Historic Building

Clifden Suspension Bridge

Bates Road, Clifden

This historic suspension bridge was an important transport link in what was a relatively remote part of Southland; opening up of the area east of the Waiau River. It was built in 1898-99 to replace a punt which had operated since the early days of settlement. At that time the Waiau River was often swift and dangerous, but the flow has since been severely reduced by hydroelectric development on Lake Manapouri. A single lane, 111.5 metre long bridge, it was originally used by horse and cart traffic and later by vehicles. It remained in operation until 1978 when a new bridge was built 130 metres downstream to cater for traffic to and from the Manapouri power project.

Designed by C H Howarth and costing £5007, the bridge was officially opened by Sir Joseph Ward on 5 April 1899. A fine example of a suspension bridge, it represents a high standard of design and bridge carpentry. Although modest by international standards, it is the longest suspension bridge in New Zealand. The building of a bridge of this span was a significant local engineering feat made possible by the tensile properties of new steel cables. The Clifden Bridge has 27 of these steel cables attached to concrete pillars (clad to resemble stone pillars) and still has its historic wooden decking. It is listed as a Category I Historic Place by Heritage New Zealand.

An unusual feature of the bridge is the Clifden Roll of Honour, a plaque commemorating those men from the district who gave their lives in World War 1. The plaque is attached to the north tower at the eastern end of the bridge.

The Clifden Suspension Bridge is located on SH99, 16km north of Tuatapere, and is open to pedestrians. A toilet and small picnic/camping area is located beside the bridge.

Venture Southland
Last modified
Tue 26 Jun 2018
  • Culture & Heritage
  • Free Things to Do
  • Sightseeing
  • Activities
  • Less than half day
  • Family Friendly
  • Scenic Photo Point
  • Scenic Attraction
  • Self-Guided