YOUR BEST SHOT: Skippers Canyon has a wide range of activities including rafting, jetboating and bungy jumping.
YOUR BEST SHOT: Skippers Canyon has a wide range of activities including rafting, jetboating and bungy jumping. Bianca Clare

A white knuckle ride

FOUR hours ago, I was in heaven. The delicate scent of jojoba, manuka and macadamia oil had invaded my senses and drifted my weary body into a deep state of relaxation at LeSpa.

The luxury day spa is located in the surrounds of the newly renovated Sofitel Queenstown hotel in New Zealand's south island.

Their signature treatment "Ataahua Beautiful Body"; is an age-old Maori tradition promoting good health and vitality.

First, my skin was exfoliated with sugar and rice bran, then covered with honey and Rotorua geo-thermal mud.

After a steam shower, the healing finished with a scalp, neck, back and shoulder massage.

I was walking on sunshine back to my sixth floor room which overlooks the stunning Lake Wakatipu. But now I am tackling my greatest fear - winding dirt roads.

And the historic Skippers Road is the winding dirt road to beat all winding dirt roads.

One kilometre in, my heart is racing; my palms are sweating and I am wondering how long my breakfast will stay put.

But once you're on this "roller coaster"; there is no getting off. There is nowhere to turn around on this narrow single lane road.

The road hugs the rugged mountain side of Skippers Canyon. In some sections the distance between the wheel and well, nothing, feels like centimetres. To say there is a steep drop would be an understatement.

There are only half a dozen points where you can pull over to allow passing traffic through. Worst case scenario, this means that a vehicle's driver has to reverse for several metres to reach a passing bay. This is truly white knuckle material.

Chinese labourers were brought into Skippers Canyon in the late 1880s to hand-chisel the schist rock over 22 years.

The idea was to form a road to allow access to the richest gold field in New Zealand, the upper Shotover River.

Today, tourism is the road's biggest user and I am thankful the lovely folk back at Sofitel had organised the sturdy option of a personal four-wheel-drive tour, not an overcrowded mini bus.

If you can peel your eyes away from the dashboard for a moment, the view is breathtaking.

You can understand while this country is often referred to as the land of the long white cloud and why the directors of Lord of Rings chose to film in the Southern Alps.

At the end of Skippers Road, once your heart has re-entered your body, the next thrillseeking adventure begins. This is of course "the adventure capital of the world";.

If like me, you can't muster the nerves to throw yourself face first towards the ground in an activity otherwise known as bungy jumping, jet boating is a much tamer option.

The family-run Skippers Canyon Jet is the only company allowed to operate a jet boat on the Shotover River in the environmentally sensitive Skippers Canyon.

You need to hold on tight as you race through the water as shallow as 15cm at speeds of 85kmh, clearing the jagged rocks by only a metre and half at times.

It is a scary as it is fun and the 360-degree spins are designed to make you scream.

The high speeds are created through water being sucked up through an intake grill on the underside of the hull.

When the boat comes to a stop, part of you will want to do it all again, the other half will want to kiss the ground.

Evening drinks back at the newly refurbished Sofitel Nue Lounge and a bubblebath back in the privacy of my room is the perfect way to tap back into the tranquil feeling I had when I left LeSpa.

The hotel's $2 million upgrade and extension has transformed the ground floor. It is truly a magical place to stay.

The writer was a guest of Sofitel.


Getting there: Jetstar's everyday one-way fares between Gold Coast and Queenstown start from $199 (JetSaver Light). Jetstar's A320 aircraft offers 177 all-leather seats in a single class.

Once in Queenstown, passengers can connect throughout Jetstar's domestic New Zealand network covering Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. For more information, visit or phone 13 15 38.

Where to stay: Sofitel Hotel and Spa. The adjoining new look Left Bank Cafe is part French kitchen and part tea room, offering breakfast and lunch in elegant surrounds.

Tips: New Zealand's weather can change at a moment's notice. Always carry a jacket for when those winds come in off the snow-capped mountains.

Sights: Pure QT = Skippers Canyon Experience. Phone Steve Robertson on

Visit Limousine Line or email Jonathan

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