ZnO nanomaterials based surface acoustic wave (SAW) gas sensor has been investigated in ethanol environment at room temperature. The ZnO nanomaterials have been prepared through thermal evaporation of high-purity zinc powder. The as-prepared ZnO nanomaterials have been characterized with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray Diffraction (XRD) techniques. The results indicate that the obtained ZnO nanomaterials, including many types of nanostructures such as nanobelts, nanorods, nanowires as well as nanosheets, are wurtzite with hexagonal structure and well-crystallized. The SAW sensor coated with the nanostructured ZnO materials has been tested in ethanol gas of various concentrations at room temperature. A network analyzer is used to monitor the change of the insertion loss of the SAW sensor when exposed to ethanol gas. The insertion loss of the SAW sensor varies significantly with the change of ethanol concentration. The experimental results manifest that the ZnO nanomaterials based SAW ethanol gas sensor exhibits excellent sensitivity and good short-term reproducibility at room temperature.