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TSS Earnslaw – Queenstown Lake Steamship Cruises

Having lived in Queenstown for over a year I have been itching for a ride on ‘The Lady of the lake’  I have continuously watched the old Queenstown steamboat chug up and down the lake, blowing her horn and letting all the land dwellers know that she is out enjoying herself once more, it was now the time to book a Friday night dinner with one of my girlfriends and get out on a Lake Wakatipu cruise. After eagerly waiting the whole day for the stormy weather to clear we watched The Earnslaw make her way around the bay and dock so we could board.

queenstown earnslaw cruise ship on lake whakatipu

TSS Earnslaw History & Interesting Facts

It was raining, blowing a gale and looked set to be a rocky passage across to Walter Peak high country farm, however, just like that, Mother Nature tackled those clouds and gave us a little light show for our outbound journey. Perfect for some misty, moody photos and an opportunity to explore the deck. A fresh dusting of spring snow made for a beautiful backdrop to our journey. The story behind the Earnslaw is quite impressive and you can learn all the facts in the mini-museum at the front (sorry captain, I mean bow of the ship).

The TSS Earnslaw was built in 1911 in Dunedin, she was then dismantled and delivered to Kingston where it took a few months to reassemble the ship. The Earnslaw was launched for the locals on the 18th October 1912, the same year as the Titanic, would you believe it! People traveled from all over to watch this beautiful and majestic ship make her way into Queenstown, after a few toots of her horn the Lady of the lake was off on her maiden trip, it is incredible that she is still going today and is in tip top condition. Now if you are wondering what TSS stands for it means Twin Screw Steamship and she takes one ton of coal an hour, that’s some going for the guys shoveling to keep her moving. Not only has our lady hosted many a celebrity including Queen Lizzie herself, she has also starred in films such as Indiana Jones and King Kong, not bad for a 100-year-old ship now is it.

The ship is 51 metres long and traverses (the equivalent of) the globe 1 and 1/2 times each year (still in the lake, of course)

looking over queenstowns lake whakatipu from earnslaw steamboat

I was so excited to get on board, never having stepped foot on the boat I didn’t really know what to expect. Oh, she did not disappoint she is a beauty! You can take a window seat for the most scenic Queenslake lake cruise you will ever experience or wander around exploring all the nooks and crannies, reading, watching the guys fire her up and even grab yourself a cheeky wave from the captain. I walked round and round the deck multiple times, camera glued to my face taking in the sheer beauty of Walter peak and Queenstown center from afar, Knowing you are in the safe hands of the captain you are able to enjoy the view and the nature surrounding you.

Walter Peak Farm & Gourmet BBQ

The Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant at Walter Peak High Country Farm came into view and my stomach started going crazy, I knew there was food waiting for me and I was excited, any sign of a buffet and I am one happy chap. We were greeted at the door by the friendliest of hosts. I allowed myself to sample the food before taking photos of everything I put on my plate.

walter peak station buffet

The Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant sure knows how to put a good spread on, entrees, salad, vegetables, fresh prawns, a cheese & meat board, fresh homemade bread and a whole area for meat plus the addition of two smiley chefs cooking up an absolute storm on the open fire. There was plenty of beautifully seared Cardrona Lamb and rare beef slices, fresh fish and chicken are also on the menu you are sure spoilt for choice, and guess what? You can return for more, I made sure I managed to sample a little of everything, didn’t want to be missing out now did I. While taking everything in I had a keen eye for what others had on their plates and made sure I got to experience the same, after writing this I totally understand if I’m never invited to a buffet again.

food at Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant walter peak station on lake whakatipu

Now let's not forget about the sweet tooth, there is plenty to satisfy in the sugary haven of the dessert section. Mini Pick & Mix, mini chocolate mousse, mini creme brulee, mini sticky date pudding, notice the focus on mini that means you can have more than one and not feel guilty about it. The desserts were equally as delicious as the savories, hats off to the chef!

Colonel's homestead restaurant buffet Queenstown

Walter Peak Farm Show

The rain had managed to keep itself at bay so we took the opportunity to roam around the grounds before watching the farm show. I have always been a massive lover of farm animals especially sheep, so the gift shop was enough for me, sheep EVERYWHERE! Outside the farm dogs work hard to round up four sheep from over the hills, in my element having pushed to the front I didn’t miss the chance to ask the farmer everything and anything about his dog and sheep.

walter peak high country farm show

Now to the juicy bit, the farmer diverted all attention to the stage where he carefully had a sheep between his legs, at this point, I was nearly wetting myself with excitement, after reassuring us that she was comfortable he got to work prepping her for summer. I was amazed at the size of the coat he managed to get off her and laid out, I couldn’t resist pocketing a wee bundle as a souvenir.

TSS Earnslaw Steamship Queenstown - night scene

It was time for the stars to lead us back to Queenstown on the magically lit boat. After enjoying a little sing song around the piano, I relaxed into the comfy booths on the lower deck. Back on dry land and revelling in an amazing night on board the TSS Earnslaw lake cruise, I watched the festoon lights fade away. Real Journeys, the staff and the lady herself made for an excellent night away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Queenstown.

TSS Earnslaw Essential Information

Where does the TSS Earnslaw depart from?

The Whakatipu lake cruise leaves from the Queenstown lakefront steamboat wharf.

How long does the cruise last?

if you plan on just taking a cruise around the lake you will need 1.5-2 hours. Adding on the Walter Peak Farm tour makes the entire trip 3.5 hours long. It's a good half day's outing.

Is the trip suitable for children?

Being the one and only Queenstown steamboat, it is an experience you won't want to miss out on and it is suitable for all ages. kids will love the Walter Peak Farm experience.

What is the timetable for Earnslaw cruises?

Cruises depart regularly throughout the day and she sails on Lake Wakatipu every day of the year, apart from when she is scheduled for a pampering / maintenance session. Dates will be released on the Real Journeys website.
Cruises depart at 10.00 am, 12.00 pm, 2.00 pm, and4.00 pm
Cruise and farm tours depart at 10.00am, 12.00pm, and 2.00pm

How much does a cruise cost?

Cruise-only prices start at $59 per adult.
Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour packages start at $79 per adult.
You can also choose to do the dinner cruise, as we did. Prices start from just $129
If your evenings are jam packed how about sailing over for a lunch BBQ, prices for this start at $105

Where can I book a cruise

The Real Journeys booking office is located conveniently where the grand steamboat docks, down at steamer wharf. You can also book online on the Real Journeys Website

Where can I get a TSS Earnslaw discount?

A good way to get a discount (20%) is to book two tours with Real Journeys. The company offers good discounts for multiple tour purchases.
Keep an eye on Grabone for regular discounts on Queenstown lake cruises.
If you rent a car with Thrifty in Queenstown you will get a 10% discount on all cruises.
Local Seniors qualify for a discount if they book directly at the TSS Earnslaw visitors centre.

We hope you enjoy your time aboard The Lady as much as we did!

Author Sophie Piearcey
Photos Kate Craig brown

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TSS Earnslaw – Queenstown Lake Steamship Cruises


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