Jet Boating on the Waikato River

Picture this, you’re in a boat that’s skimming over the surface of a glassy turquoise river, the banks slipping by so fast they’re just a blur. You hold on tight as the boat makes hairpin turns and accelerates up to 80kph and then, just when you think it can’t get any more exciting, the driver makes a circular motion with one hand, and the boat suddenly whips into a 360-degree spin.

By Amanda Williams - Guest blogger

No, this isn’t a scene out of an action flick – this is a jet boat ride. 

Just like bungy jumping, jet boating is another one of the crazy adventure sports that was dreamed up by a New Zealander. The first jetboat was built in the mid-1950s on the South Island, and by 1970, the Shotover Jet was operating as one of Queenstown’s first commercial adventure activities.

Since then, jet boating has grown into one of New Zealand’s most popular adrenaline-pumping activities. 

Jetboats operate differently than regular motor boats, with water intake systems similar to what you find on jet skis. The first jetboat was designed without any sort of propellers so that it could navigate the shallow rivers New Zealand is known for.

In November 1990, after operating successfully for 20 years in Queenstown, the Shotover Jet opened its first subsidiary operation on the Waikato River near Taupo – the Huka Jet (now the Hukafalls Jet). The Hukafalls Jet was joined on the Waikato in 1993 by the Rapids Jet, and then by the New Zealand Riverjet

Each of these jet boating operations offers up a unique and exciting experience not far from Taupo.

Hukafalls Jet Taupo

Hukafalls Jet

The claim to fame for Hukafalls Jet (other than being associated with the popular Shotover Jet) is that the exhilarating ride includes getting up-close to Huka Falls, the roaring set of waterfalls on the Waikato River. These Kool-Aid colored waterfalls may not be very tall (just 11 meters at the tallest), but the volume of water that gushes over them can reach 220,000 liters per second. Jet boat passengers get within just a few meters of the base of the falls. 

Rapids Jet

Rapids Jet 

Skimming down the Waikato River just 15 minutes north of Taupo, the Rapids Jet operates on the biggest rapids for commercial jet boating in New Zealand. Passengers on this adventure get to speed through the narrowest canyon on the Waikato River, enjoy 360-degree spins on crystal-clear water, and get to bob around in the pressure waves of the Nga AwaPurua Rapids.

New Zealand Riverjet

New Zealand Riverjet

If it’s a slightly different jet boating experience you’re looking for, the New Zealand Riverjet offers more than just high speeds – it also offers New Zealand’s only thermal safari by jet boat. This adventure mixes both scenic sight-seeing and thrills on the Waikato River between Taupo and Rotorua. The thermal safari includes things like the Tutukau Gorge, steaming volcanic riverbanks, and entry to Orakei Korako geothermal wonderland, which is full of geysers, silica terraces, boiling mud pools, and more. And, while the boat will pull some of those signature 360-degree spins, the emphasis of this experience is placed on the natural environment. 

So, no matter your style or thirst for adrenaline, the Taupo region has a jet boat operator to suit your taste. Just make sure to hold on tight.

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