Doing 360s in Queenstown
A ride through the Shotover River Canyons meshes strain-your-neck views of the towering walls and up-close encounters with the massive boulders that have tumbled into the river at the narrowest spots. As the driver hits the accelerator, you’re pushed back into your seat and the water sprays alongside (and into) the boat. The boats—nicknamed Big Red because of their color—are so maneuverable that the trip’s high comes when the drivers whips the boat around in a 360-degree turn, making you dizzy as the rocks seem to loom closer and closer to the boat. Drivers for the Shotover Jet company have taken more than two million passengers through these canyons, so they know just when to turn to avoid the rocky outcroppings and when to slow down so you can view the Edith Cavell Bridge overhead or catch your breath while enjoying the scenery. So sit back and relax—you’re in good hands. That said, get ready for the ride of your life!
The Shotover Jetboat rides are just part of the fun in and around Queensland, one of New Zealand’s South Island’s friendliest cities. Where do you want to go bungee jumping? Your options are plentiful, including Kawarau Suspension Bridge, the first commercial bungee jump site in the world (see ). Or you could take a four-wheel drive out to the Ledge Bungy and Sky Swing, where you are harnessed in and swing out before you fall downward.
In the summer, spring, and fall, there is tramping (hiking). Several multi-day hikes start from here, including routes on the Routebourne Track, the Rees-Dart Track, and the Greenstone Caples Track. If you choose skydiving, you’ll have a spectacular view of Queenstown and the surrounding mountains. You can go horseback riding on trails into river gorges, visit old mining towns, or ride on paths with sensational views of the surrounding mountains. You can go river rafting, take four-wheel drive vehicles up to waterfalls, or even go to Mt. Aspiring National Park, where parts of the Middle Earth portion of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed.
In the winter, Coronet Peak Skifield beckons skiers with views of the Wakatipu basin. There are also the three bowls of the Remarkables. The skiing is fun, but don’t expect the on-slope grooming and comforts of a Colorado or Utah resort. (And, don’t be surprised if you have to stop the car and wait while a flock of sheep cross the road on your way there.) Heli-skiing is another option. You can even arrange, weather permitting, to ski down the Tasman Glacier (see ), stopping on your way down to investigate ice caves. —LF
A jet boat careens through the Shotover Gorge.
64/3-442-8570 or 0800-SHOTOVER only in New Zealand; www.shotoverjet.com.
When to Go: Year-round (weather and river conditions permitting). Closed Christmas.