Queenstown is a town of adventure. Home to the original bungie jump, the area abounds with fun things to do like skiing, mountain climbing, kayaking and go-carting down mountain roads. When planning our trip we noticed jet boating as another exciting option. Jet boats can travel up to 85 miles per hour in small spaces. They take wide turns which can feel like flying as the boat begins to glide on its own. Because they are powered by a water propulsion system and not a traditional propeller, they can spin 360 degrees in the water. It sounded right up our alley.
We chose Dart River Wilderness Tours in Glenorchy for our jet boating experience. There is a closer company in Queenstown called the ShotOver Jet, also an excellent experience, but we wanted the scenery and length of tour this company offered. While the ShotOver offers thrilling short burst rides through a canyon at a lower price, Dart River offered a more extended experience.
ShotOver Company Video:
Dart River Wilderness Tours Company Video:
The Dart River is a long and winding, shallow river which runs through the Mt Aspiring National Park. On either side are towering mountains, used as backdrops in well known movies such as Lord of the Rings. Upon arrival in New Zealand it is easy to see why Lord of the Rings would be filmed here. The dramatic peaks of the southern alps create a fantasy like setting, and they are surrounded by completely unspoiled terrain.
Dart River Wilderness Tours
The scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is about 45 minutes. It takes you along Lake Wakatipu and is so beautiful you will not mind the commute. You can also opt to be picked up from Queenstown by bus.
The company offers two types of tours – jet boating and “funyaks” – a type of kayak. Once you check in they take you by bus over to the Dart River to begin your tour. While you’re waiting you can learn about the history of jet boats and their creator.
On the way to the river, you are shown some of the Lord of the Rings filming locations and given a guided walking tour through an ancient beech forest. You are then dropped off at the river. Excitement builds as you hear the buzzing of the jet boats approaching to pick you up. We chose an early morning tour due to weather concerns, and the tour leaders had been out pre-checking the route to make sure it was navigable.
The tour lasts about an hour and can only be described as thrilling due to the unpredictability of the boats on the small, shallow river. The guide warns when he is about the spin the boat 360 degrees, so guests can hold on to their gear. This was one of the best experiences we had in New Zealand, and we highly recommend it.
The tour ends back on Lake Wakatipu, you can walk from there to see the view below. A great spot for lunch is the Glenorchy Cafe, a short walk which was recommended by the tour company. It offers artisan and foodie items at a reasonable price.
While I can post photos and explain the tour, it is better to experience it. The video below should give you an idea.
Jet Boating, Dart River Jet Safaris, New Zealand:
[Our Video Here]
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