New Zealand’s Best Places for Jet Boating

I love jet boating. You get all the thrill of a rollercoaster ride, but you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery. Plus it’s a great way to cool off.

Jet boating is kind of a big thing in New Zealand. It was invented here, after all. I’ve been jet boating all over the country, so where’s the best place for it?

Well here’s my list of the

Top 5 Places to Go Jet Boating in New Zealand

– let the countdown begin!

5) Rotorua

My first ever New Zealand jet boating experience was on Lake Rotorua. It was tame in comparison to other experiences on this list, but still fun. It was a great way to see the lake and learn about Rotorua’s history – a sort of half thrill ride, half informative tour. Check out the Kawarau Jet website if you’re interested.

4) Auckland

Taking a cruise around Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is a fantastic experience. There’s so much to see, including the impressive island volcano of Rangitoto, pods of dolphins and the Auckland City skyline itself. Add to that a few heart-stopping spins and you’ve got one hell of a jet boat ride. You can find Auckland Jet Boat Tours down at the Auckland Viaduct Harbour.

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This picture, along with the other pictures in this article, was purchased by my family from Rapids Jet, following our wonderful jet boating experience with them. (See below.)

3) Christchurch

My family visited Christchurch on our South Island campervan holiday. It has a few jet boating options. To the north there’s the Waimakariri, a beautiful braided river that flows from the Southern Alps through a canyon, so you’ve got stunning mountain scenery, waterfalls, cliffs and wildlife, as well as high-speed thrills in clear water that’s sometimes worryingly shallow. To the south there’s the Rakaia Gorge, which featured in The Amazing Race and is just as beautiful. Check out Waimak Alpine Jet, Jet Thrills or Discovery Jet.

2) Taupo

To the north of Lake Taupo lies New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction: the Huka Falls. They’re a pretty impressive sight from the bridge that crosses them – I stood there for ages. But my boyfriend has been right up to the bottom of them in the Hukafalls Jet, and there’s no better view than that. Despite the ferocity of the falls themselves, however, the river leading up to it is quite calm, so if you’re looking for a more hair-raising jet boat ride in Taupo then try Rapids Jet. That’s what my family did – it’s where all the photos in this article come from. Jet boating on rapids is so much better than doing it on flat water – there are only so many spins you can do before it gets boring.

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1) Queenstown

Queenstown is one of the many places my family’s taken a campervan rental in New Zealand. It was during that holiday that I had the best jet boating experience of my life. It makes sense – Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital; there are heaps of jet boat operators in and around it. Lake Wanaka, for example, is a gorgeous glacial lake with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains – imagine jet boating there! There are simply too many incredible places to choose from, but I think you’d find it difficult to top the Shotover River Canyons.

The Shotover Jet was just… wow. The ride and the scenery were both breath-taking. It was scary – the boat actually left the water at times, skimming over rocks and around canyon walls. The colours of the walls and the water seemed unreal. I spent the entire ride simply marvelling at the nature around me. And screaming with delight, of course.

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Gosh, I haven’t been jet boating in a while and writing this article is making me want to go again! Pity it’s an expensive thing to do. For a cheaper (and slower) water activity, you could try kayaking. Check out my 10 Awesome Places to Go Kayaking in New Zealand.

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Exploring Hamilton’s Parks

Say what you like about Hamilton, it’s got some pretty nice parks. I’ve just been for a walk along the east side of the river, passing through Parana Park, Memorial Park and Hayes Paddock and, I have to say, I was impressed.

It was great walking by the river, seeing the city centre along the opposite bank, separated from the water by trees. There are always people rowing on the river. To have such a peaceful stroll in such an urban area is something special. It made me feel good about moving to Hamilton.

But the parks would be impressive even without the Waikato River. Well, Memorial Park and Parana Park would be, anyway. Hayes Paddock is nothing special, but it does have an adult fitness trail – various pieces of free public exercise equipment placed at points on either side of the path.

Walking through Memorial Park and Parana Park just made me smile. They’re right by each other, so it’s one big park really. Memorial Park, of course, has a war memorial, but it also has a Spitfire. Just casually in the middle of the park.

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It’s quite enlightening walking around, as there are a few signs explaining the history of both parks, contributing to my education in the history of Hamilton as a whole. There’s also a preserved Victorian gunship, which brought Hamilton’s earliest European settlers up the river in 1864.

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Memorial Park has a beautiful flower garden. The colours were so bright – I suppose I was lucky to see it for the first time at this time of year. The benches in it looked so inviting, as did the cool colonnaded area behind it. I love grottos like this!

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I also love stone bridges. One connects Memorial Park to Parana Park, over a little stream. I followed the stream, accompanied by a mother duck with ducklings in tow. There are a few charming pathways through the trees. It’ll take another visit to the park to find them all.

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The best thing about Parana Park is the Potter Children’s Garden. It isn’t just a playground. It’s wonderful. It even has an aviary with exotic birds chirping away inside it. There’s a big, multi-sectioned paddling pool with running water, an amphitheatre, a playhouse, balancing beams…

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And it all looks so nice, complete with a fancy lookout platform over the river. There are even a couple of little tunnels that look like hobbit holes. I kinda get the feeling that was done deliberately. Waikato is the home of Hobbiton, after all. (I went there last year. It was AWESOME.)

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Waikato has some great places to visit. Hamilton itself isn’t exactly a dream holiday destination, but if you’re passing through and you don’t have hours to explore the incredible Hamilton Gardens, you could stop a while in Memorial/Parana Park. Especially if you have kids.

You can’t park a campervan overnight there, unfortunately – in fact, a look at the Rankers map has just shown me that you can’t camp for free anywhere in Hamilton. (Unlike in Tauranga, for example.) There are free spots in Ngaruawahia, though, and that’s only a little way outside Hamilton. Better than nothing.

Hey – there’s another slogan for you, Hamilton: ‘Better than nothing.’ (Hamilton has an amusing history of failed slogans, including ‘More than you expect’ and ‘City of the Future’. There is currently no slogan. I think they’ve given up.)

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Not Just Cows and Chlamydia: My First Impressions of Hamilton

Well, I live in Hamilton now. Never thought I’d say that.

For those of you who don’t live in New Zealand, Hamilton is… well, it’s just one of those places. It’s mercilessly mocked by the rest of the country, perhaps a little unfairly.

Cows and chlamydia – that’s what you think of when someone mentions Hamilton. A boring, low-class place, full of upstart dairy farmers, criminals, druggies and teenage parents.

Of course, it’s not just that. Admittedly, I have witnessed more poverty in Hamilton than in either Auckland Central or Tauranga, and the other day I had to walk past a father bellowing, “I’m gonna f**kin’ smash you, c**t!” at his son. However, despite those two negative experiences, I have to say that, so far, I like Hamilton.

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It’s a nice-looking city. I mean, there’s a big river running through it that has some lovely walkways and parks along its banks. The council’s obviously made a real effort.

It’s a friendly city. More people say hello to me on the street than in either Auckland or Tauranga – and only some of them are asking for a dollar.

It’s a university city. (I’m still young enough to find the presence students a good thing.)

It’s a cultural city. Seriously – don’t laugh – there’s a lot of good stuff going on. Plays and markets and events at the Hamilton Gardens and such.

It’s an inexpensive city. More and more Aucklanders are moving to Hamilton because houses are cheaper – it’s why my boyfriend and I moved here, to be honest. We’re renting a properly nice two-bedroom flat with all mod cons, five minutes’ walk from the river and city centre, and we’re paying significantly less than what my little sister’s paying for a crummy, damp, kitchenless, two-bedroom hole with no mod cons in Auckland.

Also, Hamilton has very little traffic compared to Auckland. Although how long that will last with all the Aucklanders coming here, I’ve no idea.

gardenplaceThe main difference between Hamilton and the two other New Zealand cities I’ve lived in, (Auckland and Tauranga,) is that Hamilton isn’t on the coast. It hit me the other day when I was having lunch in Garden Place, Hamilton’s main square: there weren’t any seagulls mobbing me, only sparrows. It really is strange not to be hearing seagulls all the time.

I suppose I’ll miss being able to walk to a beach whenever I want. But, then again, Hamilton has the Waikato River, and Hamilton Lake, and the absolutely wonderful Hamilton Gardens. I wrote an article about the Hamilton Gardens ages ago, but no doubt I’ll be writing another, more detailed one at some point in the future. They just get better and better.

riffraffHamilton’s CBD is fairly boring, though it does have some quirky touches. Garden Place, for example, has a few sculptures, fountains and a giant chessboard – not to mention a tree over six stories high come Christmas – and on Victoria Street, there’s a Weta Workshop-designed statue of Richard O’Brien from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, along with instructions for performing the Time Warp. (Richard O’Brien used to live in Hamilton, you see.) The council’s clearly doing a good job of making Hamilton continually nicer.

The Garden Place Library is quite impressive. The Waikato Museum on the riverbank looks worth visiting too. The city centre has a solid range of interesting shops and restaurants, and I found a big second-hand bookshop the other day, which I’m happy about. I’ve already got a royalty card.

casabellalane1There’s also a lovely little street called Casabella Lane, which is done up all like a Mediterranean courtyard. Unfortunately, the ‘French’ café there isn’t very good. Such a gorgeous setting deserves better food. There’s a nice bookshop on Casabella Lane, though, and just walking up it is pleasant in itself.

The best thing about Hamilton, apart from the Gardens, is being able to take a few steps off the main shopping street and immediately be at the riverside, on a peaceful path leading off into the trees. In terms of city walks, Hamilton might even be better than Auckland. I did see quite a few condoms in the bushes at the side of the path, but – hey – at least the STD Capital of New Zealand* is getting the safe sex message, right?

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*Hamilton is not actually the STD Capital of New Zealand. This doesn’t stop everyone saying it is.

What to Do in Kerikeri

POMS AWAY!

Guess what? I just spent four days in Kerikeri. (House sitting with my boyfriend, so free accommodation – score!)

Kerikeri is in the far north of New Zealand. It gets really hot up there. Everywhere you look it’s orchards and vineyards.

My family passed through it years ago, when we took a campervan up to Cape Reinga, but this was my first time properly exploring it.

Kerikeri 051 Rainbow Falls

I’ll start with the town itself, which is a lot bigger than I’d expected. (It has TWO supermarkets!) The main street is really picturesque. There are a few interesting shops, especially of the art and craft variety. It’s simply pleasant. Even the New World supermarket has an old-fashioned stone frontage.

On the Sunday morning, we went to the Kerikeri Farmers Market. It had wine, cheese, nuts, bread, crepes, blueberry ice-cream, avocados – did I mention cheese? It was incredible cheese. The Art…

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