Skydiving in Queenstown
Unfold your wings above the Remarkables and the Southern Alps
Skydiving in Queenstown, the bona fide Adventure Capital of the World is a bucket-list topper if there ever was one. Just imagine it: The serrated peaks of the mighty Remarkables in the distance, snow-mantled and cut-through by groomed pistes and whizzing skiers. The deep-blue glimmer of great Lake Wakatipu unfolding in the mountain valley below, shining and shimmering and speckled with the occasional cruise boat.
The winding gorges around the Shotover River, carving though the land under the soaring tops of Ben Lomond, Jet boats spraying whitewash along every bend and meander of its courses. And in the distance: the ice-capped mountains of Glenorchy, the Tooth Peaks and the grassy summit of Mount Crichton, the outlines of hikers and mountain bikers weaving along the mud tracks and fir forests that abound between the lot.
The view could not be better, and that's not even mentioning the heart-racing adrenaline hit and the sense of freedom. All of these are reasons why skydiving has risen to become one of the top draws for travelers in Otago's outdoorsy capital and that's really saying something, considering the legendary ski fields, bungee ropes and hiking tracks on offer here! In this guide, we take a look at all the tour providers and operators who can help you don the parachutes and skydive Queenstown.
Established way back in 1990, N-ZONE hails as New Zealand's oldest skydiving operator. The experience shows, and the folk here have garnered countless awards and accolades (the prestigious New Zealand Supreme Tourism Award is just the cherry on top!) for their high-flying services over the last three decades. Hey, 250,000 jumpers can't be wrong!
N-ZONE's dropzone can be found south of Queenstown itself, below the peaks of Double Cone. A swish, modern facility with a large training hanger, it's the perfect place to come and get to grips with all the technicalities of that big jump. The equipment is all reassuringly hi-tech too, with rectangular, zero porosity canopies offering tandem jumpers great manoeuvrability in the air, and those fiercely decorated Supervan 900 Cessna planes allowing for groups of nine jumpers at a time!
The focus at N-ZONE is on tandem jumping with the various packages offering heights of 9,000, 12,000 and 15,000 feet above the mountains of Otago. Every option means dramatic views of Queenstown and the Remarkables, the waters of Wakatipu and Cecil Peak, not to mention up to 60 seconds of freefall descent! Remember though: the higher you go, the longer the ride.
Divers can opt for an official N-ZONE photography package, with action cam footage and high-definition images to chronicle the heart-thumping occasion. Back on the ground and there's also a souvenir shop with branded N-ZONE tees and caps for purchase. Skydiving packages with N-ZONE start at $299, with photography add-ons starting at $179.
Another favourite operator for those eager to skydive Queenstown can be found just around the bends of Lake Wakatipu, on the banks just south of beautiful little Glenorchy town. With a highly experienced team of skydiving professionals, Skydive Paradise is run by a multi-cultural crew coming from all of Scotland, Brazil and Croatia. Each instructor has more than 1,000 dives under their belt, so you can rest assured you're in safe hands!
Days begin with a pick-up from Queenstown, which takes jumpers through some of the most breathtaking areas of the Wakatipu Basin. Paradise guides stop and explain local history along the way, and whet the appetite with some intros to the mountainous areas you're about to witness from above. Then, it's onto a comprehensive safety briefing at the dropzone on the edge of Glenorchy Airport, and some comforting words from the supportive ground crew (just in case you're in need of a little bit of extra encouragement).
Every skydiving package with Paradise includes a short scenic flight over the region. This reveals the awesome bird's eye panoramas offered by this section of South Island for the first time: the glacial tops of the Mount Aspiring National Park to the north; the rugged canyons of the Fiordland to the west; the deep greens and blues of Wakatipu to the south. This really is the land of Middle Earth, famed for its pristine mountain vistas and alpine beauty!
Then it's time to jump. There are just two options to choose from with Paradise, going from a 12,000-foot descent with 45 seconds of freefall to a 15,000-foot descent with a full minutes freefall! Action camera video packages and professional in-jump photography are also offered for an additional fee.
Skydiving packages with Paradise start at $335. Video and photography add-ons begin at $149.
SkyDive Wanaka offers would-be divers the chance to jump above a whole other section of the Southern Alps. Located an hour's drive from Queenstown itself, the operator can be found sandwiched between the ski runs of Treble Cone on the eastern fringes of the Mount Aspiring National Park and the glacial valleys that erupt on the banks of Lake Hawea.
Of course, the scenery is still utterly breathtaking, with the pre-flights encompassing the gorgeous Wanaka lakes district and the top of Mount Cook (the highest mountain in all of NZ!). Jump wise, packages start at $439, with descent options at 12,000 feet and 15,000 feet. There's free branded merchandise for jumpers on the priciest packages, and action cam video and photography add-on options to boot!
Don't miss your chance to check off Queenstown's biggest bucket list draw. Hit the skies here and get one of the most unforgettable views of the Southern Alps, from soaring Mount Cook to the fjords and glaciers of the South Island coast!
Writer: Rich Francis