Jet-boating rivers at 50 mph and other adrenaline-fueled tourism have become the economic mother lode for this area around Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island.



A JET BOAT surges along New Zealand’s narrow, twisting Shotover River, its passengers’ shrieks of glee bouncing off the sheer rock faces that hem the river. The shrieks grow even louder when the powerful craft turns on a dime in a 360-degree spin.

Jet-boating rivers at 50 mph and other adrenaline-fueled tourist adventures have become the economic mother lode for this area around Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island.

Born as an 1860s gold-mining camp, Queenstown now is a postcard-pretty home to about 11,000 people, and an outdoors mecca for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, thanks to the craggy mountains, alpine lakes and rapids-strewn rivers that surround the town.

Jet-boating not your thing? Kayak, raft or whitewater-surf on rivers that tumble around Queenstown. Or go play in the natural gardens of stone on guided rock-climbing and canyoneering outings.

Head for the hills for mountain walks or days-long hikes and, in winter, skiing, snowboarding and ice-climbing.

Take to the skies for paragliding. And plunge through the air with bungee-jumping.

Commercial “bungy,” as it’s called in New Zealand, got its start in 1988 when a couple of extreme-sports lovers began offering the rope-tethered jumps off the Kawarau River bridge just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown.

Take the 141-foot plunge — or just lounge on the riverside deck and watch others get their adrenaline roaring.

Kristin R. Jackson is the editor of The Seattle Times’ NWTraveler section. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.