Ideal for first time rafters, this is a fun and relaxed rafting trip on the beautiful Kawarau River.
As you start out, the idyllic stretches of quiet water give you time to enjoy the fabulous views, practice your paddling technique or get into a friendly water fight.
Kawarau River starred as the River Anduin in Lord of the Rings, so it’s like paddling through Middle Earth – see if you can recognise the location of the beautiful Anduin Gates! The water is incredibly clear as you pass beneath the Remarkables mountain range and across the confluence of the famous Shotover River. There are a few small rapids perfect for practice before you head under the bungy bridge. You’ll drift through Gibbston, the spectacular local wine growing region on the river’s south bank before heading into fun sized rapids – Smith Falls, Twin Bridges and Do Little Do Nothing.
It’s an easy trip - until you get to the Dog Leg. At 400m, the Grade 2-3 Dog Leg is New Zealand’s longest commercially rafted rapid and will most certainly get your adrenaline pumping.
Finish off with a hot shower or sauna at Cavell’s Rafting Base before heading back to town.
- Trip operates with a minimum of 8 people. Customers reconfirm at least 24 hours prior to departure to ensure your trip will be operating
- Suitable for children 13 years and over
- Suitable for water competent people of moderate fitness
- Trips are weather, river level and/or water temperature dependent
- Helicopter flights are weather dependent
Queenstown Rafting, 35 Shotover Street, Queenstown
Swimsuit and towel. Money for snacks, drinks and photos. Please leave your valuables behind.
Wetsuit, wetsuit jacket, spray jacket, paddle, helmet, wetsuit booties and a life jacket.
The Kawarau River is a much deeper and bigger river than the Shotover, flowing through some spectacular Central Otago vineyards.
The trip ends with a 400 meter long, grade 3/4 rapid.
22 February 2016
Queenstown rafting company made this a brilliant experience. A very thorough safety talk & demo. Very knowledge, witty & friendly guides. Michel's advice is spot on....the Kawarau river (grade 2/3) is the best for first time rafters, rather than getting scared on a grade 5. Thanks guys for a brilliant time.
Visited February 2016
15 January 2016
My husband are I are fairly fit early 60's and we loved it!! The staff make it great fun right from the start. We did the slightly tamer Kawarau River run but next time would chance the Shotover very professional outfit. Def recommend for all ages and nerve.
Visited January 2016
25 January 2016
We went to the Kawarau River a few days ago, it was my first time doing rafting and I was really excited about it! The entire experience was Amazing! From the reception until the end. The guides and the guy in the kayak made us feel really safe, always there for us. The river doesn't have big rapids, but is fine if you are new, and if you are fan of the Lord of the Rings it is a big plus, because some shots were filmed there! Definitely , great experience! Next time I will do the Shotover!
Visited January 2016
17 December 2015
I went to Queenstown for a wild week of thrill seeking experiences, including bungy jumping, hang-gliding, jet-boat riding, helicopter ride, etc. All were fantastic, but the one experience I found to be so thrilling was the White Water Rafting on the Kawarau River. Great guides who talk you through the acquired actions, beforehand, and at the necessary moments.
With the many thrill-seeking things I've done so far, this is among the top three experiences. Magic! Thanks 'Bros"! :)
Visited November 2015
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
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 spectacular 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.
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 (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.
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 our qualified and certified guides will be able to give you any extra personal instruction you may need while in the raft.
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.
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.
You can book your trip online from this website with your credit card or in person from the shop at 35 Shotover St when you arrive in Queenstown. However we recommend booking early as trips can book out.
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.
We provide wetsuit booties for when you are on the river, so you can wear your normal shoes to the rafting base.
Yes you can, however we do recommend a sports strap or tie for glasses. Because of the nature of the river, we can’t guarantee the safety of your glasses so if you can do without them we recommend leaving them behind.
Yes there are. There will be a professional photographer with you at the start of the trip and again at the last rapid taking both photos and video footage. You will be able to view and purchase the photos / video at the end of the trip when you are returned to the shop.
Yes you can, although we recommend that cameras are left behind at the hotel as we cannot guarantee their safety against damage even if waterproof. Helmets with GoPro mounts are available to use if you wish to bring your GoPro and shoot your own footage.
Otherwise there is professional photography available for purchase upon completion of your trip.
The total trip time for both the Kawarau and Shotover river trips is around 4.5 hours. We typically run two trip a day with an 8:15am and 1:15pm departure from town.
However the time on the water varies depending on the river speed, the water level and time of year. Generally the Shotover River trip can be between 1½ to 2½ hours on the water and the Kawarau River is between 1 hour and 1½ hours on the water. When we’re Heli-rafting on the Shotover River in the winter, this time tends to be reduced to an hour on the river due to cold weather restrictions.
The Cavells Rafting base is on the banks of the Shotover River, approximately a 10 minute drive from Queenstown. At Cavells, after being fitted out with your wetsuit and other gear, you will be taken to the river you’ve chosen to raft.
Shotover River - This Shotover river is found to the north of Queenstown flowing out of the mountains. The drive into the rafting start point is via Skippers Canyon, behind Coronet Peak, which takes about 40 minutes. You get to raft down 14km of the Shotover river all the way back to the Cavells Rafting Base where you started. You can view a map of the trip by clicking here.
Kawarau River - The Kawarau is the only outlet to Lake Wakatipu and flows out to the east of Queenstown. The drive to the rafting start point is via Arrowtown and takes about 25 minutes. The trip covers 8km of the river and at the end the return trip is past th elocal wineries through the Gibbston Valley and takes about 30 minutes. You can view a map of the trip by clicking here.
We run any trip when we have more than 8 people booked on and the maximum per trip is 70. However if we get more people than this booked onto a river we break the trips up into multiple groups.
Given prior notice, we can carry groups of up to 200 people on any one trip.
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, we can generally organise it so that you go down the river in the same raft.
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.
Tipping is not expected in New Zealand, however if you feel you would like to show your appreciation that is totally at your discretion and will always be appreciated.
Some medical conditions may prohibit you from whitewater rafting but most will not. 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 (e.g. asthma inhalers), you will need to bring that with you in case it is needed.
No. Company policy is that we 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.
This will need to be assessed on a case by case basis and we recommend you call our staff and have a chat with them about your specific needs. Generally we are able to accommodate most people if we are 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.
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!
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.
No, but you will be instructed by your guide how to brace yourself in the raft to minimize the chance of falling out.
The minimum age for rafting is 13 years, with a minimum weight of 40kg. There is no maximum age or weight limit for rafting 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.
Yes, but on different sections of the rivers.
The Skippers Canyon Jet operates 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.
Thunder Jet operates on Lake Wakatipu and up into the Kawarau 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.
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.
New Zealand is exactly the opposite to the northern hemisphere (UK, USA etc) and winter is between June and early September.
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.
We require 24 hours notice for cancellation to get a full refund, after that a portion of the cost is retained.
Yes, there are toilets at the Cavells rafting base and at Deep Creek where the Shotover River rafting trip starts.
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.
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.