TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu © Tourism NZ

Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw


This, the last remaining coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere, was launched the same year as the Titanic.

Unlucky for some, perhaps, but not this baby – still powering people around the beautiful waters of Lake Wakatipu over 100 years on. Remarkable, if you’ll excuse the pun. She’s been through a few changes, as you’d expect, and nearly went under the scrapper’s tongs at one point, despite once being a crucial method of ferrying people, sheep and a dozen beer back to the isolated stations around the lake. Before the arrival of the Holden Kingswood station wagon, obviously.

She has – through great patience and likely a lake-full of cash – been restored to her original condition, kauri timber decks and all.

You can now pace these decks, pinot in hand, or put your drinking vessel somewhere secure and secure a look at the workings of this particular vessel, engine room and all.

Or perhaps disembark for a sheep-shearing extravaganza (if blood, sweat and lanolin are your thing), plus barbecue and horse trek. Or just cruise one of the most beautiful waterways in the world.

You may be roped in to a singalong – not sure whether Prince Phillip exercised the royal tonsils when he and Liz rode the Earnslaw in 1990, but you bet he had something pithy to say. ‘Looks like the bits of Africa we used to own, Liz,’ or some such.

A lake cruise on this piece of history is a great way to relax after the rigours of all that adventure sporting. And indeed, if you’ve been coming over all Indiana Jones, what with your bungy jumping, your alpine stompings and perhaps an ill-considered fedora, you’ll be delighted to know the TSS Earnslaw had a small role in the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Boom!

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