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Heritage & Art

Kopu Bridge, Coromandel Peninsula – What to Look For

Coromandel, North Island

Historic Kopu Bridge is a short detour as you enter the roundabout near the modern two lane Kopu Bridge. Ponder how many boats, paddle steamers and sand barges have passed under the historic category one Kopu Bridge. The single lane bridge has an operational swing component allowing river traffic passage up river.

@Historic Kopu Bridge
@Historic Kopu Bridge

Photo moment with the historic bridge faded glory creating a great backdrop. Today the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic however cyclists on the Kaiaua to Thames section of the HAURAKI RAIL CYCLE TRAIL have the promise of crossing the bridge. Pedestrian crossings are not allowed.

It’s a big project (all 463 metres of her) – but with your help, we can get her back in the swing of things. The Historic Kopu Bridge appreciates donations to salvage and restore the bridge to its original glory.

New and old Kopu Bridge, Coromandel Peninsula @nikkiscott80
New and Old Kopu Bridges @nikkiscott80

Check out the Kopu Bridge Trust facebook page, it’s fun with passionate volunteers getting into the swing of things.


Historic Kopu Bridge is a single-lane swing bridge spanning the Waihou River, near its emergence into the Firth of Thames in the Thames-Coromandel District of New Zealand’s North Island. Although currently closed, the bridge may be viewed from Hauraki Rail Trail, Kopu, or from the new Kopu Bridge. There is a compostable toilet at this location.


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The Historic Kopu Bridge was built in 1928 and has Heritage NZ’s highest possible ranking for a historic place, Category 1. The bridge is unique as it is the longest single lane bridge in NZ and also the last remaining operational swing bridge in NZ.


The centre span of the bridge where the Pilot house is located, swings open to allow boats through. In its heyday, when the river was a highway for paddle steamers, goods and sand barges, many boats a day passed through the swing span. Boat captains signalled their need for the bridge to open to the Bridge Pilot by blowing their horn.

Kopu Bridge information plaque, Coromandel Peninsula
Kopu Bridge information plaque
Tairua, Kopu Bridge guardians, Coromandel Peninsula
Tairua, Kopu Bridge guardians

Being a Bridge Pilot was a full time job, with the pilot and family living nearby,  constantly listening and scanning the river for boats. However in recent years, river traffic has significantly reduced with the bridge only being opened 0-3 times in any one year.  The bridge was closed in 2011 when the new two lane Kopu Bridge opened. Before this, the old single lane bridge carried over 9000 vehicles per day, including heavy trucks. The 453 metre one way bridge was controlled in later years by traffic lights at both ends, so only one direction could go at a time.


In earlier days when there were less vehicles, passing bays on the bridge helped drivers to negotiate the crossing.

The local community has formed the Historic Kopu Bridge Society and a Trust which is currently seeking ownership from NZTA. The Trust intends to restore and open the bridge again as a historic pedestrian and cycleway.


Thames School of Mines, New Zealand
Thames School of Mines

Thames School of Mines is part of the Coromandel Peninsula heritage trail. In Thames check out the intriguing Kopu Bridge, Thames Historical Museum and the Thames Main Street with frontages dating back to the heyday of the town’s origins as a ‘wild west’ gold mining town.

For more ideas about what to do in the Coromandel scroll through:

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