Hands down the craziest experience the Barbarians have ever done: Shotover Jet in Queenstown

It’s been several years since Ms B & I visited New Zealand during one of our annual visits to see family and friends in Sydney. We were on a tight schedule and spent nearly the whole five days of our trip in Queenstown, the outdoor capital of the world.

The town has a pleasant upmarket backpacker vibe to it. There is an abundance of adventure and extreme sports activities on offer, ranging from bungee jumping to downhill mountain biking and white-water rafting. Since 1965 nearly everyone (almost four million people so far) that visits town seems to end up taking a ride with the Shotover Jet on Shotover Creek, not far from the town centre. £80 per person is a bit on the pricey end of the scale for tourist activities, but it’s worth every penny. I’d happily not eat for a week or two just to be able to afford a ride, if I’d have to.

This video clip and all pics (c) Shotover Jet with permission.

The jet boats are powered by two V8 350hp engines (700hp combined) that accelerate the boat to 90km/h in mere seconds. Because it is not using an external propeller but instead pumping water through a pipe in its hull (760 litres per second), it can cross over very shallow water of just a few inches depth, it feels as if you’re shooting over rocks. The boats are also incredibly agile and if you’re lucky, your captain will perform 360 degree swirls while still moving forward at nearly full speed, only a metre away from the razor-sharp rocks of the canyon walls.



I’ve done bungee jumping, skydiving, jetlevving, powerboating, and a fair few other things in my life, but this boat ride in Queenstown was more fun than any of them, hands down. Perhaps it doesn’t come with the same kudos and you might be sitting between a mom with her 3-year old and a white-haired OAP, but boy oh boy is it exhilarating – pure adrenaline. To this day I wonder how they get away with it, it simply goes against any instinct. I can’t see any other Western country giving an operator permission to do crazy stunts like that, the application would wander straight into the bin, no doubt. But New Zealand is unique in its support of extreme sports and adventurous activities.



The pilots drive towards the rocks at full speed and then turn the steering wheel at the very last moment… you could literally touch the rocks with your hand if you’d reach out. Even when they are following the line of the river there is hardly ever more than a few inches space between one side of the boat and the rocks.

Looking for more fun activities? Try our Porto posts about rock-climbing, off-roading, and exploring ancient Roman mines, as well as our day trip down the Douro Valley. We also wrote about our rides on a jetski, a Vietnam War amphibian vehicle, a camel, a rubber boat, and a hot air balloon.

For travel recommendations, check out our articles about the Jurassic Coast, Nuremberg, Lisbon, and Dubai.

Restaurant reviews include the Ninth and Galvin at Windows, London, the Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold, Neptune in Norfolk, La Scuderia, Frankfurt, and L’Ange 20, Paris.

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