[landscapephotograph description=”Panoramic view of The Branches, on the Shotover River, Otago, New Zealand” photoname=”The Branches” photo=”http://www.timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Branches-Pan-1.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I00006jT26j8X7ko”][/landscapephotograph]
Near Queenstown, New Zealand, there’s a slightly remote and very beautiful place called Skippers Canyon. Queenstown considers itself to be the Adrenaline Capitol of the World, and Skippers Canyon and its Shotover River might well be the adrenaline capitol of Queenstown.
Historically, Skippers Canyon was a major area for gold mining in the late nineteenth century. Today, it’s a beautiful tourism area where it’s nice to get away from Queenstown’s crowds. No, Queenstown isn’t that crowded, but it does have a moderately high “chic” factor that doesn’t do a whole lot for me, sort of like Aspen. It’s a very pleasant drive from Queenstown to Skippers Canyon by roundabout way of Arrowtown (which is much more my speed).
Some tourism sites call Skippers Canyon New Zealand’s “Grand Canyon.” Skippers Canyon is very nice, and it is quite “grand” by New Zealand standards, but it’s not even a close comparison to the Grand Canyon. If you rent a car or campervan in New Zealand, the Skippers Canyon road is one of those roads that’s considered to be “out of bounds,” as in you’re not supposed to drive your rental vehicle there because they won’t insure it. If you get in trouble there, you’ll have a hard time getting the car rental agency to come and help rescue you, especially since your cellphone likely won’t work there. I won’t advise anyone who rents a vehicle whether to drive this road; I will write, however, that I’ve driven on a lot more difficult gravel roads in rural Iowa (and, with a school bus). Just don’t look down…
We’ve been to Skippers Canyon three times and enjoyed it every time. The first time was on a hot Christmas Day. We didn’t quite know what we were going to experience and I didn’t come fully prepared. But, we did enjoy our drive on the narrow ledges and dusty road. It also was exciting to see how some of the local youth were enjoying their Christmas celebration. These kids went to Skippers Bridge, which is near the formal end of the Canyon, set up their barbecue (or, “barbie” in the local dialect) and rigged their own private bungy jump site on this remote, quiet bridge. There’s a Christmas that you won’t forget!
The second time that we went, we drove a bit further and ate lunch at the old Skippers Point School, which is an historic landmark. If you want to see Skippers Canyon and don’t want to drive the road yourself, there are several different tour companies in Queenstown that will gladly take you. Three or four of these little four-wheel drive vans were at the school at the same time and their patrons were enjoying their picnic lunches with New Zealand’s finest wines.
The last time that we were in Skippers Canyon in early April, we drove to the far end. Before you get to Skippers Point, there’s a side road that you need to take – The Branches Road. If you drive The Branches road, then Skippers Point is about the halfway point. The Branches road was much more challenging – more ruts, narrower, and not very well maintained. The scenery beyond Skippers Point was nice, but not spectacular. That is, until you reach the end of the formal road at The Branches Station.
OMG! The Branches Station must have one of the best, if not THE BEST, views and settings in all of New Zealand. The Branches sits in a broad glacial valley with the cobbled Shotover River running through it. To the southwest, the direction from which we’ve driven, the views are nice. But, to the northeast, the mountain views are amazing!!! The good news is that you, too, can enjoy The Branches Station. It’s a luxury accommodation and it seems that most people who visit likely arrive by helicopter, not in their pokey old Subarus. And, the pleasure of staying at The Branches will only cost you a mere NZ$10,000/night (I rounded up by one dollar; and, that’s for two people with a two-night minimum).
So, after enjoying the high life at the gate to The Branches Station, we returned back down the Skipper Road, enjoyed some ice cream in Queenstown and slowly made our way back to Invercargill.
Enjoy the gallery:
46 S EnZed signing off…