Skippers Canyon

On Monday 3rd February our house swap friends Rodger and Lisa invited us out for a day’s ‘adventure’ to Skippers Canyon: a scenic and historic gorge following the Shotover River, just north of Queenstown. Access to the 22 kilometre gorge is from the road leading to Coronet Peak skifield. At the Skippers Road turn off motorists are warned that rental car insurance is not covered on this stretch which is narrow, mostly single track and steep with frequent sheer drops of several hundred metres. We were in a four wheel drive so off we went…

As we drove we were treated to almost an overload of stunning scenery as well as frequent signs of past gold mining, sluicing and dredging. (You can still pan for gold today but you’ll be lucky to find anything more than tiny specks.) Along the way we passed the ruins of the ‘Welcome Home Hotel’ which was half way to the Skippers Settlement – a two day journey in the mid-19th century. Today as you cross the Skippers suspension bridge (opened in 1901) the settlement itself, on a terrace above, is virtually devoid of any buildings, although the old school has been restored and is worth a visit.

We took ‘The Branches Road’ which turns off Skippers Road close to the suspension bridge and explored the gorge further. The only sign of habitation we saw for miles was an old stone cottage beside the river which we decided was a good shady place for lunch and a dip in the river. Further on the valley broadened and the river broke up into multiple small streams which ran through the gravel plain – stunning.

 

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