Go Jetboating Up The Shotover River For The Ultimate Queenstown Adventure Tour

Jetboating is one of the most iconic of New Zealand activities, and it all started in the Shotover River by Queenstown.

Jetboating On The Shotover River

New Zealand is world-famous for being the destination of choice for adventure sports. The New Zealand alpine resort town of Queenstown is the capital of adventure sports in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand has pioneered a number of adventure sports – including zorbing (the largest zorb park in the world is in New Zealand’s North Island) and bungy jumping (the first commercial bungy jumping took place in Queenstown).

Adding to the list is jetboating. Jetboats were designed in New Zealand for the country’s many fast-flowing rivers where the water is too shallow for propellers. Today jetboating is one of the leading activities to enjoy in New Zealand.

Aerial view of Queenstown, New Zealand

Aerial view of Queenstown, New Zealand

The Shotover River: The World’s Most Famous Jetboating Destination

The most famous jetboating site in New Zealand is on the dramatic Shotover River just out of Queenstown. Thanks to New Zealand’s mild climate, it is offered year-round. Queenstown is one of the main ski capitals of the Southern Hemisphere. So this must be one of the few places in the world where one can ski and enjoy typically summer water sports all in one day and at the same place.

The 75-kilometer or 47-mile-long Shotover River is fast flowing with plenty of rapids. It flows south from New Zealand’s picture-perfect Southern Alps through the stunning Skippers Canyon.

The Shotover River was part of the historic Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s in the area and was one of the richest gold-bearing rivers in the world. People still look for gold in some of its tributaries.

Today there are still a number of gold rush era attractions, but the river is best known for jetboating and tourism. Besides jetboating, the Shotover River is also famous for white water rafting (although the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world is on the North Island).

Related: Visit Tongariro National Park, Home To New Zealand’s Most Other-Worldly Landscapes

Tourists on the Shotover River In New Zealand
Unsplash / James Pere

Tourists on the Shotover River In New Zealand

What To Expect Skidding Long The Shotover River Canyon In Queenstown

The only company permitted to operate in the famous narrow Shotover River Canyons is Shotover Jet. They have provided a thrilling ride to over 3 million people since 1965 and have been continuously operating in the canyon since that date. It is very much a unique activity in a magical location.

Shotover Jet’s boats have been specially designed to have high performance and are specifically designed for the canyons. On the ride, screaming passengers can expect to get up to speeds of 90 km/h. Along the way, they come within a hair’s breadth of the sheer cliff faces. Feel the shots of adrenaline coursing through one’s veins as one’s heart starts to race.

Queenstown is an outdoor adventure capital. It is home to some of the highest bungy jumps in the world, the world’s largest human catapult, and the world’s largest swing. It should come as no surprise that Shotover Jet also offers a number of combo packages to really get the maximum amount of adrenaline rushes out of the day. The jetboat ride can be packaged with a canyon swing and other events.

Related: Coastal Pacific Train: Explore New Zealand’s Breathtaking Train Journey

Planning A Jetboat Ride On The Shotover River Canyon

The actual jetboat rides take up to 25 minutes, but people should reckon on an hour for the whole thing.

People can choose to drive to the jetboating site just out of Queenstown, or they can take the shuttle service offered by Shotover Jet. The complimentary shuttle departs from Queenstown by the Station Building at 10.00 am, 11.00 am, noon, 2.00 pm, and 3.00 pm.

The Shotover Jet Boat
Wikipedia Commons / Bernard Spragg. NZ

The Shotover Jet Boat

Passengers should bring along sunglasses as there can be some glare off the river. Like so many other activities in New Zealand, the adventure is offered year-round, but it is still chillier in the winter (so dress up warmly with a waterproof jacket, warm clothes, gloves, etc.). Unfortunately, one will not be able to take a personal video of the ride as video cameras are not permitted on the jetboats for safety reasons.

Jetboating on the Shotover can be a fun family experience. The restrictions are that passengers need to have a minimum height of 1-1.2 meters (depending on river conditions). There is no weight limit, but everyone needs to be able to wear their life jackets.

Jetboat Ride Costs:

  • Adult: From $NZD 139.00 ($USD 90)
  • Child: From $NZD 77.00 ($USD 50)

The rides run every day, and the departure times are from 10.00 am and then on every hour until 4.00 pm. People should check in for their ride 30 minutes before departure.

While jetboating on the Shotover River is by far the most famous and iconic jetboating experience in New Zealand, it is far from the only one. There are plenty of other extreme jetboating opportunities all around the country, including in Taupo in the North Island and Hanmer Springs.