Kawarau Suspension Bridge

A leap of faith

Historic Kawarau Suspension Bridge is an innovative feat of engineering that has withstood notorious canyon winds for over 140 years.

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The Story

Today Kawarau Suspension Bridge is best known as the birthplace of bungy tourism, where people every day leap from the equivalent of a 10-storey building held safe by just a giant elastic band around their ankles. But in 1880 this is where a daring new bridge design was introduced to the world. 

The challenge for engineer Harry Higginson was a sheer rocky gorge that funnelled destructive side winds. Higginson was aware that in other countries several near-new bridges had been destroyed by such winds. To meet this challenge, he combined a range of innovative strengthening solutions, such as inward sloping cables, to come up with a suspension bridge that was 42 m high with a 120 m long span. The design proved economical and enduring, and in 1882 his work won the Telford Premium, a world’s top engineering award.

Kawarau Suspension Bridge is proudly cared for the by Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

See & Do

Kawarau Suspension Bridge can be experienced in three ways: bungy jumping off it, cycling over it or walking across it. 

Bungy jump if you’re feeling adventurous - this is the world’s original commercial bungy venture, begun by A. J. Hackett in 1988. Thousands of people jump off the bridge annually.

If walking or cycling is more your thing, you’re in luck. The historic bridge forms part of the popular Queenstown’s Arrow River Bridges scenic cycle route, which winds its way high above Kawarau River through a premier wine-growing region.

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Visitor Information

State Highway 6, Gibbston Valley

Kawarau Suspension Bridge - LR

School Visits

The Lakes District Museum's education team provides a tailored, curriculum-linked programme at Kawarau Suspension Bridge. Pre- and post-visit resources are available on request. On-site and virtual visits are available.


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