Located in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island, the Skippers suspension bridge over the Shotover River near Queenstown in Central Otago is one of the most spectacular bridges in the world.
The bridge carries the infamous Skippers Canyon Road, one of the most exciting&challenging drives in the world. At 96 m long and 91 m high, the building of this bridge was done as early as 1866. It crossed the river only 6 metres above the water and was prone to damage from flooding. It was replaced in 1871 but rebuilt at the same place. Suspended on 14 wire cables, the bridge provided access to the Skippers gold-mining settlement, which was once the largest on the Shotover River.
The bridge demands 100% concentration. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. Opened in March 1901 it’s the most spectacular of its kind in New Zealand. On the terrace above is a virtual ghost town, the remnants of Skippers Township, once the largest gold settlement on the Shotover River. Even though the completion of the existing Skippers Bridge was done after the gold rush was over, it is today one of the major attractions for visitors to Skippers Canyon as it spans a gorge with sheer rock faces on both sides.
Speed limit is 15km/h. One vehicle on bridge at any one time. Bridge limit is 2.500kg. The bridge sits 91.4 metres above the river, making it the highest suspension bridge in New Zealand. This single lane traffic bridge is 2.2m-wide and its span is 96.3m. The deck and stiffening truss were constructed in timber.
Pic: Stephanie Shippy