Miles of isolated, untouched islets. Thousands of unexplored waterways. Wave after wave of perfect surf. The biggest recorded coral reef on our planet.
There’s no question that Australia and New Zealand are every water lover’s dream. From Great Barrier Reef snorkelling to open-ocean kayaking, the world’s largest islands offer the perfect conditions for under and overwater exploration. But with boundless opportunities to explore the two countries by river, ocean or swamp- and thousands of water tours out there- how do you choose?
From Tasmanian Wilderness to the picture-perfect Whitsundays, we’ve sifted through every snorkelling trip, surf camp, and sailboat tour in Australia and New Zealand to bring you the South Pacific’s very best water-based adventures.
1. Spot Blue Whales with Whale Watch Western Australia
Being the only company of its kind to run Blue Whale watching tours in the Perth Canyon, taking a trip with Whale Watch Western Australia is a truly unique experience.
Depending on what time you visit and what tour package you choose, you’ll have the chance to see orcas, humpbacks, southern right, and blue whales. Their 25-meter purpose-built vessel features 5 huge viewing platforms over 3 floors, underwater camera and screens to watch the whales below the surface, and up to 32 knots of speed to get up close and personal with the gentle giants as quick as possible.
For more information and bookings, visit Whale Watch Western Australia here.
2. Explore the Great Barrier Reef with Wavelength Reef Cruises
As 90% of the Great Barrier Reef’s diversity lives within 4 meters of the surface, snorkelling is one of the best ways to explore its colourful marine life. Since 1986, Wavelength Reef Cruises has specialised in snorkelling trips in the area; earning themselves exclusive rights to some of the very best snorkelling sites on the outer Great Barrier Reef.
On the comfortable, purpose-built boat you’ll encounter small groups (30 max) and, perhaps most impressively, qualified marine biologists as your knowledgeable, eco-conscious guides. You’ll have the chance to visit one of three different Outer Reef sites on your trip: Opal Reef, St Crispin Reef or Tongue Reef.
For more information and bookings, visit Wavelength Reef Cruises here.
3. Venture Through Port Phillip Bay with Melbourne Sailing Adventures
If you fancy seeing Melbourne from a totally different perspective, get out onto the water! Melbourne Sailing Adventures sails you through beautiful Port Phillip Bay, where you’ll see the iconic St.Kilda Beach and the million dollar suburbs of Albert Park and Port Melbourne set against the stunning backdrop of the Melbourne city skyline.
Aboard the beautiful, hand-carved 60ft SV Alexander Stewart you’ll be hoisting the sails and helping the crew with the operation of the ship, whilst spotting dolphins, seals, and fairy penguins along the way. Choose from a 3-hour sail or multi-day privately chartered trips.
For more information and bookings, visit Melbourne Sailing Adventures here.
4. Explore the Whitsundays By Kayak with Salty Dog Sea Kayaking
The pristine paradise of the Whitsundays is a bucket list destination for many a traveller. But how many explore it by kayak?
Beginning at Whitehaven Beach, Salty Dog Sea Kayaking’s 6-day expedition takes kayakers up the eastern side of Whitsunday Island, through to the northern end of Hook Island. Not only will you be kayaking some of the clearest waters on the planet, you’ll also snorkel colourful coral reefs, go on guided bush walks, camp under the stars, and get up close and personal with humpback whales along the way.
For more information and bookings, visit Salty Dog Sea Kayaking here.
5. Paddle Board the Coffs Coast with Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours
This is a SUP experience with a difference. Blending nature, adventure, and tradition, Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours gives you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to paddle with the local Gumbaynggirr people; the direct descendants of the world’s first stand up paddlers.
As well as learning to paddle along the stunning Coffs Coast, you’ll get to collect and taste seasonal bush tucker, try your hand at local herbal medicine, learn the Gumbaynggirr language, and hear their ancient stories passed down from generation to generation. You can choose from 3 stunning locations along the Coffs Coast for your paddle: Coffs Harbour Creek, Moonee Creek or Red Rock river; each departing on a different day of the week.
For more information and bookings, visit Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours here.
6. Explore the Tasmanian Wilderness with Roaring 40s Kayaking
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, packed full of wild, tannin-stained rivers, jagged mountain ranges, rolling buttongrass plains and silent green rainforest, is one of the last great wilderness areas left in the world. And the best, most adventurous way to explore it? By kayak.
Offering 7 and 3 multi-day wilderness trips, Roaring 40s Kayaking will take you paddling through sheltered waterways beneath towering mountains; eventually reaching deserted sandy beaches, native pine groves, and stunning camping locations beneath the stars. They also offer half and full day tours around Hobart and sea-cave exploring.
For more information and bookings, visit Roaring 40’s Kayaking here.
7. Climb the Highest Waterfall in the World with Wildwire Wanaka
Calling all adrenaline junkies. This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to scale the highest and most epic waterfall climb in the world. The adventure begins in Wanaka with a spectacular 20-minute mountain cliff drive to the base of the Twin Falls Waterfall. Here you’ll get kitted up and begin your ascent along Wildwire Wanaka’s Via Ferrata (iron path).
Along the way, you’ll cross sky-high wire bridges, encounter hidden crystal-clear pools, and stop off at hidden picnic spots with stunning panoramic views of the valley below. Participants can choose from 3 guided routes depending on their skill, strength, and age.
For more information and bookings, visit Wildwire Wanaka here.
8. Zoom Past Glaciers with Wanaka River Journeys
Whether we know it or not, we’ve all seen Wanaka scenes. Featured prominently in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, Matukituki is one of the world’s most spectacular glacial formed valleys.
Currently the only jet boat company in New Zealand that can take you so close to the glaciers here, a half-day tour with Wanaka River Journeys is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. In a high-speed shallow water boat, you’ll zoom past ancient beech forests, snow-capped mountains and hanging glaciers. Your destination? A guided walk beneath a stunning glacier, where you’ll be surrounded by exploding cascades, deep waterfall-fed pools, and lush green forest.
For more information and bookings, visit Wanaka River Journeys here.
9. Get Lost in The Wilderness with Packrafting New Zealand
If you came to New Zealand to get closer to nature and experience some awesome scenery, it really doesn’t get any better than this. With a focus on small groups (no more than 6 people in any tour), Packrafting New Zealand combines packrafting, hiking, and camping to provide the ultimate wilderness experience.
You’ll be spending your days paddling in a small, lightweight boat through stunning, crystal-clear valleys and hiking to some of the most remote spots in New Zealand’s Te Anau. Choose from day trips, multi-day wilderness adventures, and packrafting rental.
For more information and bookings, visit Packrafting New Zealand here.
For the full list of adventures, check out my article for Flight Network.