Queenstown Rafting

Are you and your friends and family thrill-seekers looking for adrenaline-pumping activities in the adventure capital of New Zealand? Queenstown’s two rivers – the mighty Kawarau River and the famous Shotover River – offer various rapid grades for any adventurers seeking epic Queenstown rafting action.

For a day out you’ll never forget, we recommend the exhilarating whitewater rafting ride through the upper Shotover River with Family Adventures. You’ll marvel at Otago’s world-renowned, breath-taking scenery during your thrilling Queenstown rafting adventure. The Shotover River rafting base departure point is a prominent filming location in the Lord of the Rings movies. Also, because the whitewater rafting trip takes place on lower grade rapids, rafting can be enjoyed by old and young alike, making it one of the most fun Queenstown attractions for the family.

keys on Omega keytag sml

Keytag Bonus:

You qualify for a half-price photo pack (RRP$39) upon presenting your Omega keytag!  

Morning and afternoon departures are available for your Queenstown rafting trip, which takes around 5 hours. From the pick-up point in Queenstown’s centre, the bus makes a 45-minute journey through the spectacular Skippers Canyon to reach the whitewater rafting departure point. The drive is an adventure in itself, featuring exciting cliff edges with a sheer 100-foot drop down to the river! You’re in safe hands with one of the team’s experienced drivers behind the wheel, so you can focus on the stunning scenery and take some once-in-a-lifetime photos. Fun fact – this is one of only a few roads in New Zealand that car rental insurance doesn’t cover!

 Family enjoying Shotover white water rafting in Queenstown, New Zealand.

White water thrills for the whole family (photo credit: Family Adventures)

As the road winds further into the backcountry, visitors get to take in views of the Shotover River, which became known as “the richest river in the world” when gold was discovered there in 1862. Before starting your Queenstown rafting journey, the knowledgeable guides will give you a great introduction to the area’s colourful gold mining history. At its high point, over 2000 people lived and worked in this remote and harsh environment, and the tales of fortunes, both made and lost, abound. This storied area is also still home to many rusting remnants of the sluicing and dredging activities in the gold rush era.

Now you’re ready to raft! But, before beginning any Shotover River rafting trips, everyone is kitted out with wetsuit booties, a wetsuit or over pants, a spray jacket with sealed collar and cuffs, and a helmet. And, of course, life jackets for all. A wide range of sizes of all rafting equipment is available to keep your family warm, dry, and safe on your white water rafting adventure.

Each white water raft is made by leading raft manufacturer Hyside and is self-bailing to ensure buoyancy. Additionally each raft meets all of the safety standards of Maritime New Zealand. An experienced and knowledgeable river rafting guide accompanies each group and has a first aid kit, throw ropes, and a radio telephone always to hand.

Group of tourists rafting through the Shotover River's canyons.

Race through the canyons of the upper Shotover River (photo credit: Family Adventures)

Entering the Shotover River at Tolkien's famous "Ford of Bruinen", the white water rafting starts with some gentle grade 2 rapids, which means that the river flow is small and gentle, but serious fun. The professional team at Family Adventures pride themselves on operating one of the top Queenstown activities for visitors of all ages and is the only white water rafting company licensed to carry children under 13 on the Shotover River. However, even those as young as three can take whitewater rafting trips as no water confidence is necessary to enjoy this great day out. The emphasis of these Queenstown rafting trips is to take in the spectacular scenery of places that can only be reached by rafts or jet boats and to appreciate the pristine wilderness of Queenstown backcountry.


keys on Omega keytag sml

Keytag Bonus:

You qualify for a half-price photo pack (RRP$39) upon presenting your Omega keytag!  


Adventure junkies also have the option to take their Queenstown rafting experience to an even more intense level - combining a whitewater rafting trip with an exciting jet boating adventure.

Buy a whitewater rafting and jet boating combo with the Skippers Canyon Jet Boat and experience a spectacular guided tour. Before you begin the excitement of rafting in Queenstown, a guided drive will take you through the historic Skippers Canyon. Then, prepare to jump straight into the famous Shotover River rafting experience down gentle grade 1 and 2 rapids.

Queenstown’s Skippers Canyon Jet Boat team will greet you on arrival at Deep Creek. Feel your adrenaline surge as the highly-skilled jet boat drivers power down the river through white water rapids and narrow canyons. Hold on as your jet boating adventure propels you across the river rapids at speeds above 80km/h with 360-degree spins.

Once you’ve finished rafting, why not take advantage of the many more Queenstown tourist attractions in the area? Check out the breath-taking 800-metre Luge run, Kawarau River rafting, the Shotover Canyon Swing, a scenic helicopter flight, and a visit to a Kiwi rural farm. Or discover an underwater room where you can observe life on and in Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu. With so many iconic experiences to enjoy in Queenstown, New Zealand, get the most out of your stay and hire a Queenstown rental car with Omega and take your time to explore this scenic region.