Queenstown is probably the most popular destination in New Zealand and also the Mecca of the adrenaline junkie. There are all kinds of thrill seeking activities in Queenstown and lots of operators ready to take you out and test your limits. It also has numerous hiking, boating and less strenuous adventures for the less action oriented or more sane.
Queenstown is best known for 2 activities that sort of originated here. The first is bungy jumping. A J Hackett began the first commercial bungy jumping operation on the scenic Kawarau Suspension Bridge. It is a 100 hundred year old bridge that has been replaced and is now used only for bungy jumping. The bridge is 43 meters above the river which is tame by today's standards but it is the original and it is in a beautiful setting. There are numerous other bungy opportunities in the Queenstown area so try them all! It is usually between NZ$100 and NZ$150 for a jump.
The Pipeline is 102 meters high and they will still have you dunk in the water at the end if you chose. Bobby and Leslie of Our Pleasure did this one and they loved it. Bobby went of the "Soul Man" where you dunk all the way to the souls of your feet.
We weren't bungy jumpers though we enjoyed watching it at Kawarau. We talked to several jumpers right after they completed it and they said it was no as rough and jerky as they expected and it was quite easy. I have a terrible time going up my mast to the spreaders so I don't think I could coax myself to jump from a perfectly good 150 foot high bridge.
Our adrenaline rush in Queenstown was on the Shotover Jet. I had seen these jet boast flying up the rapids of narrow gorges when I was young on TV and I had always wanted to try it. Here we were in the very place I had admired from afar so we had to do it.
The Shotover Jet is the only jet boat operation in the narrow gorges of the Shotover river. This is the most beautiful and apparently dangerous place for a jet boat ride. They claim an outstanding safety record but we don't want to hear it because danger and adrenaline go hand in hand.
We drove there and arrived at the boat boarding site 10 minutes before departure. This was a good strategy because most people arrive by free shuttle which drops them at the boat just a few minutes before departure and we were able to line up for the front 2 seats which are like being in the front seats for a roller coaster.
The jet boat is basically a V8 driven aluminum boat that seats 13 including the driver with 2 rows of 5 and a front row of 3. The engine drives a water pump that sucks water from underneath and squirts it out the back real hard. At speed it draws only about 4 inches and the run over shallow banks no deeper than that. Because of the shallow draft the boat will spin out if the driver turns the wheel hard, and he will.
The main gorge is just down stream from the landing and here is where you learn just how good your driver is. The boat is flying along at 50 kph and sliding through the turns while missing jagged rocks by inches. Because of the slide it will look like you are pointed right at rock walls but they will pass by with little to spare. The boat is actually turned by pointing the back of the boat the way you want to go and applying thrust so it does take a great deal of skill to pilot it. It also takes a certain maniacal streak as I noticed that all of the drivers had big smiles pasted on their faces as they took their victims through the narrow gorges.
This ride is suitable for most people but it does get a little jerky in the spinouts so you may pass if you are prone to neck or back problems.
Queenstown has a huge amount of recreational possibilities but it also crawls with tourists. We got tired of the crowds pretty fast and left after 3 days instead of our planned 4 days. It is also expensive by New Zealand standards and we had adjusted by then and we were ready to get back to normal New Zealand.