Associate Editor Jessica Jones taking the plunge from 1,300 feet above Queenstown
Courtesy AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand
Gorgeous QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND, brings out the best — and the bravery — in people.

ALLOW ME TO START BY APOLOGIZING TO MY elementary-school teachers, whom I unknowingly lied to all those years ago. Evidently, my answer to the “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” question has waffled in the intervening decades. Although the structure I leapt from on a recent trip to New Zealand was, in truth, really more of a platform, the small matter of architectural details is beside the point. The point is that against my better judgment, I succumbed to the pressure of my peers, abandoned all sense of reason and flung myself off a ledge with nothing but a cable the thickness of my arm to catch me. And man, it was fun.

But let’s start at the beginning.

The origin of bungee jumping comes from Pentecost Island in the South Pacific, where “land diving” has been practiced for centuries.

I came to New Zealand in the hopes of finding out firsthand why the independent South Pacific nation is known as the Adventure Capital of the World. Indeed, all manner of extreme sports are popular or were invented here, including zorbing — a sport that involves people rolling downhill in a hamster-ball-like sphere — as well as bungee jumping, which, at the start of our trip, only two of our group of eight wanted to try. I was firmly in the “thanks but no thanks” camp, happy to watch from the comfort of solid ground. Even shaky ground. Any ground, really.

Queenstown was my ultimate destination, a picturesque town of 29,000 that does nothing to damage the reputation that New Zealand’s southern island boasts more sheep than people. I checked into the Hilton Queens-town, located on the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu water-front just five minutes from the Queenstown Airport. Built of dark wood and natural stone, the hotel feels like a stylish, contemporary ski lodge — a vibe that continues into the rooms, which feature push-button fireplaces and views of the aptly dubbed Remarkables mountain range.

True to its nickname, New Zealand wasted no time getting our blood pumping, as we’d barely dropped off our luggage before it was time to board a Kawarau Jet boat for a tour of the area via the Shotover River. These speedboats are designed to travel in as little as three inches of water, a necessity for traversing a braided river like the Shotover, which comprises a network of skinny, shallow, woven channels.

Getting There
American Airlines offers service to New Zealand through our oneworld and joint-business partner, Qantas, which offers an unrivaled network of flight services between North America and Australia/New Zealand. Together with regional partner Jetstar, Qantas provides easy access to all major entry points in New Zealand.

Our driver zigged and zagged us over the water’s surface, pointing out notable landmarks before throwing the boat into a 360-degree spin. Exhilarated and hungry for dinner, we made our way to the Hilton’s on-site restaurant, the Wakatipu Grill, where we enjoyed — from the liquor-infused amuse-bouche to the cheesecake-in-a-jar finale — the kind of meal so good it elicits moans with every bite.