Waikato River cruising returns with this week's launch of a new, purpose-built tourist boat and marketing operation - Waikato River Explorer.

Services planned include regular scenic cruises between Pukete and Hamilton Gardens, group charters, destination cruises and a ferry service to events at Mystery Creek where the vessel will be based.

The Waikato River Explorer is the result of 18 months' planning by a group of locally-based business people who say they are committed to providing a sustainable tourism and charter business for the Waikato River.

Managing director Darren Mills says the venture will use a vessel "purpose-built" for this type of operation.


A scheduled launching of the 14.3m, shallow draught, Cynthia Dew was due yesterday at the Grantham St boat ramp. The vessel was built in 1979 for tourist work in the Bay of Islands.

She was used extensively in Abel Tasman National Park and more recently was carrying out charters in Golden Bay out of Nelson.

Darren, a qualified commercial skipper and former skipper of the Waikato River tourist boat MV Waipa Delta, Rotorua's Lakeland Queen and ferry and charters work in Auckland, says Waikato River Explorer representatives will be indicating plans and ideas to Hamilton City Council next week.

"We want to create an iconic visitor activity for the city of Hamilton," he says.

"Waikato River Explorer will be an activity for people, like us, who want to enjoy this wonderful natural attraction that flows through our region."

The vessel is licensed to carry up to 87 people and has capacity for up to 50 seated diners.

Panoramic windows will allow guests spectacular views of the riverside scenery and the opportunity to experience Hamilton City from a different perspective.

"We are excited about working with Mystery Creek and giving passengers the opportunity to travel from the city up the river to experience some of the great activities and events at Mystery Creek and the surrounding area," says Darren.

Mystery Creek Events Centre chief executive Jon Calder says when the idea for the venture was proposed, "we were keen to do all we could to support it".

"We've invested in providing the basic infrastructure required and over the next 12-18 months we will complete work to enhance and develop our river precinct.

"We are proud that Mystery Creek Events Centre will be home to this wonderful new addition to tourism in the Waikato."

Darren has been in discussion with Hamilton City Council about access to several river jetties in the city and has plans to run scheduled cruises through Hamilton by the end of the month.