After exploring Queenstown, we wanted to check out Glenorchy and some of the surrounding areas. We spoke with a booking agent at the information center and decided the best way to cover a bunch of ground in a relatively short amount of time was a jetboat tour. If you're not familiar with jetboats, they're basically a flat-bottom boat that is easy to maneuver and capable of tight corners and 360 degree spins that create a large spray of water. That's not a scientific definition, just my observations from our experience! Aside from being an efficient way to see the scenery, the ride in itself was pretty thrilling.
We signed up with Dart River Wilderness Jet, and the bus picked us up bright and early in the morning. The drive between Queenstown and Glenorchy featured some of the most beautiful scenery we saw on the whole trip. Unfortunately, the bus didn't stop for us to get out and take photos, so I only got a couple poor-quality phone pictures through tinted glass, which weren't really worth posting! You'll just have to go see for yourself ;).
On the way to Glenorchy we stopped at this site, which is apparently a filming location for Lord of the Rings and a few other movies, none of which I had seen. Some hardcore fans took pictures reenacting whichever scenes were filmed here, but it was surprisingly chilly so I got back on the bus quickly. To be fair, if it would have been a filming location for, say, Mean Girls, I'd probably have reenacted scenes too. "YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US!" (If you don't understand this reference, proceed immediately to your nearest TV and watch Mean Girls.)
The location is privately owned by the luckiest sheep farmer in the world. He allegedly only charges $1,0000 per day to film on his land, which isn't a bad gig, but that seems shockingly cheap to me. Surely the LOTR people could pony up some more cash.
When we got to the river, the tour guide led us on a brief forest walk, complete with the opportunity
to sit in this Hobbit chair.
Then we headed for the boats!
We put on these huge waterproof coats, which looked ridiculous but were much needed on the water.
It was extremely windy and pretty cold, so the ride really would have been much less enjoyable without the jacket!
Like I said, it was a bit windy...
Jetboat selfie! Still warm and dry at this point.
Another selfie...so glad we remembered the selfie stick on this trip!
We considered taking the kayak tour, which was assembling head of us in the picture below, but that was a full day trip. I'm glad we did the boat in the end, because the people in the kayaks were definitely getting a workout and I would have probably regretted it after about two minutes. Plus, the last time I kayaked, I ended up pulling an abdominal muscle that I mistook for a hernia (I had one in college) and ended up with a $2,000 emergency room bill. So, I'm done with kayaks for awhile. PSA: read your insurance policy...Urgent Care is NOT the same thing as the ER. Lesson learned.
You can get an idea of how clear the water was in these next two pictures. Still, they don't do it justice.
We did a few 360 degree spins and a bunch of sharp turns, and Peter ended up getting just a bit wet.
He did manage to take GoPro video throughout the trip, though. Pictures are great, but the videos definitely capture the adventure best!
The tour lasted about an hour, and then we headed down to the end of the river, where it opened up to a large lake. The guide warned us that it may be "a bit bumpy" as we entered the lake, but that turned out to be the understatement of the year. The waves were huge and we were pretty violently tossed around. Luckily, we only had to travel through open water for a few minutes before hitting our destination, but a few people on the boat were starting to get a little bit sick. I should have filmed this portion, because it was pretty wild, but honestly I was focused on trying to stay in the boat.
We took the bus back to Queenstown and then immediately hopped in our car to begin the drive to Te Anau, where we would stay the night in preparation for our Milford Sound cruise the next day. More on that next time!