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Kawarau River

Kawarau River: Our most recommended tours and activities

Queenstown: Shotover River and Kawarau River Jet Boat Ride

1. Queenstown: Shotover River and Kawarau River Jet Boat Ride

Get an adrenaline rush on a 1-hour jet boat ride, operated by the world’s first commercial jet boat company. Take in stunning views of the Remarkable Mountains and journey up 2 of South Island’s most iconic rivers.  Depart from the heart of Queenstown, and climb aboard the big yellow jet boat at the Main Town Pier. Hold on tight as you accelerate across the water and feel the exhilaration of a high-powered twin-engine boat that powers across Lake Wakatipu. Experience the twists and spins as you enter the Kawarau River and race past rocks and under bridges at speeds of up to 95 kilometers per hour.  Grip the heated handrails and experience 360° spins while you speed up the shallow channels of the Shotover River. After 45 kilometers of pure adrenaline, return to the pier and see photos and videos from your trip.

Queenstown: Kawarau River Rafting and Jet Boat Ride

2. Queenstown: Kawarau River Rafting and Jet Boat Ride

Raft the Kawarau River, perhaps better known as the River Anduin in Lord of the Rings, for a great half-day activity in Queenstown This is a perfect introduction to whitewater rafting for first-timers. There will be plenty of rapids action plus time to sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Catch the free shuttle from the centre of town out to the raft base where you will be fitted out with all your gear. From there, head back into the heart of Queenstown to catch your jet boat transfer. Take on the beginning 22 km of the Kawarau river at 95 km/h with thrilling 360-degree spins as you arrive at the rafting station. Your rafting adventure covers 8-kilometers of the river. Take on grade 2-3 rapids and perhaps the occasional grade 2-4 rapid, when there are higher water levels. These are usually easier to navigate and there is less risk of falling out. Enjoy flat stretches of river between the rapids where you have the opportunity to race your friends on the other rafts or jump out and swim. Keep an eye on the other rafts, as there is a good chance of a water fight. Conclude your adventure by rafting the longest commercially rafted rapid in New Zealand, the Dog Leg. This is a 400-meter long and grade 3/4 rapid. Add some extra excitement by joining in on the optional cliff jumping section, or sit back and watch your friends take a leap.

Queenstown Half-Day 4WD Lord Of the Rings Discovery Tour

3. Queenstown Half-Day 4WD Lord Of the Rings Discovery Tour

Embark on an adventure safari packed with breathtaking scenery, thrilling 4WD action, and LOTR filming locations. Visit the filming locations of Minas Tirith, Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings (Argonath), Gladden Fields, the Ford of Bruinen, and more.  After pick-up from your hotel, journey around the Wakatipu Basin to see The Remarkables, which were used as various mountains throughout the three movies. Travel part way up Queenstown Hill for a bird's-eye view onto Deer Park Heights, which was used for the refugees of Rohan and the Battle of the Wargs scenes. From the viewpoint, head to Kawarau Gorge where the filming took place for the Argonath - 'Pillars of the Kings'. After Kawarau Gorge, travel to Arrowtown where the loss of The One Ring scene at Gladden Fields was shot. Near Arrowtown, you will experience a true off-road adventure. Following a historic gold mining road up the Arrow River, cross the river many times to get to the Ford of Bruinen. Here you can indulge in a refreshing afternoon tea and try your hand at a spot of gold panning. From Arrowtown, travel to the entrance of Skippers Canyon for spectacular panoramic views of the Wakatipu Basin and into the Canyon.

Queenstown: Gibbston Valley Half-Day Canyoning Adventure

4. Queenstown: Gibbston Valley Half-Day Canyoning Adventure

Get introduced to the fun and thrilling sport of canyoning at Kawarau Canyon on an half-day tour. Jump in a van for a 20-minute van transfer from downtown Queenstown into Gibbston Valley's wine country. Immerse yourself in the sport of canyoning whilst enjoying the beauty of your natural surroundings. Professional and qualified guides will kit you out with all the best equipment. Benefit from a full safety briefing and demonstration on all the elements of canyoning before heading out for adventure. You'll take an easy 5-minute walk to the canyon start point. Before you know it, you'll be off down the canyon, sliding natural watersides, trying your hand at abseiling down waterfalls and having the most awesome summer experience ever. This canyon is open to first-time canyoners as well as experienced adventure seekers, looking for an awesome activity in a safe and controlled environment.

Queenstown: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

5. Queenstown: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

Discover Queenstown’s untouched and pristine wilderness during an authentic jet boat adventure across Lake Wakatipu and along the historic Kawarau River. Choose from a 25-minute or 1-hour experience and spend more time on the water with a convenient departure right from the heart of Queenstown. Depart from Thunder Bay next to Steamer Wharf in the heart of Queenstown and travel far up the Kawarau River, covering a distance of 47 km. Along the way, listen to interesting commentary from your experienced driver. After getting equipped with a life jacket, climb on board and experience exhilarating 360-degree spins, skimming the water at speeds of up to 95 km/hour.  Then, travel down the river where it is calmest, even when the lake is rough. Take your camera along to capture the stunning scenery of your jet boat experience with frequent photo opportunities.

Queenstown: White Water Surfing Along the Kawarau River

6. Queenstown: White Water Surfing Along the Kawarau River

Bodyboard up to 12km down the iconic Kawarau River. You’ll enjoy riding white water rapids and even get a chance to try surfing on standing waves, riding whirlpools as well as catching some underwater currents if you are brave enough. The fast Kawarau River bursts with energy, and this trip will challenge your nerves from start to finish. About 1-1.5 hours will be spent in the river.  The bodyboards are light and highly maneuverable, allowing you to be more active in the water. It's the perfect choice for someone looking for the ultimate adventure. You can even choose your own board depending on how much adrenaline you can handle. River surfing is best suited for people who want the full white water experience. You'll get the opportunity to also enjoy some of New Zealand's spectacular scenery on the more gentle parts of the river, and you can also stop for a jump from the cliffs along the river.

Queenstown & Gibbston Valley Wine Hopper Bus

7. Queenstown & Gibbston Valley Wine Hopper Bus

Climb aboard the Wine Hopper bus for a wine adventure at your own pace hopping on and off at wineries in the Queenstown and Gibbston Valley wine region. Departing daily from central Queenstown, a friendly onboard host will help you get the most out of your day. Enjoy a 20-minute scenic drive out to the wine region showcasing the very best of Queenstown's countryside amongst picturesque surroundings. Grab a timetable that will outline the shuttle service stopping hourly at nine venues. Discover one, two or all nine venues - each with their own unique offerings and charm. Reveal an array of winery restaurants and tasting rooms where you can stop for lunch or take a tasting before moving on. Taste award-winning wines at cellar doors, learn all about winemaking by taking an underground wine cave tour, enjoy a leisurely winery lunch, or savor a complimentary cheese tasting at Gibbston Valley Cheesery nestled amongst the vines. You’ll have plenty of time to sip and dine or try a brew at the local tavern. Walk or hire a bike to wander along the Kawarau River as you soak in the stunning views - river on one side and vines on the other. The Wine Hopper Bus runs an hourly circuit 6 times a day around nine wineries and other attractions in Gibbston Valley area. The bus travels in and out of Queenstown every two hours throughout the day. Return to Queenstown when you are ready, arriving at 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm.

Queenstown: Guided E-Bike Tour with Winery Visits & Tastings

8. Queenstown: Guided E-Bike Tour with Winery Visits & Tastings

On this "Ride to the Vines" tour, you will cycle on a powerful e-bike that gives you an opportunity to ride faster and further. Thanks to the help of the bike, you will be able to spend most of your energy spotting interesting places and enjoying the local scenery along the way.  First, you will visit the historic gold mining village of Arrowtown, and ride along the Arrow and Kawarau rivers. Crossing suspension bridges you will also visit the oldest bungy jumping bridge. Then the Gibbston Valley will welcome you with views of extensive vineyards as far as the eye can see.  At the boutique wineries, you will learn about the secrets of vine growing. Personalized wine tastings with your knowledgeable guide will make your trip exclusive and memorable.

From Queenstown: Mount Cook Transfer w/ Guided Landmark Tour

9. From Queenstown: Mount Cook Transfer w/ Guided Landmark Tour

This small group, fully-guided transfer allows you to travel to Mt Cook in style and see all the key highlights on the way. Led by our famously passionate tour guides, notorious for bringing your journey to life by sharing their stories and rich background knowledge and run in modern, comfortable minibuses packed with extras ensuring your comfort and safety. 1. Queenstown - Your tour starts in the stunning city of Queenstown. As we drive out of the city your guide will not only set the scene for your adventurous day but also point out and guide you past some of the areas top highlights. 2. Kawarau Suspension Bridge – Departing Queenstown we then make our way through the stunning Kawarau Gorge passing stunning views, the Kawarau Suspension Bridge and the famous Roaring Meg Lookout. Time and light permitting we will stop for that first great shot of the tour. 3. Cromwell – Exiting the Kawarau Gorge we enter the fruit and wine growing region of Cromwell. Passing huge fields of vines, we cross Lake Dunstan and follow this beautiful lake towards Lindis Pass. 4. Lindis Pass – Climbing in altitude, Lindis Pass has amazing views down through the valleys. Being one of only three alpine roads through the otherwise impassable Southern Alps, we stop at the famous lookout at the top of the pass for an essential photo. 5. Omarama – While driving through the endless plains of the Mackenzie district we will spot several of the famous Merino breed of sheep before stopping at the quaint township of Omarama. While in Omarama we have time for a break or even to try the best creamy chicken pie in NZ (in our opinion)! 6. Lake Pukaki – Turning west we begin to enter the Aoraki National Park and Lake Pukaki begins to emerge in front of us. Lake Pukaki is one of the bluest lakes you will ever see and is stunningly framed by the backdrop of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps. We stop for some amazing photos and to just marvel at the sight that we are beholding. It’s not hard to see why many Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed nearby and we will point them out for you. 7. Mt Cook Information Centre – Arriving at Mt Cook Village, weather depending, we should get some amazing shots of the mountain itself. At 3724m, Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak, however, the mountain can be viewed without any acclimatisation whatsoever from the village which is just 750m above sea level. Your guided transfer ends here but you adventure to explore Mt Cook is only just beginning.

From Queenstown: Gold Panning Day-Trip with Morning Tea

10. From Queenstown: Gold Panning Day-Trip with Morning Tea

Set off to the old gold mining town of Cromwell and learn about New Zealand’s 19th-century gold rush on this half-day tour. Leave Queenstown for the township of Arrowtown, where gold was first found in 1862. Discover the history, follow the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell, and learn to pan for gold. Meet your guide in central Queenstown before heading to Cromwell. Drive through historic Arrowtown and into the Kawarau Gorge, following the old gold miner’s route along the river. Listen to your guide explain the area's history while you admire the views along the way. Coming into Central Otago, drive along rugged farm tracks until you reach a plateau with stunning views of Cromwell and Lake Dunstan. Hear about how farming and mining evolved and shaped the region and admire the quaint old buildings in Cromwell town. Disembark here and pause for a morning tea of hot drinks and scones before your gold panning session by the river. You’ll be provided with a pan and taught the proper technique. Then, it’s time to test your luck and put your skills to the test. Make the return drive to Queenstown along the roaring Kawarau river and enjoy more mining tales from your guide to end the tour.

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What people are saying about Kawarau River

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 295 reviews

I highly recommend KJet for the thrilling ride of your life! You get excitement, beautiful scenery, and the staff there are excellent. You even get to download video and photo's of your experience after your trip is over. 10 out of 10 KJet! I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful ride!

Great, fun experience. Staff were friendly. Booking and checking in was easy. Thank you.

The tour lasted an hour, most other offers are much shorter and cost much more.

We all had a great time, suitable for all ages, thank you.

Great family fun! Grandma and family had an amazing trip!