The Shotover River, which drains into the Kawarau River beneath the famous Kawarau Bridge, is renowned as an aquatic playground for visitors traveling to Queenstown. Even the drive toward the Shotover River is an outdoor adventure in itself, as the road leading into Skippers Canyon is a winding, mountainous route.
Adventurers can bounce down frothing, white water while paddling a raft on a guided trip, or hold on while they make 360-degree spins on a high-speed jet boat ride up the Shotover. Rafting trips pass through the 560-foot (170-meter) Oxenbridge Tunnel and tumble over Class III, IV, and V rapids, ending in the tranquil waters under a historic trestle sometimes used for bungee jumping. Heli-rafting adventures are also available.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The waterway is considered more advanced than the Kawarau River, and all rafters must be able to swim.
- Wet suits, helmets, life jackets, and spray jackets are provided by outfitters.
- Bring swimwear, a towel, and a change of clothing.
- Sauna and hot shower facilities are available from some tour operators.
- Children must be accompanied by an adult; minimum ages may apply.
How to Get There
The Shotover River is located north of Queenstown, and most rafting companies drive for 40 minutes via Skippers Road before putting in on the river. Jet boaters may skim across Lake Wakatipu before fishtailing around the milk-blue waters of the river. Tour operators typically offer shuttle or bus transport, with pickup from area hotels.
When to Get There
Most rafting, jet boat, and helicopter excursions operate year-round, although some white-water trips are offered seasonally during warmer months, from October through May. Arrive early for a safety briefing and to ensure plenty of time to gear up.
In the late 1800s, the Shotover River was a storied outpost of gold prospectors. Dust-covered panhandlers would camp in canyons in the foothills of the Southern Alps and scour the raging, turquoise waters, sluicing and straining with the hope of striking it rich. They could not have imagined that today the wilderness outside Queenstown would draw adrenaline- and adventure-seekers with these popular pursuits on the river.