Jet Boat and Hiking in the Rakaia Gorge

Since arriving in Methven a few days ago, it has been the locals who have pointed us to some truly awesome hikes and activities around the area. Today, we are breaking the mould and following the excessive amount of road signs from Methven to Rakaia Gorge. If you ever got lost here, at least you’d be able to find your way to Rakaia Gorge. As we’re about to find out, it is a pretty stunning place to be.

Exploring the Rakaia GOrge

The car park at the Rakaia Gorge gives visitors a few options: relax by the milky blue waters, take a 3-4 hours return hike alongside the Rakaia River, or turn that hike into a one way adventure and travel up the river by jet boat! Doesn’t that last option sound pretty tempting? Yeah, it does!

Jet boat and hiking combo

We spot the Discovery Jet 4×4 and makeshift jetty hanging in the water. Before long, it is joined by a bright yellow jet boat full with windswept passengers. We’d love to say that they obtained this look just from the speed of the jet boat, but, man, it’s windy today! For the last few minutes we’ve been watching seagulls gliding on the exact same spot – the wind doing all the work for them. As we get on the boat with our life jackets on, our driver, Blair, tells us how it’s worse up the river. How?!

It's jet boat vs. seagull! It's jet boat vs. seagull!
Spinning boat! Spinning boat!
Getting dropped off at the Rakaia Gorge Walkway Getting dropped off at the Rakaia Gorge Walkway
Getting glimpses of that Rakaia Gorge beauty Getting glimpses of that Rakaia Gorge beauty

Blasting into rugged river wilderness

We soon find out as we are blasting up the river. Within seconds, it we have gone from a riverside dotted with cars and people to the feeling of absolute wilderness. We love that about New Zealand. The riverside gets higher and higher with dense forest the further down the river we go. Rugged rocky walls line the river, which the jet boat dares to pass close by.

360 spins

Of course, a jet boat experience wouldn’t be a jet boat experience without a few 360 spins – just one of the many perks of these brilliant Kiwi inventions! Blair gives us that universal signal for “spinning on a jet boat is about to occur” and we zip around in a full spin, saying hello to some new water droplets on our sunglasses! No matter what age you are, doing a 360-spin in a jet boat always gives you that giddy feeling.

Nice ride for speeding down the Rakaia River

canyon and braided channels

What was a forest-lined river with some rocky features turns into a huge gorge. We are deep in a canyon feeling smaller than small against nature’s giants!

Because this is a braided river, Blair is negotiating from one river channel to the next, powering over sections so shallow that we can see the pebbles and sand centimetres under the water – just another awesome thing these boats can do: go over extremely shallow water.

Landing at the Rakaia Gorge Walkway

These pebbles and sand deposits splitting the river into different channels also make a good landing spot alongside the river. Blair pulls the boat up and we hop off the nose of the boat – not even having to get our feet wet. Winner! However, we almost forgot about the wind with the motion of the jet boat.

We say goodbye to our ride and are left stranded in the wild to fend for ourselves. (Well, we got a little help from Blair who pointed out where the track starts).

A scramble through the forest

Starting the uphill climb to the top of the gorge, we hike along a pretty rugged and adventurous single track throwing all sorts of fun terrain along the way: pebbled streams to cross, wet mud, dry mud, dry loose rocks, and large tree roots to step over or use as a staircase.

Flowers in the forest Flowers in the forest
Just another sensational view of the Rakaia Gorge Just another sensational view of the Rakaia Gorge
The mysterious coalmine The mysterious coalmine

From forest to epic views

The hike has a good ratio of dense forest to open areas. The forest keeps us sheltered from the blowing wind. It’s like a different world in here, blooming with flowers, the sounds of birds… It’s a peaceful sort of place. Then, boom! We hit the open areas and the wind threatens to take us off the top of the gorge! However, the views are absolutely incredible. We get an awesome perspective of the braided river looking bluer than ever. Lush green mountains layer off into the distance.

Hidden coalmines

Mid-way through the hike, we take a short sidetrack down to the Snowdon coalmines. Through a barred gate, we look inside a creepy-as-hell coalmine supported with wooden beams so old they are overrun with mushrooms. We can even see the lines of coal in the rock from the entrance.

The signs were right!

A thrilling jet boat ride up the stunning braided river, hiking through a mix of native bush with exotic flowers, over adventurous terrain, finding a hidden historical surprise, emerging to captivating views of the river gorge… We can’t help but feel like it has been an epic ride in the Rakaia Gorge as we return back to the carpark and our campervan. All in all, the signs were right. It was worth pointing toward this hidden gem in Canterbury!

It’s another night in the wonderfully homely Mt Hutt Bunkhouse, making our plans for tomorrow: walking the convenient Methven Walkway. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

The beautiful return journey
The beautiful return journey Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Until tomorrow’s blog post, go for a walk, paint a picture, or check out these articles:

We also like to hang out on HerePin, post pretty pictures on Instagram (#BackpackerGuideNZ to be featured), and post daily travel tips dedicated to New Zealand on Facebook!

See you tomorrow!

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