Climbing in New Zealand: A Complete Guide to the Best Spots

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verification Verified Expert

    New Zealand, a land of unparalleled beauty, offers a unique blend of natural landscapes that beckon adventurers from all corners of the globe. Among the myriad of activities that this island nation offers, rock climbing stands out as a thrilling pursuit that has been gaining traction over the years. 

    Whether you're a seasoned climber or a newbie looking to scale new heights, climbing in New Zealand promises an experience like no other.

    Types of Climbing in New Zealand

    Sport Climbing

    Sport climbing is a modern form of rock climbing where climbers ascend routes that are protected by pre-placed bolts. This form of climbing focuses on strength, endurance, and technique.

    In New Zealand, sport climbing has gained immense popularity due to the country's diverse terrains and the safety it offers. With routes set up in places like Waikato and Canterbury, climbers can enjoy the thrill without the extensive preparation required for traditional climbing.

    Trad Climbing

    Traditional or 'trad' climbing is a purist's form of climbing where climbers place and remove their own protective gear as they ascend. This form of climbing offers a raw and challenging experience, requiring knowledge, skill, and a sense of adventure. New Zealand's rugged landscapes, especially areas like Wānaka and Taranaki, provide the perfect backdrop for this intense climbing experience.

    Climbing in Wanaka


    Bouldering involves climbing short yet challenging routes, known as problems, without the use of ropes or harnesses. Climbers use climbing shoes for better grip and crash pads to protect themselves in case of falls. 

    Wānaka, with its crags and boulders, is a hotspot for bouldering enthusiasts in New Zealand. It offers a fun, intense workout and is a great way to hone climbing skills.

    Multi-pitch Climbing

    For those looking to spend extended periods on the rock, multi-pitch climbing is the way to go. Climbers ascend multiple pitches in a single climb, taking breaks at belay stations. 

    This form of climbing offers breathtaking views and a profound sense of accomplishment. With its towering peaks and challenging terrains, areas around Aoraki/Mount Cook provide ideal settings for multi-pitch adventures.

    Ice Climbing

    New Zealand's glaciers, especially the spectacular ice walls in the upper part of the Fox Glacier, offer unique opportunities for ice climbing. This form of climbing involves ascending icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water. With regions like Mount Cook offering icy terrains, climbers can experience the exhilaration of conquering frozen landscapes.

    Snow in New Zealand

    Mixed Climbing

    Mixed climbing combines the techniques of rock and ice climbing. Climbers navigate routes that have both rock and ice, requiring a diverse skill set and specialized gear. 

    This challenging form of climbing is for those seeking diversity in their ascent, and New Zealand's geology, especially areas around Queenstown, provides the perfect playground for mixed climbing endeavors.

    Best Places to Go Climbing in New Zealand


    Wanaka, located in the Otago region of the South Island, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It's not just known for its picturesque landscapes but also as a hotspot for bouldering. The unique rock formations here provide climbers with a variety of challenges. 

    Whether you're a beginner looking to get started or an expert seeking a new challenge, Wanaka's bouldering spots have something for everyone. Moreover, the serene environment and the backdrop of Lake Wanaka make the climbing experience even more memorable.



    Nelson, situated at the top of the South Island, is a climber's dream come true. With its diverse climbing options ranging from sport to trad, it caters to climbers of all levels. 

    The region boasts numerous crags and climbing routes set against the backdrop of lush forests and coastal views. Whether you're looking to tackle challenging overhangs or prefer slab climbing, Nelson offers a plethora of options.

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    Often dubbed as the 'Adventure Capital of the World', Queenstown is not just about bungee jumping or skydiving. The region offers a mix of adventure sports, including some of the most thrilling climbing routes in New Zealand. 

    From challenging sport routes to scenic multi-pitch climbs, Queenstown has it all. The Remarkables mountain range, in particular, provides climbers with a unique and challenging environment.


    While Lake Taupo is a major attraction in itself, the region also offers some challenging climbs for rock climbing enthusiasts. The volcanic rock formations around the lake provide unique climbing experiences. 

    Whether you're looking to tackle single-pitch sport routes or multi-pitch trad routes, Taupo has a diverse range of options to choose from. Plus, after a day of climbing, you can relax by the largest lake in New Zealand.


    Mount Cook

    Aoraki/Mount Cook, standing tall as the highest peak in New Zealand, is a must-visit for ice climbers. The region offers a range of ice climbing opportunities, from frozen waterfalls to glacier routes. 

    The challenging terrains combined with the breathtaking views of the Southern Alps make ice climbing here an experience of a lifetime. Moreover, the national park surrounding Mount Cook provides climbers with pristine environments and unparalleled scenic beauty.

    Mount Cook

    Franz Josef Glacier

    Located on the West Coast of the South Island, the Franz Josef Glacier provides unique ice climbing experiences amidst mesmerizing sceneries. The glacier's dynamic environment means that the ice formations change regularly, offering climbers new challenges every time. 

    Whether you're a novice looking to try ice climbing for the first time or an expert seeking a new challenge, the guided climbs on Franz Josef Glacier cater to all. The sheer walls of blue ice and the crevasses provide an adrenaline-pumping experience that is hard to match.Franz Josef Glacier

    Gear You Need for Climbing in New Zealand

    • Rope: The lifeline for every climber.
    • Harness: Essential for safety and support.
    • Belay Device: For controlling the rope during a climb.
    • Carabiners & Quickdraws: Vital for anchoring and safety.
    • Helmet: Always prioritize safety by protecting your head.
    • Shoes: Specialized climbing shoes for grip and comfort.
    • Chalk Bag: Helps keep hands dry for a better grip.

    Safety Precautions to Take When Climbing in New Zealand

    • Check the Weather Forecast: New Zealand's weather can be unpredictable. Always be prepared.
    • Be Aware of Avalanches and Rockfall: Especially in areas like Mount Cook.
    • Climb with a Partner: There's safety in numbers.
    • Always Use a Helmet: Protect your most vital asset.
    • Belay Safely: Ensure you're anchored properly and communicate with your partner.

    History of Climbing in New Zealand 

    Climbing has deep roots in New Zealand's history. The first recorded ascent of a New Zealand mountain was in 1851. Fast forward to 1894, and we see the first ascent of Mount Cook, the country's highest peak. 

    The 1970s marked a significant era as climbing in New Zealand gained immense popularity, transforming it into a world-renowned destination for climbers.


    New Zealand offers a climbing experience that caters to everyone, from novices to professionals. Its diverse landscapes, rich climbing history, and the spirit of adventure make it a top destination for climbers worldwide.

    And while you're planning your climbing trip, why not explore the country in a unique way? Consider renting a campervan from Campervan New Zealand and embark on an unforgettable journey across this beautiful land. Happy climbing and safe travels!

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