Jet Boating in Skippers Canyon

Speed! Things that go fast! Fast, fast, fast! How can we come to Queenstown, New Zealand’s “Adventure Capital”, and not go on a jet boat? It would surely be the sin of all sins?! However, the choice of jet boat tours is a little overwhelming in Queenstown. All promise thrills, 360 spins and stunning rivers. We’ve tried a few awesome ones before, but we have yet to try the Skippers Canyon Jet – one where even the bus ride is an experience. Let’s check it out!

Possibly hopping on the bus to our doom

Skippers Canyon is infamous for its gnarly road to get there. It is still widely known as one of the World’s Most Dangerous Roads! So when a mini bus arrives outside of Queenstown’s Station Building to pick us up, we are a little skeptical. We’ve seen the Skippers Road! Just yesterday we were winding our way around a corner of it known as “Bus Scratch Corner”.

Nonetheless, we are perhaps stupidly intrigued to see how this plays out so we hop on the bus anyway and prepare for the drive of our lives.

An epic waking great vantage point of Wakatipu

The voice of our driver, Rusty, comes on the speakers and gives us a quick intro to the tour as we move through Queenstown picking up various jet boat thrill-seekers along the way. Then its up the Coronet Peak Road to a sensational view over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains and farmland. Rusty stops the bus for photo opportunities and so we can have a real good look at the “WARNING” signs before committing to the Skippers Road.

The Skippers Road

This is it: is this bus going to make the Skippers Road? Whatever the state of the road, we can’t deny the outstanding beauty of the landscape. Tussock-covered mountains layer one after the other all the way to the higher snowy peaks in the background. Bluffs, huge isolated rocks shaped like a gorilla’s head, and ramps off the cliff edge that look like they are kickers for the longest drop of your life.

We pass a patch of dead North American pine forest that has been sprayed in an effort to get rid of these pests to New Zealand’s ecosystem. It’s a scar on the landscape that can’t be ignored, but brings up the ever-significant issue of the impact of introduced species in New Zealand.

Are we sure we want to drive down here, Mr Bus Driver? Are we sure we want to drive down here, Mr Bus Driver?
Let the adventure begin! Let the adventure begin!
Just some casual jet boat reactions for y'all! Just some casual jet boat reactions for y'all!
The epic Shotover River! The epic Shotover River!

Think thin, people, think thin!

Man, you can tell that Rusty has done this drive a fair few times. It’s impressive how the bus manages to squeeze between narrow gaps between rocks and turn corners on the narrowest sections while anyone sitting next to the window can’t even see the road beneath them. All we see is a sheer drop into the deep canyon below.

No matter which side of the bus you are on, everyone gets a turn at hanging over the edge. As we approach the jet boat, there is a steep drop into the Shotover River below – a river that always looks undeniably stunning with its bright blue waters surrounded by a rocky river gorge.

A boat so badass we can’t even look at it!

Well, after about 45 minutes, we make it back on lower land next to the Shotover River and next to a couple of other Skippers Canyon Jet buses full of windswept-looking tourists.

The dark blue and badass jet boat sits menacingly on the water waiting for its next victims. Robin goes in for a closer look from the riverbanks but is told to not even look at it! (True story… This is a bizarre moment in our trip, it has to be said).

GEaring up for the ride

Now we are being handed over some waterproof and windproof coats, a life jacket, and given a quick safety briefing before crossing the jetty and hopping into the jet boat.

First thing’s first, a photo opportunity. Our jet boat driver, Kevin, gets some speed up the river, does a complete u-turn back toward the jetty with a 360 spin captured on camera so you can purchase it at the end of the tour. (Oh yay, Disney Land has come to Queenstown)!

Robin feeling the wind whip his freshly cut hair Robin feeling the wind whip his freshly cut hair
Having a bit of a Middle-earth moment Having a bit of a Middle-earth moment
Finishing the day with a Ferg-baked-good Finishing the day with a Ferg-baked-good

Near misses, obstacles and 360 spins!

Now, the real trip begins! The jet boat powers upstream along the milky blue Shotover River, dodging canyon walls with near misses, and even squeezing through the narrowest canyon of the Shotover River.

The crisp morning air whips our face, tears are running down our cheeks and drying instantly as we speed up the river.

We stop a couple of times along the river for Kevin to sit on the side of the boat showing us some farming buildings and machinery that now call the Shotover River home and make a great obstacle of the Skippers Canyon Jet.

A lord of the rings filming location

Further up the river, powering over light rapids, doing some 360-degree spins along the way, we stop at a Lord of the Rings location where Arwen is riding away from the Black Riders saying: “If you want him, come and claim him”. Kevin quickly shows us a printout of the movie screenshot before turning the boat around and rushing back down the river.

Downstream means more speed, more thrills, more adrenalin! In no time we are back at the jetty and having our jackets taken off for us. A few of us are at the riverside waiting to take a photo of Kevin giving his dog a jet boat ride (I mean, who wouldn’t want to miss this photo opportunity)?! But the beeping of the bus reversing, ushers us to hop back in the bus.

Visiting an old bungy site

That all necessary toilet break and photo-buying session occurs at an old bungy jumping site. We take this time to soak in the amazing views of the Shotover River Gorge and Skippers Canyon, before heading back on the bus for the scenic ride back into Queenstown.

Wow, what a day! What a rush!

The backpacker flavours of Queenstown

We say goodbye to Rusty and head back to the Nomads hostel for a day of work! (Exciting stuff)! Then getting a NZ$3 meal at the hostel’s partner bar, Loco Cantino for pasta and meatballs. Still feeling kind of peckish – come on, you didn’t expect a NZ$3 meal to fill you up did you?! – we walk past the queue of Fergburger, Queenstown’s most popular burger joint, and pick up something sweet from Fergbaker. They have some pretty fancy sh*t in there.

Robin gets a pretentious donut, while he is appalled to see Laura getting a Danish pastry. (Laura personally loves Danish pastries but she gets accused and abused for buying such a “boring” dessert out of the whole selection at Fergbaker).

After stuffing ourselves in front of some sheep (random but delightfully Kiwi), we attempt to redeem ourselves by getting a couple of drinks in The London, next door to the Fergbaker.

Tomorrow, it’s back on the river for a different sort of thrill! Join us then for white water rafting!

Laura and Robin

near misses in a Narrow River Gorge
near misses in a Narrow River Gorge Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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