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Jet boat taking off.
Jet boat taking off.
Check out this view.
What a ride!

Rakaia Jetboat

Thursday, March 14, 2002
Get briefed, wack your lifejacket on, hang on to your safety railings and get ready for an absolute blast.

Rakaia, the salmon and trout capital of New Zealand, is a rural community on the Canterbury Plains, 50km south of Christchurch. The Rakaia River, one of the world's best examples of a "braided" river, is spanned by a 1.8km bridge. It is the gateway to Mid-Canterbury, and southbound travellers turn westward for the Southern Alps.

Rakaia Gorge is 261 million years old. It starts at the bridge and follows the river for 65km. The first section is narrow with limestone and volcanic rock formations, and the second section opens up to expose magnificent views.

The river flows at 100-150 cubic metres a second, and for the past 12 years, Murray McDonald has operated the Rakaia Gorge Scenic Jet company. He has one purpose-built boat — a Hamilton Jet 181 tourer. Bigger and wider than most pleasure boats, it has a deeper "v" and a 7.4-litre engine that can get the boat up to 100km/h.

Six metres long and one-and-a-half tonnes when empty, the 375-horsepower boat is extremely manoeuvrable, and offers excitement, scenery, action and closeness to nature. You will see a spring-fed waterfall, coal seams, nesting and migrating birds, a variety of river currents and formations, and the best possible photographic opportunities.

Safety is of maximum importance and passengers — the trip takes 12 — are given a lifejacket and safety briefing. It is also recommended you wear a warm, waterproof jacket, a fitted hat and gloves. There are safety railings to hold on to, and the boat is fitted with bilge pump, remote-control fire extinguisher, air horns, radio, rockets and flares.

Murray offers three trips. One is up the river to the old coal mine, and you can take the 5km walk back to the bridge. The second is a 30km round trip that takes 45 minutes. Murray stops about six times so you can get your photographs and hear a bit of information about the area you are in. The Thrill Seekers trip is also 30km, but because of its speed, takes half an hour.

The area offers limitless activities. Apart from salmon and trout fishing, you can raft, kayak, horse-trek, rock climb and birdwatch. In warm months, you will see whales, seals and dolphins. In fact, you might even want to swim with them!

The fertile, alluvial soil has provided perfect conditions for growing, and between spring and autumn the area is a blaze of colour. Sheep, deer and dairy farms are sprinkled throughout, there are grapes for wine and creative locals turn out pottery, carving, painting and home-spun knitwear.

There are loads of sporting amenities including swimming, golf, squash, tennis, bowling and good shopping facilities. Picnicking is well catered for and there are many pretty spots along the riverbank or reserves.

There are eight uncrowded ski fields in the area, trekkers' huts and farmstays in the high country, and luxury lodges for romantic weekends.


The mid-Canterbury area of New Zealand's south island.


Rakaia Gorge Scenic Jet Boat costs $50 for adults and $25 for children on a Thrill Seeker. They operate year round.
Qantas flies six times a week to Christchurch. Return economy airfares start at $509 from Sydney, $579 from Melbourne and Brisbane, $709 from Adelaide and $909 from Perth, per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Rakaia Gorge Scenic Jet
Ph: (0011) 64 3 318 6515
Fax: (0011) 64 3 318 6512
Tourism New Zealand: Ph: (02) 9728 5801
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13
For a safe and healthy journey, talk to the travel doctor: 1300 658 844 or visit
Vaccinations: Tetanus and Measles if under 30 years and no previous booster. A small medical kit containing remedies for minor problems can save time and worry.

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