The Ultimate Dart River Adventure

Before moving to New Zealand, a friend showed us an Instagram photo of a canoe trip through a canyon, that was supposedly somewhere in New Zealand. With a long list of places we wanted to explore already, I wrote it off as something that looked too beautiful to be true. But then the photo kept appearing in all the NZ travel accounts I stalk, and it became a must-do bucket list destination for me.

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A bit of research later and I had pinned down the location – the Dart River in Glenorchy, a remote area outside of Queenstown. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easily accessible, and required a $300+ tour to capture the same insta-famous shot. But when an Air New Zealand domestic sale coincided with a long summer weekend close to my birthday, and bit of wanderlust… we bit the bullet and booked it!

The tour is called Dart River Jet Funyak Safari, but don’t be fooled by the name that makes it sound kind of lame and overly touristy. Out of the hundreds of tour options in Queenstown, this assuredly is one of the least touristy. The trip involves an hour-long coach trip into Glenorchy, but the scenery along the way is worth the time. The drive is consistently rated one of the most scenic in the world. The road sits alongside Lake Wakatipu, with amazing views of the mountains in the distance.

In Glenorchy, you gear up (check out the wetsuits!) and get on a jet boat (fun, but I could have done without), and finally to the highlight – the funyaks!

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The pseudo-kayaks were easy to paddle (Or at least I think – I was taking pictures while Brett did all the steering work from the backseat…), and the streams and canyons we were able to access from them were incredible. You could even drink the water directly from the river, which is only ever a couple hours old from a glacier.  

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Here’s the biggest selling point for the tour – you get to paddle through this narrow canyon. Our tour guide made sure every boat had a moment to themselves at the most picturesque point of the canyon – to take a minute to internalize the memory.

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Oh, and the kayak trip ends in a town called Paradise. I mean, how could we not go?

For any LOTR fans, the mountains in Paradise are the site of where Gandalf The Grey’s epic fight against the Balrog was filmed.

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All in all, a total splurge experience but worth it!  

Dart River

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