Rising 141 feet (42 meters) above the turquoise waters of dramatic Kawarau Gorge, no attraction is more iconic to Queenstown than the historic Kawarau Suspension Bridge. Most thrill-seekers know that the bridge is the site of the world's first commercial bungee jump. It’s still possible to leap from a platform suspended from the bridge where it all began.
Today, hundreds of visitors flock to the Kawarau Suspension Bridge to watch people bungee into the gorge. If you’re brave enough to dive the equivalent height of a 10-story building, the experience lets you touch or fully immerse in the aquamarine waters. The Kawarau Zipride is a more recent addition. Ride solo or tandem—or even turn upside-down—across suspension cables above the river. There’s a reason why nearby Queenstown proclaims itself the “Adventure Capital of the World.”
Things to Know Before You Go
- From the safety of a nearby platform paralleling the gorge, spectators can snap photos and watch in delight as bungee jumpers leap from the bridge.
- The jump only takes about five seconds to complete, and a raft delivers you back to shore.
- Specially trained staff provide instruction and attach you safely with a harness to the launch site.
- To see the Kawarau Suspension Bridge from an entirely different angle, consider a rafting tour or other water activity down the Kawarau River.
How to Get There
Located on State Highway 6 (SH6) in the Gibbston Valley, the bridge is only about 30 minutes north of Queenstown and lies even closer to Arrowtown. Plenty of tour groups will shuttle you to the area if you book an activity with them. The intermediate-level Queenstown Trail offers bicyclists scenic views over wooden bridges en route.
When to Get There
The region is a year-round travel destination. Outdoor enthusiasts find spring and summer (September through February) especially popular, with river tours in high demand during warmer months. In autumn (March through May), the rocky slopes surrounding the Kawarau River turn brilliant shades, and skies tend toward clear blue. Bridge activities operate daily.
Originally this rustic bridge, built in 1880, connected Queenstown with the Otago gold fields. With the construction of an asphalt highway, however, traffic moved away from the bridge and it became frequented by bikers and joggers. The bridge would not become famous for bungee jumping until 1988, when adventure-seeker A.J. Hackett decided to strap a bungee cord around his ankles and splash into the waters below.