taught all the rules and skills. Being indoors, the venue is open year-round, so you have plenty of opportunity to prove you’ve got what it takes to join the Olympic team.
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