The beauty of New Zealand's braided rivers

Along with its mountains and lakes, braided rivers are one of the South Island's most beautiful features, particularly in the Canterbury and Otago regions.

What are braided rivers?

Braided rivers are quite rare in global terms, but quite common in New Zealand, where our geological history is so relatively new and active. They were formed by fast-flowing water coming down from the glaciers and mountains of the Southern Alps.

The sediment carried down by these glacial streams would build up on the riverbed, forcing the water to seek out new channels in its quest to reach the sea. As a result, the streams in a braided river create a mesmerising and ever-changing pattern as they flow back and forth across their broad riverbed.

Where to see braided rivers in New Zealand

Christchurch and Canterbury

Almost half the braided rivers in New Zealand can be found on the Canterbury Plains outside of Christchurch. The GreatSights Christchurch & Canterbury Alpine Safari day tour includes a coach trip across the plains to the breathtaking Waimakariri Gorge, where you can experience the thrill of a jet boat ride along the Waimakariri River, one of the most impressive braided rivers in the country. During the 45-minute boat ride your guide will navigate through its shallow waters and down rapids.

Queenstown and Central Otago

Take a day trip from Queenstown and travel along one of the world's top 10 scenic drives to Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu, then set off on a Dart River Jet Safari for a thrilling ride along the glacier-fed, braided Dart River. Navigate its ever-changing shallow channels, complete with jet spins, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of this unique area.

Alternatively, spend a day exploring New Zealand's stunning natural beauty on a Milford Sound day tour from Queenstown, followed by a KJet jet boat ride!

Your 60 minute jet boat ride across Lake Wakatipu and onto the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers will get your pulse racing with thrills, spins and exhilaration across three waterways in one of the world's most stunning locations.

A jet boat ride is the perfect way to experience the fast-moving currents of the narrow, braided channels of the Shotover River, as your expert driver navigates at speeds of up to 85kph – in water that's sometimes less than 5cm deep!

Visit GreatSights and for braided river jet boat tours.

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