Thursday, June 29, 2017

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours - Family Adventure in Niagara

School is finished for the year, and summer is finally here! Are you looking for great ideas to fill your summer vacations? Are you ready for adventure? Boo and I recently took a jaunt down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to check out Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours so we could pass along our review to you. Neither of us has experienced rapids like this before, so it was new for us both!

This company has been around since 1992, when it started with just a single boat, taking passengers for thrilling white water rides from the mouth of the Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake, through the Class 5 Devil’s Hole Rapids and to just below the incredibly powerful Niagara Whirlpool. Now Whirlpool is 25 years old, with 8 jet boats and three departure locations, plus a reputation as one of the top tourism attractions in the region. Last year, the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation named Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours one of seven must-do tourism attractions as part of the Ontario Signature Experience Series.

That's a great endorsement, so we were excited to see what we thought of this adventure tour.


Start by checking out this route map at HQ.

When booking your adventure, your first choice is between an open boat, like this one:

Or a closed one, like this:


You are forewarned that in the open boat you will get wet. Like, full-on soaked to the skin. They provide some gear to help you keep warmer, such as ponchos and splash suits, but you won't avoid getting wet. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours recommends you bring along a full change of clothes if you do the open boat, and they provide change rooms and locker facilities to keep your belongings safe while you are out. 

In the "Jet Dome" closed boat you will stay completely dry, as you watch the water cascade right over the top of the glass roof. It's super cool. I opted to go for the closed boat, because I know Michael would have hated the water pouring in on him. His sensory issues make it difficult for him to even walk in the rain because the feel of it on his face is often too much for him to handle.


The windows on the closed boat are open for most of the trip, to let air through and allow for better picture-taking. The crew closes them remotely each time you are about to hit rapids. I did find that the boat got pretty stuffy with the windows closed, but the crew were conscious of this and re-opened them promptly. The trip gets pretty noisy, so everyone wears a head-set. Crew members provide an ongoing narrative, explaining what you are seeing on either side of the river, delving into some of the history and geology of the area, and educating guests on the rapids. Naturally, everyone is equipped with a life vest.

On the way to the rapids we saw amazing homes, lots of water fowl, three hydro generating plants, and two historic forts. We also saw the Niagara Belle, a Mississippi-style sternwheeler, which sails from Queenston, offering lunch and dinner cruises. This is a sister company to Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, and a much milder way to enjoy the lower Niagara River.

Of course, the river is also a border between Canada and the US, and we travelled under the Queenston-Lewiston bridge on our journey.


When I was offered the chance to come check out this attraction, I didn't hesitate. It sounded really fun, and something different I'd never done before. Once we arrived, and filled out participation agreements, and had to do an orientation and safety session, and I started thinking about white water rapids, then I started to get nervous and wonder if it had been such a great idea after all. I am not a thrill-seeker. Not even a little bit. But I needn't have worried. Most of the trip is a fast motor through incredibly green water that is quite calm. And the rapids, while very exciting, were not scary. The boat gets tossed around a lot, and you do have water spraying right up over the top, but it feels very safe. I didn't feel seasick either from the movement, and I do have that tendency. The tour brings you through class 5 whitewater rapids, and motors just to the edge of the class 6 rapids and the Whirlpool itself. It's very neat to see. This tour is downstream from the Falls, on the other side of the class 6 rapids, so the Falls are not part of the sight-seeing here.

Yes, that is the actual colour of the water with the sun shining on it.

Final word? Two thumbs up from both of us.  If you're feeling adventurous, by all means go for the open boat. Otherwise, the closed boat is a great family-friendly option. However, due to the tossing around, the tour is not recommended for anyone with back, neck, heart, respiratory issues or osteoporosis or any other injuries. Pregnant women are not permitted to participate. Book your trip online, and be sure to arrive at your departure point 45 minutes in advance of your reservation. This allows time for registration, completion of participation agreements, and the mandatory safety session. 

We embarked from the Niagara-on-the-Lake location, which gives the longest tour (1 hour), as it is the furthest away from the rapids. This location is their flagship, and just a short 10 minute walk from the downtown strip of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you'll find lovely spots to shop and eat. It's a beautiful town. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours has two additional locations - Niagara Falls (near the Floral Clock) and Lewiston, on the American side - from which you can choose. Those tours are about 45 minutes each.

Get Social

You can connect with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.


Disclosure: I received complimentary access to this attraction for myself and my son, to facilitate this review. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog. as always, remain my own or those of my family.

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