Berth 2, Taupo Harbour    +64 21 669 139 

Berth 2, Taupo Harbour    +64 21 669 139 


Cruising Lake Taupo for 40 Years

Unique to New Zealand, this replica steam boat is 14.5 meters long (47ft), weighs just over 20 tonnes, and has a draught of one metre (3ft), which means it will operate in shallow waters safely. It is powered by two four-cylinder ford diesel engines (73Hp), producing an average speed of approximately 9 knots.

The steering wheel was one of two winding reels mounted on both sides of a horse-drawn hose-reel used by fire brigades years ago in New Zealand.

The steam whistle was originally from a New Zealand bush steam locomotive engine that operated hauling logs years ago in the Central North Island.

Our Story

Maori Rock Carvings Taupo | Lake Taupo Cruise | Taupo Boat Cruises
Maori Rock Carvings Taupo | Lake Taupo Cruise | Lake Taupo Charter Cruises
Maori Rock Carvings Taupo | Lake Taupo Cruise | Taupo Boat Cruises


First conceived as an idea by John Elliott from Kerikeri, and designed by Bruce Askew from Wellington.

John wanted a small, low powered, shallow draught vessel that would carry approximately 50 passengers, and to look like a 1920s steamboat.

T.W. Watson Steel Boat Builders built the steel hull section, while Kempthorne Boat Builders built the upper wooden super structure.

Based in Whangarei, and using native Kauri timber, both builders completed the boat in around three months.

The top section, when completed, was moved a short distance to where the hull was, then lifted and lowered into place, a perfect fit.

The boat was named after

Alfred Ernest Kemp,

the last member of the Kemp family to live at Kemp House, Kerikeri.

The Ernest Kemp was launched into Lime Burners Creek in Whangarei using two cranes.

On 6 December 1980, the boat then began to take passengers from the Stone Store’s steps and down the Kerikeri Inlet, proving to be a big success.


Three months into 1981, a horrendous flood smashed down the Kerikeri River Inlet and washed many of the small boats downstream from their moorings, including the Ernest Kemp.

Later that same day, the Ernest Kemp was seen rounding up small craft that had been washed downstream.

The volume of water from this flood took the water level up to the bottom of the Stone Store’s lower windows. This flood also brought silt into the river and created a new problem – there was not enough depth of water for some of the larger boats to navigate all of the Kerikeri River, except for at high tide.

The Ernest Kemp, being one of the larger boats, could no longer keep its scheduled cruising times.

Many meetings and letters passed between the local council and the boaties, as to who should pay for the dredging of one part of the channel to enable boats to navigate the Kerikeri Inlet during low water levels. Unfortunately no group would accept responsibility, so for John Elliott it meant selling his boat – the Ernest Kemp.

The Ernest Kemp was bought by local Taupo businessman,

Simon Dickie,

and it cruised to the port of Tauranga where the funnel and mast were removed.

The boat was lifted out of the salt water and placed onto a large transporter, where it was brought slowly by road to Lake Taupo.


On 7 December 1982, the Ernest Kemp felt the fresh water on its hull in its new home,

Lake Taupo.