Speeding up the Shotover River

Queenstown, known as New Zealand’s ‘Adventure Capital’ has no shortage of activities for thrill seekers.

I don’t like heights and I am certainly not an adrenaline junkie but a jet boat ride on the iconic Shotover river is a thrill I was keen to experience.

There are several different tour companies offering jet boat rides in Queenstown, needless to say, I did my research.

We did our tour with Skippers Canyon Jet. It is one of the more expensive tours (I did manage to get it on sale) but I would consider it the best value for money. The other jet boat tours are just that, 20 – 30 minutes on the jet boat. With Skippers Canyon Jet, you are driven out to the Upper Shotover river though some absolutely stunning scenery. The whole tour lasts around 2.5-3 hours.

We are picked up from the center of town in a 4-wheel drive by our guide Willie. Willie has grown up in the area and during the 1 hour journey to the jet boat he shares his wealth of knowledge with us about the land, the people and the history.

In 1862, Thomas Arthur found the first gold at Arthurs Point on the Shotover River. 2 months later, 4000 gold miners had flocked to the area seeking their fortunes. The Shotover is one of the richest gold bearing rivers in the world and it was mined up until 1992.

At Skippers Road we make a quick stop so that Willie can put chains on the wheels.

Not a bad place to stop.

Uninterrupted views out over Queenstown.


There is plenty of snow to play in but I am regretting my footwear choice. Even with 2 pairs of socks, my canvas shoes let in all the cold.

I’m a snow rookie. But it doesn’t stop the child in me from reaching out and grabbing a handful of snow. I have never felt fresh snow before. I am so astonished at how powdery and soft it is, I insist that Daniel has to also pick some up.

Our 4 wheel drive adventure takes us past snow lined roads with winter bare trees. We weave our way along a narrow windy road with very steep drops. There are moments where my stomach churns. I find myself shifting my weight in my seat – as if I can counterbalance us rolling off the road should a wheel slip off the edge. Astonishingly, the speed limit here is 100kmh, although I am sure anything about 30kmh is asking for trouble.

We pass through Hell’s gate, a pathway through large rock that was made by hand drilling and explosives. Hand drilling! I can’t even imagine how painstakingly challenging that must have been. The rock face at Hell’s Gate is gorgeous though, covered in all its icy stalactites.

We arrive at the Upper Shotover River and get prepared for our jet boat ride. We are provided with life jackets, beanies and gloves. Kitted out and ready to go, we get into the boat. I am pleased to discover that the handrail in the boat is heated.

It’s pretty cold down here in the valley.

It’s even colder once we get moving, I mean teeth chattering cold! I am shrunk down into my scarf as far as I can go to stop my face from going numb. A word of advise, if you don’t wear glasses, make sure you bring sunglasses to wear. The combination of the cold and speed makes it virtually impossible to keep your eyes open without some form of protection!

We speed up the river through narrow canyons and beautiful scenery. Reaching speeds of 80kmh, the ride is thrilling. We approach many cliffs at great speed, you think you are going to collide and then the boat makes a quick turn. The jet boat twists and maneuvers so swiftly.

We even do a few 360’s.

Back on land, we start the journey home with a couple more scenic stops along the way.

It’s been a great afternoon.