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Judith & Dennis Andreassend

Magical and relaxing

Stepping into another world is as easy as boarding Kaiapoi’s River Queen.

This majestic two-story paddle steamer – which was re-located from Blenheim to Kaiapoi in 2019 – has transformed the Kaiapoi River, and added to the growing dynamic of the satellite township, minutes from Christchurch. 

The River Queen now enjoys a permanent mooring in front of the Port & Eagle Brewpub, on a purpose-built floating jetty. She is open for tours and functions.

The flat-bottomed vessel is made of wood and fibreglass. Modelled on Australia’s romantic paddle steamers – which made trade possible along the mighty Murray River at the turn of the century – the River Queen is powered by two quiet outboard motors. 

Outside of this practical decision, the steamer’s call to its heritage has been fully respected within its refurbishment.  

She is owned and operated by Judith and Dennis Andreassend, the well-known former owners of D'Urville Island’s Wilderness Resort, at Catherine Cove in the Marlborough Sounds. 

Luckily for Kaiapoi, the call of grandchildren has drawn the “can-do” couple south. They have combined their dual talents in hospitality and wrapped it into a business with a difference.

The wood-lined interior and upstairs/downstairs spaces feature outside decks at the front, rear and upstairs where passengers can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views. The glass-encased lower level offers protection from the elements, and passenger comfort all year. It’s flat bottom means it can sail regardless of the tide.

Dennis and Judith can comfortably cater for up to 60 guests using the vessel’s full kitchen facilities. They say the River Queen is perfect for work functions, weddings, birthdays, corporate events, school trips and team building. They are also happy to tailor packages to suit any group. 

“We do like to mix things up a bit,” Dennis said. Judith adds, “We are hosting regular casual cruises with different themes. One week, we might have a dinner cruise, or an afternoon cruise with a high tea, or a barbeque cruise. We can do anything really.”

Cruises last from 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours, and Dennis says the community’s reception has been incredible. 

One of the River Queen’s first guests, Liz Miller, posted on Facebook: “We just had our Xmas party with these guys. Great food, great service and a wonderful family-run business. If you want an alternative trip, dinner or work do, this is a fantastic option.”

Visit and like the Kaiapoi River Queen’s Facebook page to receive notifications of coming cruises.

What they are saying...