If there is one adventure activity that is synonymous with Queenstown, it is the jet boat ride. The phenomenon is simple: you climb into a speedboat and enjoy the exhilaration of flying at high speeds through narrow river gorges. It is this combination of setting (impressive rock faces rising above you and jutting out into the water) and adrenaline (360 degree spins and speeds over 50 mph) that makes such an experience so intriguing. The problem (if we can call it that) is that there are quite a few companies that offer this opportunity on a variety of local rivers and sometimes on different stretches of the same river.
Copyrighting itself as the “world's most exciting jet boat ride” doesn't necessarily make it so, but the Shotover Jet has proven itself for more than forty years as a reliable adrenaline-rush. Only a ten minute drive north of Queenstown with 25 minutes on the water, Shotever Jet is high on both proximity and reputation.
The Kjet boat rides start from the Main Town Pier on Lake Wakatipu and traverse the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers, making for a 43 km (27 mile) long adventure that takes about an hour. Kjet also has other adventure opportunities like white water rafting worth including in your Queenstown itinerary.
Thunder Jet is another competitive jet boat experience, coming in at cheaper than the other options and covering much of the same terrain. It starts from either Frankton Marina or Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakapitu and travels the high cliffs of the Kawarau River for about an hour of dizzying excitement.
The Skippers Canyon Jetboat company is another option that focuses on a section a bit further up the incredible Shotover River that is only accessible via shuttle from the Station Building bus stop in Queenstown. They run a thirty minute ride at a price comparable to most other jet boat rides in the area.
Lastly, the Dart River Wilderness Jet tour is less about the palpable sense of danger that comes from wheeling through gorges and more about seeing some of the most fantastic scenery on earth. Based in Mount Aspiring National Park, you'll reach the same high speeds in a context of majestic peaks and shimmering water. Pick ups occur all over Queenstown, and, although this is the most expensive of the jet boat rides listed, it includes transport, over an hour on the jet boat, and some wilderness touring as well.
To view promotional videos of each jet boat experience, take a look at our included links. No matter what you choose, it'll be a wild time!
Note:Be sure to dress warmly and with protection against the water; the wind chill can get pretty rough at high speeds and the 360 spins will undoubtedly douse you with water.