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Kawarau River
Kawarau River

Kawarau River

star-5
1,510 Reviews
Queenstown

The Basics

Whitewater rafting on the Kawarau River offers Class II and III rapids suitable for beginners but exciting enough for adrenaline seekers. High-speed jet boat adventures begin across Lake Wakatipu, with close-up views of spectacular scenery throughout the rugged Kawarau Gorge. Visitors looking to try riverboarding (or sledging as it’s called in New Zealand) can use a purpose-built board to skim waves and whirlpools in the Roaring Meg section of the river.

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Recent reviews from experiences in Queenstown

star-5
My 10 yr olds favourite thing on our trip
Cellena_I, Jul 2021
Queenstown 60-minute Jet Boat Ride on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers
The best time!!! Everyone has to do this!! Driver was awesome and so was the experience...the family loved it :)
star-4
360 spins
Isobel_S, Jul 2020
Queenstown 60-minute Jet Boat Ride on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers
I had a fantastic time and I am definitely going to do this again. However, I just hope next time I do it that’s it’s not raining and it’s a beautiful day so I can see more views. The pilot was excellent and made it fun for all. I look forward to seeing them all next time 😊
star-5
The Rafting was fun.
oom, Mar 2020
Kawarau River Jet-Raft
First time using Viator, would definitely use again. Confirmed immediately, message shortly after from supplier with further info. Very good value compared to other sites. Jet boating was fun, bit milder than some the others we saw. Raft guides were very professional and safety conscious. Uban safety kayaker was very friendly. Very good taster for both Jet boating and Rafting, but more on the mild level of both. Scenery was stunning. More of a scenic raft experience with like 3 rapids than a full on rafting experience. River used in Lord of Rings - nice to be told that as was not aware when booking. Unimog driver was great craic.
star-5
Kjet after covid
Jason_G, Jun 2020
Queenstown 60-minute Jet Boat Ride on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers
Great time with plenty of grins. Knowledgeable and good humoured guide. Recommended for most age groups.
star-5
Enjoyed thoroughly
Christina_G, Mar 2020
Queenstown 60-minute Jet Boat Ride on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers
All of the people involved with the experience were awesome—from checking in, to making sure our valuables were stored to, to the entire boat trip. They were both professional, helpful, and fun to be with.

Things to Know Before You Go

  • The region is a must-visit for nature lovers and water-sports enthusiasts.

  • Tours, activities, and day trips most often include hotel pickup and drop-off.

  • Remember to dress for variable weather, bring sturdy footwear, and wear sun protection.

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How to Get There

The river is a short drive from Queenstown and Arrowtown, and plenty of tour groups will shuttle you to the river if you book an activity with them. Since Lake Wakatipu empties into the Kawarau River, jet boat rides and other excursions often set out from the lakeshore.

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Trip ideas


When to Get There

Water-sports enthusiasts flock to the region during spring and especially summer (September–February), putting popular river tours in high demand. In autumn (March–May), the rocky slopes surrounding the Kawarau River turn brilliant shades, and skies tend toward clear blue. Winter sees snow, but most tours run year-round. Bridge activities operate daily.

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Bike Riding and Wine Tasting

The Gibbston Valley wine region, tucked between the gorge and schist hills, can be reached via shuttle or bike rental from nearby Queenstown or Arrowtown. More than a half dozen wineries serve award-winning pinot noir, and offer a chance to relax with a winery tour and tasting. A moderate-level bike route parallels the emerald ribbon of winding water, with plenty of scenic picnic spots and photo ops along the way.

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