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Best Queenstown Historical Bridges To Visit

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

Skippers Canyon Bridge, NZ
Skippers Canyon Bridge | Credit: @naythin // Instagram

Any visitor to the Queenstown area will agree that the scenery here is as spectacular as it is rugged. Huge mountains, raging rivers, high canyons and steep gorges all make up what is one of New Zealand's most visited regions. So it will come as no surprise that access to the area hasn't always been as 'easy' as it is nowadays. The early settlers of the area encountered many problems while trying to access new sections of the region. So what did they do? Well, they built bridges.... and got over it of course! Today we are now reaping the rewards of the efforts of these hardworking pioneers, having access to arguably the world's best adventure playground and it's all thanks to these wonderful structures that connect what was once inaccessible. You don't need to be a full blown 'pontist' (a historic bridge enthusiast) to add Queenstown's best bridges to the list for your next visit to the region.


1. Kawarau Bridge

Historical for a couple of reasons. The suspension bridge was completed way back in 1880 to provide a more direct route for prospectors to gain access to the Queenstown goldfields. For almost 80 years the bridge was one of the main access routes to the area until 1963 when it was replaced by a new bridge a little further up the river. The original bridge still remains and was classified by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I historic place. More recently the bridge itself has once again cemented its spot in Queenstown's (and the world of extreme sports') history books as the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping when in 1988 when AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch started offering thrill-seekers the chance to throw themselves from the bridge (albeit with a stretchy rope around their ankles). If you are not keen on jumping off, the bridge offers the public a great vantage point of watching those seeking their adrenaline fix.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

2. Old Lower Shotover Bridge

Originally built in 1871 as the main access to Queenstown from the likes of Arrowtown and Cromwell, the Old Lower Shotover Bridge is now restricted to foot and bike traffic and is also a part of the Queenstown Trail network. Although the original bridge was built in 1871, it was destroyed when the river flooded only seven years later in 1878. The current bridge that now stands today was completed in 1915 and remained open for traffic use up until a new bridge was built down river in 1975. The Old Shotover Bridge was restored to its former glory in the early 2000's after decades of neglect left it slowely deteriorating. Today, with it's inclusion in the trail network, the Bridge offers visitors a great viewing platform over the river, perfect to watch the KJet Jet Boat power it's way up and down this section of the Shotover.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

3. The Blue Pools Bridge, Haast Pass

I know, it's not exactly Queenstown but I couldn't leave this one off the list as many of those who visit our fair town also make their way to the West Coast of the South Island at some point in their trip, passing through the Haast Pass on their way. The short walk to the Blue Pools has visitors encountering a swing bridge that crosses the river and then a higher suspension bridge which sits directly above the picturesque Blue Pools. Views down to the clear glacial blue waters below offers visitors the perfect viewing point to spot some trout or the occasional brave swimmer. On a nice day it is definitely worth taking your swimwear as even though the water is freezing cold, it is hard to pass up the opportunity of taking a quick dip in such a beautiful setting.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

4. Skippers Canyon Bridge

Skippers Canyon Bridge, NZ
Skippers Canyon Bridge | Credit: @_daniel_thomas // Instagram

Located on what is known as New Zealand's most dangerous road, The Skippers Canyon Suspension Bridge was first completed in 1901, replacing the previous bridge which was deemed not sturdy enough for the transportation of gold mining equipment. The bridge spans a high canyon and sits about 100m above the Shotover River, making it one of New Zealand's highest. Although Skippers settlement was officially abandoned a few decades after the completion of the bridge, the structure has remained open and maintained to allow access for farmers and more recently tourists wanting to visit the historic settlement. If you look closely while crossing the bridge you can see there is a platform in the center (no prizes for guessing what this has been used for in the past...). The Skippers bridge is one of the most visually striking in the area and one well worth making the trip to visit. Access into Skippers Canyon is by 4x4 only and be warned, most rental car insurance will be voided whilst tackling the road. My recommendation is to take a guided tour with a local expert for the best experience.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

5. Edith Cavell Bridge, Arthur's Point

Edith Cavell Bridge, Queenstown, NZ
Edith Cavell Bridge | Credit: @riversidegx // Instagram

Having just celebrated a hundred years of use, the Edith Cavell Bridge is a vital piece of engineering that connects Arthur's Point and Coronet Peak to Queenstown. The one-lane bridge (similar to Skippers Canyon) is one of the few historic bridges still in use for vehicle traffic today. The Bridge towers over the Shotover River and views up and down stream offer some truly spectacular scenery. Since it is a one lane bridge I don't recommend slowing down or stopping on the bridge to take in the sights. Instead, visitors can head to the view point near the Canyon brewery where there is a great view of the bridge, river and Shotover Jet boats. Interestingly, the structure unofficially got its name when a local miner painted it on the bridge in recognition of a British nurse who was executed in 1915 by German soldiers for assisting Allied soldiers escape into Netherlands from Belgium. The name eventually stuck and is now its official title.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

6. Old Kawarau Falls Bridge

Up until last year the one -lane Old Kawarau Falls Bridge was the only way in and out of Queenstown when heading south in the direction of the Remarkables Ski Field or Milford Sound. It has now been replaced by a much more modern and traffic efficient double lane bridge. The old bridge still remains open for foot and cycle traffic much like the others on this list and give visitors access to the Kelvin Heights/peninsular track. Similar to the Old Lower Shotover Bridge, the Kawarau Falls bridge is a great viewing platform to watch the KJet and Go Orange Thunder Jet boats roar past over the rapids below.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

7. Southern Discoveries Suspension Bridge, Arrow River

Southern Discoveries Bridge, Queenstown, NZ
Southern Discoveries Bridge | Credit: @chrisperrycsp // Instagram

Not so much of a historic bridge, but definitely one worth checking out during your Queenstown visit. The Southern Discoveries suspension bridge spans the gorge high above the Arrow River. It is another bridge that plays a vital role in the Queenstown Trail network and a popular spot for visitors to take photos. Not for the faint-hearted or those affected by heights, the suspension bridge is definitely one of the more heart stopping to cross. Even though it is rated to support many crossing at the same time the swing nature of the bridge and its sheer height means that it moves quite a lot whilst crossing. If you are up for a challenge and happen to be biking the trail I recommend attempting to ride the expanse (not too difficult for regular riders but will be a challenge for those less seasoned).

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

This is just a taste of the bridges that the area has on offer. There are plenty more around, some of which are more modern and others that are hidden away on tracks in the back country that are waiting for you to discover them. Whatever sort of New Zealand adventure you are on, you are bound to stumble across a few gems during your travels.

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