One thing Queenstown does particularly well is the tourism thing. Sure, she could rest on her laurels and be happy with the popularity of the ski season, but these days there’s very little difference between hotel occupancy rates in the height of summer and winter. Queenstown isn’t known as the Adventure Capitol of the World for no good reason.
Now, I’m not one to trust my spine (or my brains) to an elastic band and bungey. Nor am I the type to willingly jump out of a plane that’s in good working order. I have, however, done the zip line (which was fabulous) and my fair share of jet-boating. Up until the other day, I would have said that the Shotover Canyon was the best jet-boat ride I’d ever taken – mainly because of the thrill of being in the canyons. As a total experience, though, Dart River is better. There, I said it. I’ll take it one step further: the Dart River Wilderness Jet is quite possibly the best half-day I’ve had in Queenstown.
Your experience begins in Glenorchy, a sleepy little town at the top of Lake Wakatipu, and about 45mins out of Queenstown. It has possibly one of the most photographed boathouses in the country, a wharf with a magic view to the top of the lake and beyond to the Dart River, a pub, and a few hundred people. If you’ve read Wish You Were Here, you might remember it. Anyways, the road to Glenorchy was only sealed in about 1999 and is remarkably scenic.
You can arrange a free transfer from Queenstown, or make your own way out there, but once in Glenorchy, your adventure begins…
The back-road tour…
The locality known as Paradise – officially a sheep station named something else that I probably should have written down – has been used in more movies than I have room to tell you about here. The most famous are the Lord of the Rings and Wolverine movies, but it also featured in the mini series Top Of The Lake and a heap of car ads. It was even used as Switzerland in the Milka chocolate ads.
Anyways, it’s beautiful.
I’ve been here before – on a Nomad Safari 4WD tour. We went to a different part of Paradise, but I found it so inspiring I used it as a location in Wish You Were Here too… You can find the post about that tour here.
The wilderness walk…
A gentle 30 minute walk through beech forest is next. (Don’t forget your insect repellent – the sand flies are vicious…) These forests are full of life and history and are well worth seeing and hearing about. Close your eyes for a second and just listen to the birds.
*The jet boat ride…
The main attraction: an hour of thrills, speed and spectacular scenery. The jet boat takes you way up the Dart River: into areas where the water is so clear you can see brown trout swimming below; through rapids; narrowly dodging hazards; and sending you well into woo-hoo mode with exciting 360deg turns.
Eventually you’re brought back to the top of Lake Wakatipu and into Glenorchy for your bus back to Queenstown.
This is a full half day out, so isn’t cheap: $239 per adult, $139 kids (5-15)
What to bring?
You can take a small bag onto the jet boat. Make sure you have a camera, sunscreen and insect repellent – I mentioned the sand flies, didn’t I?
Want more info?
The link is here.
*On some tours the order is reversed: with jet boat from Glenorchy up first, the wilderness walk next, and the return to Glenorchy via off-road bus via Paradise to finish.