Salisbury Historic Swing-Bridge – Bainham, New Zealand - Atlas Obscura

Salisbury Historic Swing-Bridge

Bainham, New Zealand

New Zealand's most advertised nonexistent landmark 


In 1887, after much lobbying by colonial settlers, a bridge was completed across the Aorere River, at the northern end of the South Island. From the start, the bridge was controversial because it was only a footbridge, with a maximum capacity of 220 pounds, even though it was supposed to allow further access for mining in the area. 

The original bridge was washed away in a severe flood in 1899. It took three years to construct its replacement, the infamous Salisbury Historic Swing-Bridge. Many photographs exist of the swing bridge, and the many visitors who have frequented it over the years. Unfortunately, all that exists of the bridge now are photos. That bridge was also swept away in a flood, on December 28, 2010. 

Despite its destruction, at the time of this writing (August 2020), the signs directing visitors to the Historic Swing-Bridge still exist. The bridge site is only 200 yards off the road, along one of New Zealand’s great walks, the Heaphy Track. Thousands of people walk this track each year, and drive past the sign directing them to visit the Salisbury Historic Swing-Bridge, which simply isn’t there. 

If you are anxious to visit the-bridge-that-isn’t-there, you won’t be completely disappointed. Nearby Salisbury Falls are a popular swimming hole, home to a great number of perfect skipping stones. The few remains of the swing bridge are visible, too, without having to look too hard.

The two bridges mentioned above were not the only ones to once span the Aorere River in this area. A temporary vehicle bridge was built in 1956, only to be dismantled five years later as the timbers began to decay. Upstream from this spot, a permanent vehicle bridge was opened 1982. This bridge also did not fare well either, and it was washed away in a flood on January 10, 1985. The current vehicle bridge was opened later in 1985, and is still intact … for now. 

Know Before You Go

Heading south along Aorere Valley Road, you will see signs directing you to the bridge. 

If you plan on swimming, make sure to take a "Gold Coin" (a one or two dollar coin), as a donation to New Zealand Helicopter Rescue is requested from everyone who enters the swimming hole. There is a clearly marked box where you can drop your donation. 

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September 25, 2020

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