It’s one of the best ways to see Queenstown’s surrounding landscape – a cruise across Lake Whakatipu aboard the iconic century-old coal-fired steamship, the TSS Earnslaw.
The TSS Earnslaw has been lovingly maintained since 1912 and is an iconic piece of Queenstown's history. Take time to explore the vessel, view the engine room, and study the historic displays of the steamship's former life.
Your trip will take you across the lake, past the Remarkables mountain range and Cecil Peak, to Walter Peak High Country Farm. You can choose to add a Walter Peak Farm Tour or our famous gourmet long lunch, or cruise back to Queenstown Bay.
It’s New Zealand’s most iconic boat and one of Queenstown’s most historic destinations.
The leisurely 90-minute cruise across Lake Whakatipu showcases some of Queenstown’s spectacular alpine scenery while offering you plenty of time to explore a piece of Queenstown’s living history – the over one hundred year-old TSS Earnslaw.
Inside a visit to the engine room reveals the giant steam engines at work. Close by you’ll be able to view the collection of historical photos in our mini-museum, check out the bridge or, if you’d rather, kick back and enjoy a wine or beer or some café food at our on-board Promenade Café and Bar.
Cruises depart regularly throughout the day. You can choose to undertake just the cruise, or combine it with a visit to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a guided farm tour, horse trek, independent cycling, gourmet barbecue lunch or dinner.
The TSS Earnslaw has carried many famous visitors, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and even President Bill Clinton. Undoubtedly, this iconic tour is one not to miss.
Things you should know
RealNZ Visitor Centre, Steamer Wharf, 88 Beach Street, Queenstown.
If you have pre-purchased tickets, please meet us in front of the TSS Earnslaw, Steamer Wharf Dock.
The TSS Earnslaw is an integral part of Queenstown’s pioneering history and to this day a Queenstown icon.
She was commissioned by New Zealand Railways to service the communities around Lake Wakatipu. Launched in the same year as the Titanic, the TSS Earnslaw’s maiden voyage was on 18 October 1912.
Known as The Lady of the Lake, she provided an essential link between the isolated farming communities along the lake and the outside world. At 48 metres long, she was the biggest boat on the lake and carried passengers, sheep, cattle, mail and supplies.
Nearly scrapped in 1968, she was rescued and purchased by RealNZ and put to work once again carrying passengers around the Lake. Since then the TSS Earnslaw has been painstakingly restored to its original condition – everything you see is pretty much like it was 100 years ago. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is the only hand-fired, commercial passenger-carrying steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere, making her one of the most unique experiences in the world.
The TSS Earnslaw has featured in several movies including a cameo in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as an Amazon River Boat. Parts of the trawler SS Venture in Peter Jackson’s King Kong were inspired by the TSS Earnslaw. Famous composer Ron Goodwin composed a piece of music inspired by the rhythm of the TSS Earnslaw’s engines.
An iconic Queenstown experience18 January 2022
Just do it. I did the dinner cruise a while ago so went with the 90 minute cruise to Walter Peak station and back. It was a stunning day and very hot so the lake breeze and a couple of glasses of wine really helped. The Earnslaw and it's size and the ability to see how a steamship works is just as fascinating as it ever was.Jacqui T Wellington, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
Must Do7 July 2022
Never disappoints. This was at least my third trip in 20 years and each was memorable. The scenery of course never changes and neither does the thrill of riding aboard an historic gem! But the time and day and one’s mood make each trip different. Crew always helpful. Vessel always immaculate. Must do in Queenstown330kathrynm Tutukaka, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
Honeymoon16 March 2022
What an amazing experience beautiful old ship and just perfect to end our holiday food is amazing and beautiful scenery will be back to do this again.Passenger577997, Via TripAdvisor
Just do it!28 December 2021
From the exceptional Mickey at the ticket office who worked some magic for us to the delicious food and friendly service, this experience was delightful. The Earnslaw is gorgeous and it’s fascinating to see the workings in the engine room as you glide across the lake. An absolute must do and real value for money.Lisa N Auckland, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
A step back in time..26 November 2021
You can see why she's called the Lady of the Lake. She has a dignified feel about her that comes with over 110 years service. She is beautiful, inside and out. Hubby was very impressed with the 3 cylinder steam engine, which can be seen working from a viewing platform above the engine room. They serve drinks and lovely biccies and loaf from the on board café. The trip across Lake Wakatipu was gorgeous. The lake was a little choppy but the boat handled it beautifully. The sights of the lake, the mountains and Walter Peak station were awe inspiring. Thank you for a wonderful trip!BerniceBruce Christchurch, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
Beautiful scenery4 August 2020
What a lovely surprise. So glad we went on this adventure. Queenstown itself is beautiful but seeing it from across the water and the surrounds is even better. We went on TSS Earnslaw with the family... parents, siblings, and school/preschool aged kids... what a memorable time it was for me... and I hope for them too when they got to see and feed farm animals. Great Kiwi experience I think. Thank you so muchTherese_bisquera Queenstown, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
A must do in Queenstown!!20 June 2022
Awesome to learn about the ship and see how it all works and operates from inside. Lots of historical charm and information inside as well. Beautiful scenic ride across the lake to Walter Peak. Lots of different places to sit, nice to have a café/bar on board to make the experience even better.Jade Anastasia Cocurullo, Via Google
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
Queenstown has a climate with four distinct seasons however, being located in an alpine environment means the weather can be changeable. A guide for the temperatures you can expect is as follows: summer (December-February) 19-29 Celsius, autumn (March-May) 15-25 Celsius, winter (June-August) 5-10 Celsius, spring (September-November) 9-15 Celsius.
Please allow an additional 30 minutes to find parking for your vehicle prior to your check in time.
There is limited free street parking available in the streets surrounding central Queenstown. There is paid parking available in the Man Street and Church Street parking buildings plus pay and display parking at the Boundary Street and Ballarat Street carparks.
Boundary Street and Ballarat Street carparks are suitable for motorhomes. Please allow 15 minutes to walk to the RealNZ office from there.
The scenic cruise from Queenstown to Walter Peak takes 45 minutes and it takes in views of Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and the Remarkables mountain range plus panoramic views around Lake Whakatipu.
Queenstown is around a 2.5 hour drive from Te Anau or around 1hr 15 minutes from Wanaka. For more travel locations please refer to our Driving Times webpage.
The TSS Earnslaw is scheduled to operate every day of the year (except when she undergoes annual maintenance). During the survey, the TSS Earnslaw and Walter Peak High Country Farm experiences will not be operating.
All prices and transactions on the RealNZ website are in New Zealand dollars (NZD). This is specified on the Terms & Conditions page.
Our staff are trained to deal with incidents and in case of an emergency you should listen to their instructions.
We have a portable defibrillator on each of our overnight cruise vessels (Milford Mariner, Milford Wanderer and Fiordland Navigator).
In addition to this we also have portable defibrillators at the following locations:
• Milford Sound Visitor Terminal
• RealNZ Visitor Centre, Manapouri
• Cavern House (Te Anau Glowworm Caves)
• Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak
• TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship
• Stewart Island Ferry (Bluff - Oban - Bluff)