History

Lakeland Queen – the ‘Lady of the Lake’

Often referred to as the Lady of the Lake, Lakeland Queen has for more than 30 years gracefully paddled its way around Lake Rotorua’s sparkling waters and over this time become an iconic feature within the city of Rotorua.

Early in 1986, Doug and Ian Stewart, brothers and co-owners of Lakeland Steel Products based in Rotorua had the idea to build and operate a floating restaurant on the lakefront of Lake Rotorua. Their plan was to build a vessel similar in design and appearance to a traditional paddle-steamer commonly used on the rivers and inland waterways of North America. Like those Mississippi River boats of yesteryear it would include a flat-bottomed shallow draft and be propelled by a single paddlewheel mounted at the stern with the plan to take passengers for a meal and cruise on the lake.

Construction started in February 1986 and when completed she would be 22m long, 8m wide and 1.4m deep. By the beginning of October 1986 the vessels hull was substantially complete and the formidable task of transporting the vessel from the factory premises to the lakefront launching ramp was carefully planned. Thursday 26th October was launching date and two powerful cranes lifted the Lakeland Queen off the road trailers and into the lake. At this stage she weighed close to 50 tonnes and the launching process was extremely difficult. In order to drag her away from the lake edge into deeper water (she needed a depth of at least 40 centimetres to float) several diesel-powered diggers and an industrial tractor were brought into service.

During the following weeks the final work of preparing and outfitting the Lakeland Queen for her role as a floating restaurant continued. In late November 1986 the fitting process was near complete and arrangements were made for her first maiden voyage and she began her designed purpose of taking passengers out to dine and cruise on Lake Rotorua’s pristine waters.

In September of 2006 plans were in place to give the ‘Lady of the Lake’ a major refit and to increase her overall length from 22 to 32 metres. To undertake this major project she was taken out of the water at Sulphur Point where the vessel was literally cut in half, the two halves then pulled apart to make room for the installation of a new 10 metre extension. This formidable task was competed by the Stewart brothers with their extensive experience and resources the alterations were completed by the middle of November 2006. Today, our cruises still takes passengers past this Sulphur Point ramp where the work was completed.

In the time honoured way a bottle of champagne was broken over her bow before the Lakeland Queen was relaunched into Lake Rotorua and returned to the lakefront where we still operate from today. People often ask, “Why are ships and boats often referred to as ‘she’?” With tongue in cheek my usual response is, “Because of the considerable costs involved in keeping her in shape and well maintained!”

Over 30 years on, Lakeland Queen cruises is still enjoyed by locals and visitors from all over the world and no visit to Rotorua would be complete without a cruise on the ‘Lady of the lake’ – simply the best way to see Rotorua.

This information was provided with thanks from Melvyn Bowen and the article he wrote for Rotorua Retro three.

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