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Being the adventure capital of New Zealand, there are quite a few different adrenaline-filled activities available in Queenstown. One of the most popular and first to operate in Queenstown was jet boating.
Queenstown’s rivers and gorges are perfect for jet boating and this adventure activity is now the most popular adventure tour in town. To put it simply, it’s easily a must-do activity in Queenstown!
The only problem is there are so many different companies to choose from for your jet boating tour in Queenstown.
That’s why I’m going to compare all of the jet boating tours available in Queenstown so you can pick the best jet boating in Queenston tour for you!
Jet Boating in Queenstown FAQs
5 BEST Queenstown Jet Boat Tours/Operators
Below I’ll compare all of the jet boating companies in Queenstown and let you know who each tour is best suited to as well as the pros and cons of each company mentioned!
1. K Jet Queenstown
- Leaves from: Queenstown Pier
- Duration: 55 minutes of jet boating
- Price: $135 ($69 child) NZD
K Jet was Queenstown’s first jet boating operator and the first to commercially operate in New Zealand. In fact, K Jet has been operating in Queenstown since 1958!
K Jet’s jet boating tour in Queenstown starts from right in town at the main pier. From here, their adventure takes you across Lake Wakatipu to both the Kawarau River and the Shotover River.
Their jet boating experience lasts for 55 minutes and they depart from the Queenstown pier every hour on the hour between 9 am and 6 pm in summer and 10 am to 4 pm during all other seasons.
K Jet knows the rivers well and delivers a great overall tour with skilled guides. In my opinion, K Jet’s jet boating tour is a real contender for the best jet boating tour in Queenstown.
Why Choose K Jet?
K Jet offers one of the most convenient experiences that aside from the 10 minutes needed to gear up and check-in for your tour, will only take up an hour of your day. The main reason for this is they operate from right in town.
K Jet’s tour also visits two rivers which means you get to see even more of Queenstown as well as take a jet boating ride in Lake Wakatipu (Queenstown’s lake).
Why not choose K Jet
K Jet only has the rights to operate in the lower Shotover River and Kawarau River. Both areas of the river they visit aren’t very narrow and don’t offer the same crazy experience as operators in the Upper Shotover River.
Also, because the tour starts on Lake Wakatipu, on days with wind the ride to the shallow rivers isn’t the most comfortable.
I’d recommend K Jet for those with limited time in Queenstown who want a convenient jet boating experience. Also, if you’re really nervous about jet boating in Queenstown then the open sections of the river K Jet operate in will be perfect for your first time.
2. Real NZ
- Leaves from: Queenstown Pier
- Duration: 25 or 60 minutes of jet boating
- Price: From $59 ($39 child) and $125 ($69) respectively
Real NZ (formally Go Orange Jet) is the second company that operates from the main pier in Queenstown. Real NZ is a budget travel company in Queenstown and their experiences and tours are marketed toward budget travelers.
Their jet boating experience is much the same as K Jets, however, instead of turning off the Kawarau River onto the Shotover River, their 1-hour tour continues 27mi (44km) further down the Kawarau River.
Another interesting thing to note about Real NZ is that they offer two different tours. The 1-hour tour mentioned above and a 25-minute tour only costs $79 NZD and $59 NZD during the shoulder season.
Real NZ’s 25-minute jet boating tour leaves the main pier every 30 minutes from 10 am to 2 pm all year round. Their 60-minute adventure leaves at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm all summer and 10 am and 1 pm the rest of the year.
If you really want to take your jet boating experience up a notch you can choose to upgrade the Kawarau River Jet to finish with rafting. How cool is that? You’ll raft, paddle, and swim through the historic Kawarau gorge and the famous quarter of a mile (400m) Dog Leg rapid with the option to experience the brand new cliff jumping section in between the two! Wetsuits are provided so you won’t have to worry if the water is chilly. All this can be yours for $141 NZD.
Why choose Real NZ
Real NZ offers the cheapest jet boating experience in Queenstown with their 25-minute jet boat ride. For this reason, they are the best choice for budget travelers.
They also leave from the Queenstown Pier which is very convenient for those with limited time.
Why not choose Real NZ
Real NZ is much the same as K Jet and if you’re not after the 25-minute experience, their 1-hour tour is about the same price as K Jet’s but you won’t get to visit the Shotover River.
Again on windy days, you may need to take a slower, much more bumpy ride through Lake Wakatipu to the Kawarau River.
If you’re super short on time or just don’t have the budget to do an hour-long jet boating ride in Queenstown then Real NZ is a great choice. When I went, I paid for just myself but I can imagine a family of four or five would much prefer the cheaper ride!
For those seeking twice the thrills, it’s really quite the deal to be able to do both jet boating and water rafting in one go!
3. Shotover Jet
- Leaves from: Arthurs Point or take the free shuttle from Queenstown
- Duration: 25 minutes of jet boating
- Price: $159 ($89 child) NZD
Shotover Jet is easily the most famous jet boating operator in Queenstown! As of writing this, Shotover Jet has taken more than 4 million customers on their thrilling ride through the Shotover River and canyon.
The reason Shotover Jet is so popular is that the company has the sole right to operate in the deep canyon areas of the Shotover River near Queenstown.
Their jet boating tour spends 25 minutes speeding through the Shotover River and starts from Arthurs Point only 10 minutes from Queenstown. This still makes it convenient but also very exciting.
Because of the need to drive to the jet boating tour, Shotover Jet provides a free shuttle from Queenstown and the entire tour from pickup to drop off is 1.5 hours long. Their tours leave every 15 minutes from 9 am to 6 pm in summer.
If you came to Queenstown to enjoy the scariest jet boating tour then you really can’t beat Shotover Jet, Queenstown. This is the ultimate Queenstown jet boating experience!
Why choose Shotover Jet
Shotover Jet operates in one of the best parts of the Shotover River for jet boating. This is by far one of the most exciting jet boating tours in Queenstown and the reason jet boating is so popular.
Why not choose Shotover Jet
To put it simply, they are expensive! For only 25 minutes in the water, the tour costs $159 for adults and $89 for children. That’s a lot of money for 25 minutes of fun and double the price of Real NZ’s 25-minute ride.
Also, Shotover Jet can serve over 1000 customers every day in summer so it can feel like a bit of a tourist trap while you’re getting ready for your boat ride.
If jet boating has been at the top of your Queenstown bucket list for a long time then you can’t go past the Shotover Jet experience. It’s the most exciting ride in Queenstown and perfect for the adrenaline junkies!
You can book your Shotover Jet tour here.
4. Skippers Canyon Jet
- Leaves from: Queenstown via 4WD
- Duration: 30 minutes for jet boating on a 3-hour tour
- Price: $159 ($85 child) NZD
Skippers Canyon Jet is the second jet boat operator on the Shotover River. However, they don’t operate near Queenstown and instead in the Skippers Canyon 45 minutes from Queenstown.
Their overall jet boating experience is very similar to Shotover Jet and Skippers Jet spends a total of 30 minutes on the water. With that said, this is a small company that doesn’t take the sheer numbers as the Shotover Jet does so the tour is more personal.
The big difference, however, is their tour from Queenstown is 3 hours long and includes a 4wd tour out to the Skippers Canyon. On this part of the tour, you’ll learn about the gold mining days of Queenstown and visit some Lord of the Rings film locations!
Their tours leave Queenstown 3 times a day in summer (8.30 am, 12 pm, and 3.30 pm) and two times in winter (9 am and 1 pm).
Why choose Skipper Canyon Jet
Skipper Canyon Jet is the perfect operator for those who want a little more than just jet boating out of their tour. With the 45-minute drive out and back you’ll get to see some of Queenstown’s most remote areas and enjoy a very personal tour with your guide. Not to mention their jet boat ride is just as exciting as Shotover Jets!
For $159 NZD (adult) the 3-hour tour is pretty good value considering the extras.
Why not choose Skipper Canyon Jet
If you just want to go jet boating then the 3-hour tour can be a turn-off for some. With an hour and a half of driving involved, this tour could be a bit of a drag for those not into history or Lord of the Rings.
This tour is perfect for those who want to enjoy a very exciting jet boating experience but also want a little more value for money with the included scenic tour. Of course, if you love Lord of the Rings then this is a good option too!
You can book your Skippers Canyon Jet tour here.
5. Dart River Wilderness Jet
- Leaves from: Jet boating leaves from Glenorchy, tour from Queenstown
- Duration: Tour lasts 4 hours from Glenorchy, 6 hours from Queenstown
- Price: $279 ($185 child) NZD
Last but certainly not least is the Wilderness Jet experience offered by Dart River Adventures.
This epic tour is not just about jet boating and starts in either Queenstown (with a free shuttle) or Glenorchy (if you drive yourself) and visits many scenic locations and includes a guided walk and 4WD adventure.
From Queenstown, you’ll either take the shuttle or drive yourself to Glenorchy via the Queenstown to Glenorchy scenic drive before boarding your jet boat. In the Dart River, you’ll spend 1 hour enjoying a thrilling ride before pulling over and getting out in Mt Aspiring National Park for a guided walk.
Here, you’ll learn about the area, flora, and fauna, as well as hear Maori Legends. After the short walk, you’ll board a 4WD bus and tour through some film locations and scenery from both the Narnia and Lord of the Rings films. This tour also has the option to add on a 2.5-hour inflatable canoe trip too!
Something to note is you can hike and stay in the Brewster Hut in Mt Aspiring National Park separately if you want more time to explore the area.
The entire tour lasts for around 4 hours from Glenorchy and 6 hours from Queenstown. This makes this Queenstown jet boating tour a half-day adventure to one of the most beautiful (and one of my favorite) areas of New Zealand’s South Island. If you add the canoe trip, it’s a 9 hour day from Queenstown!
Why choose Wilderness Jet
The overall experience of Wilderness Jet is like no other. The tour is both a jet boating ride and a half-day scenic tour of what’s known as the “gateway to paradise.” Despite costing $279 NZD (adults), it’s great value for what’s included.
Why not choose Wilderness Jet
This is a very expensive tour. It will also take up almost an entire day of your stay in Queenstown so be sure it’s how you want to spend your time. Kids might also struggle with the tour being so long.
If you’re coming to Queenstown then you really have to visit Glenorchy. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most breathtaking in NZ.
So, if you weren’t planning on visiting Glenorchy or don’t have a car this tour is the perfect way to get a guided tour of the Glenorchy area as well as an hour-long jetboating ride!
You can book your jet boating experience with Dart River here.
What to bring Jet Boating in Queenstown
To make sure you have the best time jet boating in Queenstown there are a few things you need to do before you go and bring with you.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
New Zealand’s sun is harsh and can catch tourists off guard while jet boating (especially with the glare of the water.) To best prepare, wear sunscreen and bring your sunglasses. Unfortunately, a hat will likely fall off, so leave it behind.
Warm clothes depending on the weather
Jet boating in Queenstown involves getting a little wet and then speeding through the water with a cool breeze. Although jet boating companies provide a waterproof long jacket, they are not warm so be sure to bring some underlayers. Gloves are also a great idea!
If you have a Go Pro or other waterproof camera bring it along! There are some great photo opportunities along the way. Just make sure it’s not too big and bulky and can fit in your pocket or be secured to a mount on your head (GoPro head straps are great.) Objects too big to be secured can become hazards and won’t be allowed.
Other Must-Do Activities while you’re in Queenstown
- Full-Day Milford Sound Experience – This award-winning Queenstown cruise takes place in one of the most scenic places in New Zealand, Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. This tour takes you along a scenic drive stopping at many of the best lakes, valleys, and tunnels before ending the experience on a 2-hour cruise through the fjords and waterfalls in Milford Sound. It will be a full day, to say the least, but it will be an unforgettable experience. Lunch is provided.
- Dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm and Cruise – This laid-back dinner plus cruise is perfect for a day off from physical activity. You’ll ride on the 1912 vintage steamer, the TSS “Earnslaw” to Walter Peak High Country Farm where you’ll enjoy high-end barbequed meats or seafood- buffet style. Cap things off with the choice of desserts and cheeses. After you’ll have the option to stay behind or watch a sheepdog show and sheepshearing demonstration. Truly one of the most exceptional Queenstown tours!
- Scenic Gourmet Food and Wine Tour – Sip wine from New Zealand’s largest wine cave, be served a gourmet lunch and indulge in local cheeses. While enjoying wines from the best regions on the island you will also pass by scenic locations and learn about the Otago Gold Rush. This half-day wine tour in Queenstown has a badge of excellence for being one the best and most popular Queenstown activities.
- Shotover River Canyon Swing– Calling all thrill-seekers! You can jump solo or go tandem on this 60-meter (200-foot) freefall over the Shotover River Canyon. The heart-thumping jump transitions into a graceful swing rocking back and forth above the most epic views. You can expect to allow 2.5hrs for this activity.
- Small-Group Zipline Adventure– If you’re not into freefall activities this zipline over Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped Southern Alps is a great meet-in-the-middle option that can still push you out of your comfort zone if you so choose. You can pick from one of three height options that you feel most comfortable with. The professional guides make sure to provide you with the safest possible experience.
Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is filled with amazing things to do but also awesome places to stay! One thing about Queenstown though, if you don’t book in advance you will miss out on the best places (and the cheapest ones at that!) Here’s our list of recommended hotels in Queenstown:
This was the first place I ever stayed in Queenstown. It’s a great budget backpacker hostel with a very social vibe. The building is kind of old but it’s great value and even has onsite parking for free! A dorm bed here will cost you around $28 NZD per night!
Melbourne Lodge – $$
Another beautiful hotel that is located in the heart of Queenstown. What I love about this place is it sits on the end of Queenstown near the airport meaning that you never have to drive through town to visit the ski fields or many major attractions. It’ll save you time and all-round it’s a fantastic place to stay! Rooms here can be as little as $130 NZD per night!
Rydges – $$
I haven’t actually stayed at the Rydges but my brother has. He recommends it as one fo the best places to stay in Queenstown for location, price, and amenities! Surprisingly, rooms start at only $150 NZD per night here.
If you want to be close to town then you can’t pass on the Novatel. It’s literally right in the town center near the bustling beach and walking streets. Great hotel, great location, and all-around a great place to stay! Rooms start at $225 NZD.
Bailey and I spent our anniversary at the Hilton and really loved our stay. It’s located a little out of town but they run a free shuttle every 30 minutes. The rooms are beautiful in classic Hilton-style and to me, it’s great value starting at $225 NZD per night.
If you want more information on the different areas to stay in Queenstown and more options for hotels, then check out our blog about where to stay in Queenstown!
Note: When booking hotels we always use Booking.com. The reason? They are almost always cheaper (we have booked over 250 hotels with them) and if you find a better price they’ll match it guaranteed – even if it’s a special on their own website!
Thanks for reading!
Jet boating in Queenstown is an awesome tour that we think almost everyone will love. For us, it was amazing to explore parts we hadn’t, even after living in Queenstown for 6 months, the views from the lake and rivers are also spectacular.
We would recommend jet boating in Queenstown to anybody, it is a good adventure activity while still being a sight-seeing experience.
Thanks so much for reading our blog on jet boating in Queenstown. If you have any questions please leave them below in the comments section!