I have written a number of blogs about the weird and wonderful attractions found only in New Zealand. I thought I had covered them all but low and behold, doing research for a completely different topic, I came across more weird stuff, this time, featuring activities aimed at the tourist market. Here are two adrenaline rides that were invented and perfected in New Zealand.


This is a rather unique attraction found only in New Zealand. In fact, it is the only human powered monorail track in the world. The exhilaration is generated through high-speed acceleration fuelled by your own pedal power. The single occupancy bullet shaped pods are suspended from an overhead rail making them a unique monorail. The pods ride 2 metres above the ground on a pair of 200 metre overhead tracks.

This oddball Kiwi invention is an exciting, dynamic ride where tourists experience up to 60 degree swings on the curves as they sweep high and low over the undulating terrain.  Riders lie back in a reclining position for maximum comfort and minimum aerodynamic drag. The hard wheels on the track reduce rolling resistance, and riders work with seven gears as they fly along at over 50 kph with little effort. Racing can be either against the clock or another rider. Two Shweeb pods can also be joined together for tandem racing.


Opened in Rotorua in October 2007, the Shweeb is a one-of-kind adventure ride that was created by a keen cyclist with an interest in sustainable transport. While living in Tokyo, he decided that overhead cycle monorails connecting the city’s office and apartment towers was preferable to negotiating traffic jams or building more roads and expressways.  Over the next six years, he worked on the concept and developed it into a design. After a few tests of a prototype, he decided Rotorua was the perfect place to let the public test ride the concept. To date, more than 30,000 riders have ridden the Shweeb. The current world record is 55 seconds for the 600m race.

Shweeb (


In 2008 Google called for ideas that would change the world by helping as many people as possible. It evaluated 154,000 ideas submitted by the public and came up with a short list for the public to vote on.

When ‘Drive Innovation in Public Transportation’ turned out to be one of the five winning ideas, Google set about finding an organisation, company or individual to help bring that idea to life. This led to Shweeb capturing the imagination of the advisory board and sharing in the $US10 million worth of investment funding that Google committed to the project.  In 2010 it was winner of Google’s 1 million dollar ‘Drive Innovation in Public’

To date, no urban Shweebs have been built.  The dream to have them ease congestion in major cities has died. The sole operation of this human powered monorail remains as a tourist attraction at the Rotorua Theme Park and continues to draw those who want to experience the weird and wonderful rides New Zealand has to offer.


The Zorb is another wacky New Zealand invention designed for the adrenaline fan. Riding inside it is the next best thing to being in a washing machine!  The 3metre (10ft) high transparent balls can accommodate up to three adventure seekers. The Zorb consists of one ball inside the other with an air layer in between which acts as a shock absorber for the rider while it bumps and rolls its way along the designated courses.

This bizarre activity was invented in 1994 in Rotorua, the North Island answer to Queenstown the Adventure Capital of Australasia. It is now found in various other countries where it is called orbing or globe riding.  However, being New Zealand, it has to offer the most exciting Zorb adventures in the world. Rotorua offers 4 different ball rolling tracks. The Straight Track is built on a 250m long slope and is designed for those who are more cautious. The Sidewinder Track is a different kettle of fish. It is located on a 350m twisting track. During the downhill journey, you slide in 40 litres of water before riding up the sides of 6 heart stopping corners.  If that doesn’t thrill you then the Mega Track should do the trick. It is the fastest, longest and steepest downhill ball rolling track in the world!  You start perched high up on the edge of the ultimate drop before you plummet down 350m of the craziest track invented. The epic view adds to the breath holding experience. The other option is Big Air which involves three dramatic drops, along with thrilling bends and sweeping corners.

Zorb (Everything New Zealand)

The Guinness Book of Records states the fastest Zorb ride is held by Rebecca Mazonson who reached a speed of 52 kilometres per hour (32 mph). She also holds the record for the longest Zorb ride – 3 hours 49 minutes!!

I feel confident in saying that I’m sure there is a Kiwi in some garage or back room busy creating the next fantastical piece of equipment to excite the most intrepid adventurer. Innovation and invention are in the Kiwi DNA – it always has been. It is what has made New Zealand a land of wacky and wonderful attractions for those who thrive on adrenaline rushes.

Ceidrik Heward

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