The road from Nelson to the west coast of New Zealand weaves through some spectacular mountain and gorge country. The road follows and falls with the river the scenery draped in a veil of verdant green foliage and murky mists.

At over 100 metres in length near the uninteresting town of Murchison is New Zealand’s longest swingbridge. Spanning dramatic Buller Gorge carved by energetic aquamarine green waters, the bridge sways and bounces with its human cargo. Not for sufferers of vertigo photographers nervously snap a memory from the centre of the bridge balancing their camera in one hand while clinging grimly to the cable with the other.

The area has witnessed some exciting events. A brief gold rush in the mid 1800s oversaw a speedy population increase, hopeful miners panned and dug seeking their fortunes with a lucky strike. A short damp circuit walk from the swingbridge through primeval ferns and moss-encrusted trees holds memories of the harsh conditions in which these miners laboured. Primitive labour-intensive mining equipment and deep shafts line the path while meagre shacks with little more than a large fireplace and small bed offered refuge from the regular rains and harsh winters.

The circuit passes a small cliff-face where in June, 1929 a major earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) lifted land upwards some 4.5 metres. Across the river a small waterfall cascades into the river on the fault line. In 1968 a second earthquake reminded Kiwis of the unsteady land of the area, the main road requiring reconstruction in parts.

The gorge is a major centre for water sports Kiwi-style, including white-water rafting, kayaking and jetboating. For those seeking more dry land adrenalin than the swingbridge, a zipline offers a return journey in either the seated position (flying fox style) or a flying position for those with superhero tendencies.

Buller Gorge provides a wonderful scenic stop crossing to New Zealand’s west coast with numerous opportunities for adrenalin-fuelled activities along with reminders of a harsh history of savage earthquakes and tough mining.

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10 Responses to Buller Gorge Swingbridge (New Zealand)

  • Vincent says:

    Another reason why to go New Zealand!A friend of mine is currently leaving there, sending me a lot of gtreat spots she's taken! I'd love to join her abd ahve a road trip to MNew Zealand! Hope to make it one day!

  • Mark H says:

    @vincent: I hope that you get there too. NZ is a relaxing place with lots to see for a road trip.

  • Barbara Weibel says:

    The color of the river water is amazing. I imagine I could make it over the bridge, but not sure I could take a photo from the center, unless no one else was on the bridge and it wasn't bouncing around!

  • Mark H says:

    @barbara: I love the deep green-blue of the glacial rivers in New Zealand. And they run at such speed and energy.

  • Heatheronhertravels says:

    I Love this kind of rugged gorge scenery – If my kids were there I'm sure they'd be up for any bungie jumping but I'll just stick with the view and a bit of walking

  • Mark H says:

    @heather: The zipline was fairly quiet on the day I was there as was the jetboast but it was pretty murky all round.

  • Sherry Ott says:

    Ohhh – the picture of the bridge just gets my heart racing! have you walked over it Mark?! I have a strange fear of heights as I get older – and this would certainly be a challenge!

  • Spencer says:

    I love the scenery. Not sure about the swinging bridge though!

  • Mark H says:

    @sherry: I really liked this bridge and certainly crossed it. The photos of the river are off the bridge. There are some nice short walks on the other side highlighting the earthquake of 1929 (serious earth movement and even a waterfall where it happened) and old mining remains.

  • Mark H says:

    @spencer: NZ seem to have a bit of an obsession with swingbridges – they feature across a number of their rivers and gorges.

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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