The South Island’s Action Capital
Beneath that Kiwi calm and reserve must throb a vein of derangement. How else to explain why New Zealand is the recognized home of both bungee jumping and jet-boating? The former act of madness originated eons ago as a coming-of-age ritual on the islands of Vanuatu, east of Australia. You may not have realized you had a burning desire to attach a thick rubber cord around your ankles before diving headfirst off a bridge into an apocalyptic void, but Queenstown’s high-energy fun is infectious, and so far – with a 100 percent safety record – everyone has lived to tell about it, including an eighty-four-year-old grandfather.
For an added fee, you can have the escapade filmed and bring the video home to relive your fleeting moment of lunacy. The world’s first bungee site is the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, a 143-foot plunge that has hosted more than 300,000 jumps. But an alternative four-wheel drive to Skippers Canyon Bridge – a soul-shattering 229-foot descent into a rocky gorge – is just as memorable as the jump itself.
For those who’d rather be on the water than over it, the Shotover River’s steep rock walls and white – water rapids are the scene for heart-stopping jet-boat trips that fly you over the shallow waters – sometimes only inches deep – negotiating huge boulders and rushing waters. Flat-bottomed boats perform 360- degree pirouettes within inches of canyon walls.
Native New Zealander Sir William Hamilton first created a revolutionary propulsion jet that allowed navigation in shallow or difficult waters where others dared not go, and versions of Hamilton’s jet are now used around the world, though only Shotover Jet is licensed to operate here, guaranteeing a traffic-free experience.