Queenstown’s much-loved Earnslaw steamship has brought up its 100th anniversary in style.
The Lady of the Lake cruised into Queenstown Bay this afternoon (Thursday), impressively belching smoke, to cheers from a strong local crowd and a group of school children.
A throng of vessels and jetboats, which operate out of Queenstown Bay and on the Shotover River, formed a flotilla of honour in the middle of the bay as the Earnslaw did her famous turn.
It capped a four-hour re-enactment voyage of her maiden trip on Lake Wakatipu on October 18, 1912.
Olive Lady Hutchins, the co-founder of Fiordland Travel – now Real Journeys which operates the Earnslaw as a tourist steamer – was among more than 350 on-board guests, mostly dressed in period costume.
Lady Hutchins and her late husband Les were praised during speeches at Steamer Wharf for taking on responsibly for the ship in the late 1960s.
Real Journeys international sales boss Tony McQuilkin told the crowd the steamer, once a stock and passenger vessel, had since become the lifeblood of the town and an icon of New Zealand tourism.
“This is a great day for the Wakatipu and for the grand old steamship,” he said, raising a toast to the Earnslaw’s next 100 years.
Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden, aboard for the anniversary trip, told the crowd it was emotional coming into the bay to see everyone waving flags and dressed up.
“It’s a special day for Queenstown. We’re very lucky to have such a fantastic icon.”
The Earnslaw carries more than 150,000 passengers a year on her daily trips from Queenstown Bay to Walter Peak.
She holds the record as the longest-serving passenger vessel ever built in New Zealand.