From Jet Boating to Steam Boating in Queenstown, New Zealand

As a bit of an adrenaline junkie, going on a jet boat ride was high on my list of things to do when I went to New Zealand, though of course not any old jet boat ride would do. I came across plenty of opportunities as I traveled around the South Island, but most were on calm rivers and lakes, and I wanted something a little more dangerous.

I was in my accommodation in Queenstown when I finally found what I was looking for. I decided to take a ride on the Shotover Jet that shoots it’s way up and down the narrow Shotover River Canyon. No boring old lake for me!

When I arrived at the set off point for the Shotover Jet, I watched the boat speeding along through the shallow water and I was instantly filled with excitement. I couldn’t wait to get in on the action!

Waiting at the Shotover Jet in Queenstown, New Zealand

People boarding the Shotover Jet

Before long I was suited up in my life jacket and climbing on board for my first jet boating experience.

The jet boat shot off down the spectacular canyon, tall cliffs rising up on both sides and water spraying in it’s wake. Just as I was enjoying the scenery racing by we suddenly did a full 360° spin before continuing down the river at ridiculous speeds of up to 85kph. At times the water seemed so shallow that I thought we were going to hit the bottom and tear the boat apart, but the boat is designed to operate in as little as 10cm of water.

We continued flying up and down the canyon doing spins and sharp turns, often coming so close to the canyon walls that I was sure that we were going to crash, but the skilled driver was completely in control. This ride was truly exhilarating.

jet boat on the Shotover River in Queenstown, New Zealand

The Shotover Jet speeding up the Canyon

The Shotover Jet was not a cheap experience, but certainly well worth it. I hopped off the boat feeling pumped and full of energy. It was certainly a great way to feel alive!

When I got back to Queenstown I decided to spend the afternoon on another boat, this time at the opposite end of the scale.

The TSS Earnslaw is a vintage steam boat that is actually turning 100 years old this year. It has been operating on the beautiful Lake Wakatipu for all of that time, and departs for daily cruises from the Queenstown Wharf.

The beautiful old steam boat slowly chugged it’s way along the lake, and I sat there taking in the peaceful and relaxing setting and pace of the boat. We headed towards the Walter Peak High Country Farm on the shore of the lake, where I would take a tour of the farm.

TSS Earnslaw Steamboat in Queenstown, New Zealand

On the deck of the TSS Earnslaw

View of Lake Wakatipu from a steamboat in Queenstown, New Zealand

View of Lake Wakatipu from the top deck

Walter Peak High Country Farm in Queenstown, New Zealand

Walter Peak High Country Farm from the TSS Earnslaw

TSS Earnslaw steamboat in Queenstown, New Zealand

The TSS Earnslaw docked at the farm

When we arrived at the jetty we departed the boat and were able to explore most of the farm on our own. The old farm is a great way to learn about how a New Zealand sheep farm operates, and they have several demonstrations, my favourite being the sheep dog round up. It was fascinating to watch as the dogs herded up the sheep and guided them into the pen.

Sheep in Queenstown, New Zealand

Different breeds of sheep at the farm

Dog herding sheep in Queenstown, New Zealand

Watching a sheep dog demonstration

As I was watching the show however, I kept being drawn back to the puppies!

Sheep dog puppies in Queenstown, New Zealand


Eventually we boarded the TSS Earnslaw again and the old steam boat slowly made it’s way back to Queenstown, a lovely way to end a great day of boating in a spectacular part of New Zealand.

Have you been jet boating or steam boating? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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15 comments… add one
  • Erik Mar 21, 2012

    The Earnslaw stops running for a month the day before I get to Queenstown. Bummer. Not sure I am up for jet-boating, but we’ll see if New Zealand brings the adrenaline junkie out in me.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 21, 2012

      Oh that’s a shame Erik, the Earnslaw is a nice ride. Definitely consider going on the Shotover Jet – It’s a lot of fun and you really don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy it.

  • Cherina Mar 21, 2012

    Jet boating looks really fun and what better place to do it! Love the old wooden steamboat too. New Zealand is high on my list of places to go. Looks like you had a blast.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 21, 2012

      Hi Cherina, I did have a blast when I was in New Zealand. As an adventure lover it’s paradise! I can’t wait to get back there myself :) Cheers

  • Wanderplex Mar 23, 2012

    Gosh this looks like so much fun, and NZ really seems like such an awesome location to do it given the stunning scenery!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 23, 2012

      It sure was a lot of fun :) And it’s hard to beat New Zealand when it comes to scenery!

  • Mark Wiens Mar 24, 2012

    That Shotover Jet Boat looks awesome – I’m sure that was a lot of fun! Great photos – beautiful place!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 24, 2012

      It really was a lot of fun, Mark. Definitely worth it.

  • Emme Rogers Mar 24, 2012

    To be a girl here for a moment … such cute puppies!!!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 24, 2012

      Hehe I was no better Emme! While everyone else was busy watching the sheep show I kept getting distracted by the puppies 😉

  • cheryl Apr 26, 2012

    Looks like a super fun day! I am drawn to puppies and kittens whenever I travel and would have been the same on that farm visit. 😉

    • Dean Wickham Apr 27, 2012

      Hehe I know what you mean Cheryl, they are hard to resist! 😉

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