Ultimate Queenstown


Book - Shotover River Rafting


Your trip begins descending down the winding road up into Skippers Canyon, famous for its incredible twists and turns, tight corners and shear drops. The journey into the canyon is part of the whole experience as the road has hardly changed since being hand carved as a gateway to the legendary goldfields of the Shotover River.

The Shotover River runs through Skippers Canyon made famous by the title of “richest gold bearing river in the world”, now well renowned for homing some of Queenstown’s most famous adventure activities.

Rafting from Deep Creek over peaceful waters at first, you'll head towards the exhilarating rapids of the lower canyon. The adrenalin pumps as you paddle Rock Garden, After Shock, Sharks Fin, Toilet, Pinball and Jaws to name but a few. Raft the 170m Oxenbridge Tunnel before shooting Cascade Rapid to complete your experience on Queenstown’s premium whitewater rafting adventure.

Before returning to Queenstown, enjoy a sauna and hot shower at Cavell's rafting base and perhaps treat yourself to a well-earned beer, coffee or snack at the licensed cafe. All transferred included along with a professional photographer to capture your experience.

  • Take your Go Pro, they have mounts already attached to many of their helmets.
  • Sit in the front of the raft, it's the best spot as you get up close and personal with the action.
  • The gear they give you to wear is awesome, you don't have to worry about the cold water. You can always take your own thermal underwear though!
  • The drive in is amazing, sometimes scarier than the rafting. People pay to do 4x4 trips into Skippers so you'll be getting a two for one special.

What is the difference between the Shotover and Kawarau rivers?

Aside from the location and scenery, there are a few differences between the rivers. These include the grade of rapids, the amount of rapids rafted and the swimming ability needed by participants.

Shotover River - Is graded 3-5 (5 is the highest grade commercially rafted in the world), therefore it's a more exciting river to raft, harder to navigate and with a higher risk of falling out the boat. There are more rapids on the river, compared to the Kawarau including a section through the 170m long Oxenbridge tunnel. It is a requirement that participants be able to swim on this river.

The drive to the start of the Shotover river rafting trip is via Skippers Canyon which is an experience in itself. The narrow dirt track road hugs the sheer cliffs of the canyon and gives specular views over the river you will be rafting.

Kawarau River - Is usually graded 2-3 (however occasionally grade 2-4 at higher water levels), therefore easier to navigate and with less risk of falling out. There are flat stretches of river between the rapids where you'll have the opportunity to race your friends on the other rafts or jump out and swim, also watch out for the other rafts as there's always a good chance of a water fight breaking out.

The Kawarau River is a much deeper and bigger river, flowing through some spectacular Central Otago vineyards and the trip ends with a 400 meter long, grade 3/4 rapid.

Do I need to be able to swim?

Yes you do, however different abilities are required for the different rivers.

Kawarau River -  This trip is suitable for less confident swimmers. As the Kawarau River is a lower grade river, there are less chances to actually fall out of the raft. You are given a floatation jacket (PFD or life jacket) and the wetsuits also help as a buoyancy aid but you will still need to be able to help the guide and move towards the raft (or safety kayaker in high water levels). So water confidence although not essential is recommended.

Shotover River - You must be ‘water confident’ and be able to swim on this trip.

One way to describe ‘water confident’ is to imagine yourself swimming in the sea where you can't stand up, with medium waves around you and being tossed around a bit. If you feel comfortable with this then you should be ok.

Do I need rafting experience?

No you don't. Everyone can enjoy rafting on either river with no rafting experience. You will be given training and a full safety briefing before the trip starts. All of the qualified and certified guides will be able to give you any extra personal instruction you may need while in the raft.

What do I need to bring?

You will need a swimsuit and a towel. There are showers and a sauna after the trip. Anything valuable should be left behind at your accommodation or there are secure lockers at the shop in town.

Do I need to book this trip in advance?

Yes we recommend that you do, especially during the peak seasons because space can be limited. This is also true for mid-winter and school holidays.

Can you pick me up from my accommodation?

Yes they can, but only for the morning departure at 8:15AM. If you choose an afternoon departure, you must check in at the Queenstown Rafting shop, which you will find at 35 Shotover Street.

At the end of your trip you will be returned to the shop, where you will also be able to view and purchase the professional photos of the trip.

Can I wear jeans or my own clothes under the wetsuit?

Generally no. We recommend you only wear swim wear as the wetsuits work best when they are close to your skin. Any clothing such as cotton t-shirts or jeans under the wetsuit prevent it from working effectively and will actually make you colder. The only exception to this is if you have specific merino wool or polyester thermal underwear, however we find that most people are warm enough with the wetsuit and additional layers that we provide given the specific conditions on the day.

What shoes should I wear?

Queenstown Rafting provide wetsuit booties for when you are on the river, so you can wear your normal shoes to the rafting base.

Can I wear sunglasses / prescription glasses or contact lenses?

Yes you can, however we do recommend a sports strap or tie for glasses. Because of the nature of the river, they can’t guarantee the safety of your glasses so if you can do without them we recommend leaving them behind.

Can I bring my camera?

Yes you can, although it's recommended that cameras are left behind at the hotel as they cannot guarantee their safety against damage even if waterproof. 

Otherwise there is professional photography available for purchase upon completion of your trip and video head cams for hire that you can shoot your own footage with.

How many people in a raft?

The rafts are large enough to carry six or seven people plus your rafting guide. If you’re travelling with friends or in a group, it can be generally organise so that you go down the river in the same raft.

Is there a guide in the raft with us?

Yes, every boat has a qualified and certified rafting guide that will not only keep you safe as you go down the river but entertain you with stories and information about the area you are travelling through.

Can I go if I have a medical condition?

Some medical conditions may prohibit you from whitewater rafting but most will not. You cannot participate if you have any heart conditions or are on any heart medication. It's very important however that if you do have a medical condition that you let our staff know prior to rafting, this is not to stop you from rafting but to inform your personal guide so that they can help in the unlikely event that something does go wrong. If you require medication for your condition (eg. ashma inhalers), you will need to bring that with you incase it is needed.

Can I raft if I am pregnant?

No. Company policy is that they don’t allow anyone who is pregnant on grade 3 or above rivers. There is a risk that a pregnant person could sustain a blow to the abdomen either through falling out the raft, from a paddle from another client or someone falling against them.

Can I raft if I have a disability?

This will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. Generally they are able to accommodate most people if given prior notice. Ultimately though your involvement will be at the discretion of the trip leader and guides who will be able to assess the conditions on the day and inform you of any potential safety concerns.

Will I get wet?

Yes you will, but you will be in a wetsuit. White water rafting is a great activity for rainy days as you are going to be wet anyway!

What is the possibility of falling out the boat?

That often depends on the river levels but there's always a chance that participant’s may fall out of the raft. The guides are trained to deal with this and every Shotover River trip (and Kawarau in high water levels) has a safety kayaker. There is a full safety briefing before you commence your rafting trip explaining what to do if you should fall out of the boat.

Are there seatbelts in the raft?

No but you will be instructed by your guide how to brace yourself in the raft to minimize the chance of falling out.

Is there a minimum / maximum age or weight limit?

The minimum age for rafting is 13 years, with a minimum weight of 40kg. There is no maximum age but there is a weight limit on 120kgs, however the person must be able to fit our gear and safety equipment. We do have a number of extra large wetsuits but ask that you are physically fit and able to swim.

Ultimately it will be at the discretion of the trip leader and guides as to who is appropriate to participate in the rafting trip.

Do you raft the same river as the jetboats?

Yes but on different sections of the rivers.

The Skippers Canyon Jetboat operate on the top part of the Shotover River.

Queenstown Rafting paddle the next section which is where the rapids are. Shotover Jet operates on the section after the Oxenbridge Tunnel and the Kawarau Jet operates on Lake Wakatipu, the Kawarau River and the lower Shotover River.

Queenstown Rafting paddle a section of the Kawarau River further down from where any jet boats operate.

You will see different scenery as no jetboat or rafting is on the same stretch of river, except a 500m stretch after the Oxenbridge Tunnel as you float to the rafting base on the Shotover River.

I see you raft in the winter as well, will I be cold?

The temperature of the water varies depending on the time of year, the water level, however you will be provided with waterproof booties, a full length 5mm wetsuit as well as a 5mm jacket, spray-jacket and life jacket. These should keep you adequately warm and the ‘paddling action’ will certainly keep the blood flowing. We have additional neoprene socks and gloves for the winter rafting.

What happens if it's raining?

Whitewater rafting will still go ahead if it's raining, you are going to get wet anyway and the river is normally at its best then. We will not refund if you decide to cancel at short notice due to rain or bad weather.

Are there toilets?

Yes, there are toilets at the Cavells rafting base and at Deep Creek where the Shotover River rafting trip starts.

Can my friends or family watch while I go rafting?

Due to the nature of the terrain and the remote location of the river, it is not possible to view the rafting trip. However there is an opportunity to stand by the last rapid on the Shotover River as you come through the Oxenbridge Tunnel. Timings can depend on river levels though so your friends or family may need to wait a while to ensure they don’t miss you.

Is there somewhere to buy food?

Yes at the end of the trip, after your sauna and shower you will be Cavells Cafe and Bar. We recommend that you eat something before you leave town though because it will be 4 hours by the time you finish your trip and get to celebrate with a beer.

Shotover River Rafting Location

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