Skippers Canyon in New Zealand should definitely be part of your trip. This breathtakingly beautiful gorge located north of Queenstown is one of the most amazing places in the region. In the latter decades of the 1800’s, Skippers Canyon was the site of a gold rush in New Zealand, starting when a four-ounce chunk of gold was discovered in Arthurs Point.
Because of this discovery, miners from different parts of the country flocked to the gorge. At the beginning of this gold rush in the 19th century, there were no proper roads leading to Skippers Canyon. The gold miners needed a path to get to the canyon with their supplies and equipment, and one was formed with the tracks of their horse-drawn carriages. Steep and rough, this path was permanently established a year into the gold rush of 1862. As more miners flocked to the area with heavy machinery required for mining, the local authorities built the Skippers Canyon Road in 1883, aiming for a proper path that will make the canyon more accessible to people seeking their fortune in the area.
Completed in seven years, the Skippers Canyon Road is built by four different contractors. Most of the road that these contractors built still exists up to this day. The construction of the Skippers Canyon Road was very expensive, and many people believe that the road cost more than all the gold mined in the area. The road was not only expensive to build; it was also expensive to maintain as the rocks in the mountains are very soft. Foot and wheel traffic on the surface of the road quickly turns the rocks into dust during the summer, while rains will immediately muddy the road, making it difficult for most of the year. The road conditions in the 19th century were so bad, that most motor vehicles (a relative novelty during that time) were banned from passing through Skippers Canyon Road.
Once the gold has dried up in Skippers Canyon, the locals decided to turn their mountain path into a tourist attraction. The road was improved and was thus passable for cars and other vehicles. At present, Skippers Canyon Road is a popular tourist attraction, and is under the supervision and care of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust since 2006.
While significantly improved, the Skippers Canyon Road of present is still a dangerous road, and thus attracts a lot of adrenaline junkies from different parts of the world. The roads are very scenic, yes, but they are also narrow and it would be extremely difficult to easily manoeuvre a car. The present Skippers Canyon Road stretches out for 16.5 miles and is carved right into the face of sheer cliff. This road is so dangerous that New Zealand laws state that rental car insurance will not be honoured if you drive through Skippers Canyon Road. Much of the road can only accommodate a single vehicle, and the lack of proper guardrails will ensure that there is nothing stopping your vehicle from careening over the edge and into the gorge if you are not careful.