Imagine the pleasure of drifting serenely on a mirror-smooth lake with snow-capped mountains reflected in its surface, or on a crystal clear stream meandering through lush rainforest.

New Zealand is a paddler’s paradise, being completely surrounded by ocean, dotted with a thousand lakes and criss-crossed by over 1500 rivers. There are more kayak tour operators per capita here than in any other country. In New Zealand an open two-person canoe is called a ‘Canadian canoe’ and a narrow one-person craft with a small cockpit is called a kayak. The most popular disciplines are; Sea kayaking (using five metre long craft on the ocean, lakes and rivers). White-water kayaking (on fast-flowing rivers with Grade 1-5 rapids). Fun kayaking (on sit-upon plastic boats in surf or flat water). Big river canoeing (using Canadians or kayaks).

Sea kayaking is popular in scenic coastal parks such as the Bay of Islands, Hauraki Gulf, Abel Tasman National Park, Marlborough Sounds, Fiordland and Stewart Island. Many of the tourist resorts in these areas offer boat rentals and guided tours into spectacular wilderness areas with amazing wildlife and pristine beaches – a true eco-experience. The magical Abel Tasman Coast and Marlborough Sounds have combinations of kayaking, walking and water taxi options available. Mt Cook has sea kayaking on the Tasman and Mueller glacier moraine lakes. The Whanganui River in the North Island offers a top-class big river journey.

This sport has something for everyone, catering for personal interests and ability levels. Experienced thrill seekers focus on white-water kayaking and revel in the challenge of New Zealand’s large volume, fast flowing rivers like the Rangitaiki, Tongariro and Kaituna in the north and the Buller, Karamea and Shotover in the south.

Whether your paddling style is relaxing or death defying, you are sure to have rewarding experiences on New Zealand’s waterways.