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Kawarau River Tours

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Kawarau River
Not far from Queenstown, Kawarau River offers a variety of thrill-seeking possibilities including jet boating, whitewater rafting, and riverboarding. Alternatively, visitors can go off-road into the surrounding hills during an all-terrain quad bike tour or try bungee jumping from the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. There’s something for history buffs too, who come to check out the gold-miners’ huts and relics from the river’s gold-rush days.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.  
Address: Queenstown, New Zealand
Admission: Free
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13 Tours & Activities to Experience

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Jet Boats & Speed Boats

Queenstown Jet Boat Ride on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers

Experience heart-racing fun on an exhilarating Queenstown jet-boat ride. The expert captain races across Lake Wakatipu, navigates tricky turns on the Kawarau River and speeds through the milky waters of the Shotover River. Grab hold of your seat as the jet boat makes 360-degree spins and fishtails on a rollercoaster ride over the water. You’ll cover more ground in less time, and receive a complimentary entrance ticket to Queenstown's Underwater Observatory.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$75.37
From  
US$75.37
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Adrenaline & Extreme

The Original Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump in Queenstown

Go bungy jumping in New Zealand from the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, the original site of the Queenstown bungy jump. You’ll experience the ultimate Queenstown challenge, transforming from nervous to elated as you plunge 141 feet (43 meters) in five seconds. Choose from a variety of options, including a water touch or full immersion in the gorgeous Kawarau River. It may just be the best thing you’ve ever done!
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
From  
US$141.75
From  
US$141.75
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes

Helicopter Tours

Helicopter and Shotover River Rafting Combo from Queenstown

Combine two exciting Queenstown adventures on a half-day 'helirafting' tour that explores the region by air and water. Board a helicopter for a scenic flight to the white-water rafting launch site, cruise above the rock walls and blue water of Skippers Canyon, then land on a river-side beach. Next, suit up for a challenging white-water rafting trip down the Shotover River, taking on a series of rapids that flow through high cliffs and chutes.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$241.33
From  
US$241.33
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Historical & Heritage Tours

Queenstown Local Scenic Half-Day Small-Group Tour

Get to know Queenstown's highlights, history, culture, and scenery on this half-day tour. With a small group limited to just 11 people or fewer, travel in a minivan to locales such as Crown Terrace Viewpoint, the Shotover River, Lake Hayes, Arrowtown, and others. Pickup and drop-off in central Queenstown included.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$68.46
From  
US$68.46
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation

4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

Wakatipu Basin Lord of the Rings 4WD Tour from Queenstown

Enjoy an off-road adventure in the wild of New Zealand on this half-day Wakatipu Basin 4-wheel drive tour from Queenstown. Cruise along off-road routes toward the Remarkables mountain range — widely used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Admire panoramic views over Deer Park Heights and the Kawarau Gorge, and then head onward to the historic gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown. Traverse bumpy river crossings along the Arrow River, and pan for gold on the riverbank. Then gaze over the Wakatipu Basin from Coronet Peak en route back to Queenstown.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$134.84
From  
US$134.84
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Wine Tasting & Winery Tours

SPECIAL OFFER

Queenstown Classic Wine Tour - All Tastings, Cheese & Glass of Wine

Spend an afternoon tasting New Zealand wines and taking in the scenery of Central Otago on a half-day tour from Queenstown. Your guide takes you to three wineries for tastings and a wine cave tour, with sightseeing at Lord of the Rings film sites and other top attractions along the way. Includes wine tastings, afternoon tea, and hotel pickup and drop-off.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$102.68
US$114.09
US$11.41 savings
From  
US$102.68
US$114.09
US$11.41 savings
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation

White Water Rafting

Kawarau River Rafting from Queenstown

Shoot the grade II and III rapids on the Kawarau River with a guide on this half-day tour from Queenstown. Even beginners will feel safe and comfortable with expert supervision and instruction, as well as all provided equipment included. Take a swim through a rapid, jump off a cliff, and learn about the natural environment on this family-friendly trip that includes plenty of calm spots for splashing and floating.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$137.60
From  
US$137.60
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation

4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

Queenstown Quad Bike Adventure

For your next activity in the proclaimed ‘Adventure Capital of the World,’ set out for Queenstown’s off-road terrain aboard a Suzuki sports quad, led by an expert guide. You’ll bump along dirt-bike tracks with creek crossings and hill climbs boasting spectacular views, from the Kawarau River up into the mountains of the Kawarau Gorge. Each tailor-made tour runs with a select small group based on skill level, guaranteeing both beginning and advanced riders an exhilarating 1.5-hour ride.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$186.01
From  
US$186.01
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation

4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Skippers Canyon

The Skippers Road is a historic route we travel via 4WD. Built during the gold rush we drive high above the Kawerau River giving you a historic context of what life was like for the original settlers of Skippers Canyon, sharing stories, tales and showing you relics from the past.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$864.34
From  
US$864.34
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Other Water Sports

NEW TO VIATOR

25 minutes of pure ADRENALINE - GOLDFIELDS JET

As the sole operator on the lower end of the Kawarau Gorge, you enter the best of both worlds during your 25 minute adrenaline rush, navigate the shallow, braided waters of the Bannockburn arm before heading up stream through the narrow Kawarau Gorge to the base of the Staircase Rapids. Our nimble 13 - 17 seat boats ensures you feel it all with purpose built big block V8s packing over 550 horse power combined with multiple full 360 spins, you wont look anywhere else. Experience the best!
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  • 25 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$61.54
From  
US$61.54
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  • 25 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Stray New Zealand: North to South - Freestyle Travel Pass

If you want to visit both islands and get a real New Zealand experience, but you don’t need to return to Auckland, the North to South will take you from Auckland to Christchurch on the most epic route possible! You’ll bounce between iconic destinations, stunning remote spots and places you’ll never forget. With 12 months to travel, we encourage you to hop on and off in your favourite places, and explore more of the places you love! Add on the Far North, Deep South or Waves & Caves to see even more!
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  • 19 days
From  
US$722.59
From  
US$722.59
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  • 19 days

Day Trips

NEW TO VIATOR

Stray New Zealand: Big South - Freestyle Travel Pass

Explore the entire South Island in a loop. From the wild and beautiful landscapes of the Far South to the sunny golden shores of the Abel Tasman National Park, you’ve got the South Island covered! You'll see highlights like Milford Sound and Franz Josef glacier, as well as getting off the beaten track and seeing some untouched parts of NZ. With up to 12 months to travel, we encourage you to hop off and explore the places you love, and hop back on when you're ready to keep going!
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  • 15 days
From  
US$618.87
From  
US$618.87
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  • 15 days

Bar, Club & Pub Tours

Historic Pub Tour

The most exhilarating and unique way to tour the region with nothing in the way to impede your view - all on the back of a 3-seater cruising trike! This tour is designed to showcase some of the region’s historic pubs and more. Central Otago boasts stunning landscapes, vineyards, and historic buildings from the gold rush era. This tour takes you over the Crown Range, through the Kawarau Valley and Cromwell Basin passing by some of the regions stunning vistas with photo opportunities at some lookouts along the way.
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  • 4 hours
From  
US$177.71
From  
US$177.71
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  • 4 hours


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