Steaming across the lake in the Steamship Earnslaw has to be a very unique and worthwhile activity while staying in Queenstown. It's always great to get out onto the lake, but nothing can beat a steamship journey. This is one of the few passenger carrying steamships, and more especially being coal fired, still operating.
You can choose different options from barbeque lunch to horseriding, and general relaxing, when you visit Walter Peak Station across the lake.
There is plenty of time to mooch around and explore the ship, view the engine room and stoker, and visit the bridge. Earnslaw has a fine cafe and bar available as well.
Lake Cruises from $NZD55
After a day of Jetboating, helicopter ride, white water rafting and parapenting, the cruise on board the TSS Earnslaw seems very sedate, very old fashioned, but very nice. The cruise takes three quarters of an hour across the Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Sheep Station.
OK... I have to admit I didn't do this, though when I left Auckland I had thought I might have. The TSS Earnslaw is a ninety something year old steamer that is an icon in Queenstown. She is a beautiful ship and if I went to Queenstown again I would definitely want to experience first hand what cruising aboard her is like. I think fares started at about NZ$37 when I was there.
Real Journeys will take you back in time with a cruise on the TSS (Twin Screw Ship) Earnslaw which was buily way back in 1914.
You can hear he steam engines hiss and thud as the stokers shovel coal into the glowing fireboxes. In the wheelhouse upstairs, the skipper rings through directions to the engine room using the traditional telegraph bells.
On the 1½ hour cruise on the TSS Earnslaw you will see some of Lake Wakatipu’s most beautiful alpine scenery time to explore the decks and bridge.
In the engine room there is a collection of historical photos in the Fo’c’sle gallery. The licensed cafe onboard even features an onboard pianist.
You can choose to do a complete a cruise only, or a cruise combined with a visit to Walter Peak High Country Farm (see next tip) which is what we opted for.
Season: Sep - May -daily departures
Duration: 3 hrs 30 mins
Prices from: NZ$93 adult & NZ$45 child
If you are enamored with the sea-faring lifestyle and enjoy peaceful and sometimes romantic cruises, then I would recommend the TSS Earnslaw for a sunset cruise on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. The ship leaves from downtown and heads out on a mini cruise to nowhere most days, but the most popular is the evening cruise that is the last to watch the sun go down. Several sources quote that this ship is the last to be operated as a coal fired ship in the Southern Hemisphere, so you better take the opportunity while it still exists!
You can complete this cruise by itself or it can be combined with the Walter Peak High Country Farm visit. There are refreshments on board the ship, however they are at an additional charge.
As of 2008, the prices are $42NZD for adults and sail times are noon, 2pm and 4pm. There are concessions for seniors, students, and children.
The TSS Earnslaw is a well known icon of Queenstown and is known as the Lady of the Lake.
This vintage steamship was built in 1912 and runs on coal and cruises along Lake Wakatipu.
It is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago.
The TSS Earnslaw once had Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip on board.
The 1 hr 30mins cruise cost NZ$38 and you could catch it at the Real Journeys office at the Lakefront Drive.
Whilst walking around Queenstown, we came across the TSS Earnslaw in dock. What a lovely looking Steamship she was, so on inquiring about the price and where she went, we decided it would be a nice relaxing way to spend some time!
The 1 ½ hour cruise on the TSS Earnslaw gave us some different views of Queenstown and the alpine scenery from the water.
My husband enjoyed having a look at the steam engines working, and how busy the man was shoveling coal to keep it running, lucky it is cooler weather than where we live!
In the wheelhouse upstairs, the skipper rings through directions to the engine room using the traditional telegraph bells - the same method used on board a century ago.
Of interest, were the historical photos.
There is a Pianist on board, and if feeling peckish, food is available. The cruise took us to Walter peak station where we got off and had a look around, then hopped back on for the journey back to Queenstown.
Cruises depart regularly throughout the day. There are all types of different cruises that you can do, check the website for details.
1 Nov 2009 - 4 Apr 2010 Departs: 10am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm & 8pm
Prices from: $48 adult .....$20 child
5 Apr 2010 - 28 May 2010 Departs: 12noon, 2pm & 4pm
Prices from: $48 adult $20 child
The TSS Earnslaw on which you cruise Lake Wakatipu is an old lady. The vintage steam ship was built in Dunedin in 1911 and made her maiden voyage from Kingston to Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu on 18 October 1912. Coal-fired steam ships had operated on the lake from 1863.
Originally commissioned by the government to service the tourism trade and farms in the Lakes District, the vessel was taken over by Fiordland Travel in 1968 and has been cruising Lake Wakatipu for pleasure ever since, in the meantime by Real Journeys.
The “Lady of the Lake” is the last remaining coal-fired passenger ship operating in the southern hemisphere. The polished wooden floors and seats are still a beauty, as are the cast-iron seat frames. Or better: Are a beauty again since many coats of paint have been stripped from the interior and exterior to reveal original features of the ship. It is registered as an historic place, so has to be looked well after even if it stops operating on Lake Wakatipu.
On your cruise you can have a look down and even walk down a staircase closer to the engine room. Stokers feed the pounding steam engines a tonne of coal per hour.
The ship is 51.2 metres long and 7.3 metres wide. It has a twin coal fired triple expansion and two locomotive-type boilers with double safety valves. The jet condensing vertical marine engines produce 500 horsepower at 145 r.p.m.
More technical details and the history of the Earnslaw on this website:
Info about cruises in my previous tip and on the Real Journeys website:
Relive the elegance of bygone days and enjoy magnificent scenery with a cruise aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, one of the last remaining coal-fired passenger carrying vessels operating in the southern hemisphere. Affectionately known as the “Lady of the Lake”, the TSS Earnslaw has a special place in the hearts of Queenstown people. She has been transporting goods to remote settlements and conveying passengers on beautiful Lake Wakatipu since 1912.
The boat does lunchtime and dinner cruises. And during the daytime has longer cruises to Walter Peak (highcountry) Station where visitors can watch sheep-shearing demostrations, sheep-rounding and see Highland cattle.
This old steamer or the TSS Earnslaw is affectionately known as the “Lady of the Lake” and has been transporting goods to remote settlements and conveying passengers on the beautiful Lake Wakatipu since 1912.
Its a great experience and a magic way to see the beautiful scenery. This steamship is the only coal fired passenger carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere.
It leaves on a variety of regular cruises from the wharf right in downtown Queenstown. The evening cruise with great wine & food is a very pleasant way to round off your day. Alternatively take the cruise over to the working sheep station at Walter Peak.
I didn't actually board this vessel but saw it leave from Queenstown and managed to capture this shot. From our hotel, the boat looked tiny on the water but up close it is not. Just goes to show how large Lake Wakatipu is!!!
Steamship cruises across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Fascinating farmyard tour. Morning/afternoon tea. Horse trek option. Barbecue meals and evening carvery buffet at the Colonel's Homestead Restaurant.