Get out and about on Lake Wakatipu

Get out on the water on Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu is a cold lake. And if you don’t believe us, try taking a dip! The water temperature sits at a steady 11-13°C year round and while those temperatures may not be conducive to getting IN the water; there’s no excuse to not get ON the water. With so many water activities on offer in Queenstown, don’t leave town until you’ve had a Lake Wakatipu experience.

The reason for Lake Wakatipu's cool temp has a lot to do with the fact that it is New Zealand’s third largest lake. At its deepest point, Lake Wakatipu is around 380 metres (1,250ft) deep. That’s deeper than Auckland’s Sky Tower is tall. As well as this, several of the rivers that feed Lake Wakatipu are glacier-fed helping keep things cool.

The list of water activities on Lake Wakatipu is extensive. So, if you've got the time, you can enjoy parasailing, jetboating, kayaking, cruising, fishing, rafting, canyoning, river surfing, jetski hire, stand up paddle boardingand a shark shaped hydro attack watercraft. No, we didn't make that last one up. More on that later.

Here are some of our favourite activities out on the sparkling blue water of Lake Wakatipu that can be enjoyed anytime of year.

Water Activities White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

As well as a great adrenaline thrill, white water rafting gives you access to some truly spectacular locations.

A Shotover River Rafting Trip takes you into the remote and striking Skippers Canyon. The bus journey along the Skippers Road is not for the feint of heart. The road is the original access to the abandoned gold mining township of Skippers and is cut into the steep rock face above the Shotover River gorge. Your heart will be racing before you even arrive at the rafts. A trip with Queenstown Rafting offers a real white water rafting experience along the river, which is graded 3 – 5 and is the highest grade commercially rafted in the world. For the less brave, there is the gentler option of rafting the Kawarau River.

Jet boating 

Queenstown and jetboating go hand in hand. The Hamilton jet boat was the first modern jet boat and was invented just up the road in South Canterbury. Harnessing this technology, the iconic Shotover Jet started up in 1965 and has been going strong ever since. Blasting through the breathtaking canyons, your driver skillfully navigates the sheer rock walls and will throw in a few 360°spins for extra fun. For a downtown option, the Kawarau Jet leaves from the main pier on the lake and shoots you off at speeds of 85 kilometres per houracross Lake Wakatipu and up the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers.

Water Activities Jet Boating

Scenic Cruises Gazing over Lake Wakatipu

You will often spot a cruise boat setting off into the striking landscape. A scenic cruise is one of the more sedate Queenstown activities, but you will be hugely rewarded. For gentle lake cruising check out The Million Dollar Lake Cruise, Sprit of Queenstown and the Queenstown Discovery.

By far the most famous is the ‘lady of the lake’. The TSS Earnslaw is the only coal-fired steamship in operation in the Southern Hemisphere and has a Category One Heritage Listing. Real Journeys operate scenic cruises, lunch cruises and farm tour cruises on the TSS Earnslaw every day. Any tour will give you plenty of time to appreciate the workings of the old steamer. There is an open viewing platform to the engine room below, and you will often catch the on-board pianist for a good old fashioned sing-a-long.

Water Activities Fishing


Whether you’re a keen angler or not, fishing in Queenstown brings many rewards. The cool waters are home to salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout. Fishing charters will give you the option to fish in mountain beech forests, alpine spring creeks, rivers, lakes, and on farmland. Whether you get a bite or not, it’s sure to be a memorable day.

For something a little crazy 

We love that Queenstown is a city of extremes. You could choose to enjoy a relaxing day out cruising or fly-fishing, or you could choose to step into a shark shaped submersible watercraft. Say that again? Perhaps the Hydro Attack team can describe it better themselves: Experience Hydro Attack, the world's first tour operator of a unique shark shaped submersible watercraft operating on Lake Wakatipu. Enjoy the ultimate ride and test your adrenaline levels as the boat’s 260hp supercharged engine accelerates from 0 to 80kph in 3.9 seconds! Add to that jumps up to 6 metres out of the water and dives down to 2 metres below the water, rolls and a few doughnuts and you're guaranteed an epic roller-coaster ride of a lifetime.

As long as you’re not looking for swimming, there’s plenty to do on Lake Wakatipu. 

Water Activities Hydro Attack