Queen Emma Bridge, Curaçao
The Queen Emma Bridge connects the two parts of town, Punda and Otrobanda.
This bridge, known as the swinging old lady, was built in 1888 by Leonard Burlington Smith and named after Queen Emma who reigned in Holland from 1890 to 1898. The bridge consists of boats supported by 16 floating pontoons.
For that reason, the bridge is also known as the Pontoon Bridge. It opens and closes by two powerful ship motors, a process which takes about two minutes. Quite a remarkable sight to see as the bridge swings a full 90 degrees and rests against the harbour side!
When the bridge is open to let ships from the harbour pass, pedestrians are transported free of charge by the ponchi, a small ferry. (See the next tip!)
It was quite amusing to discover that the bridge was not there when we needed to get to the other side of the Santa Anna Bay.
We had seen the bridge that day while sightseeing in town. That evening we wanted to cross the bay to get to a restaurant on the other side. We walked to where the bridge had been and no bridge. It was then that we discovered that it opens up for ships to pass.
The Queen Emma Bridge rests a top 15 pontoons and is powered by 2 motors attached to the last one. The bridge stretches 551 feet across the bay linking Punda and Otrobanda.
The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge connects the two parts of town, Punda and Otrobanda. It swings wide many times daily to allow access to one of the busiest ports in the world. It also separates the two halves of the city. This bridge, known as the swinging old lady, was built in 1888 by Leonard Burlington Smith and named after Queen Emma who reigned in Holland from 1890 to 1898.
The bridge consists of bridgework supported by 16 floating pontoons. This explains why the Queen Emma Bridge is also known as the Pontoon Bridge. It opens and closes by two powerful ship motors, a process which takes about two minutes.
This 107-year-old bridge originally was designed to cost the poor nothing to cross it while the well-to-do paid to cross. Legend has it that it cost walkers one cent to cross the bridge with shoes on, but it was free to cross it barefoot. The rationale being that the poor couldn't afford shoes. These days, the crossing is free, regardless of foot coverings.
The pontoon bridge is definitely one of the sites to go see and experience. When you’re in town take a few minutes to walk across the bridge and enjoy the breeze and the scenery and the hustle and bustle of the town. I think that you will find that the time will fly by and you won't regret taking that unique walk.
The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge (which locals refer to as 'the Swinging Lady') is the world's largest floating pedestrian bridge. Built in 1888 by an American consul, a toll was charged to help recoup the costs. However, the consul decided to charge only those who could afford shoes. The idea was that people who could afford shoes were rich and people who couldn't afford shoes were poor. His good intentions backfired when he realized that the poor folks were to proud to admit their poverty and often borrowed shoes to cross, and the rich folks, too stingy to pay the toll, were often crossing barefoot. There is no charge today regardless of your footwear. The bridge is 700 ft. long and swings open up to 30 times a day to receive ships into St. Anna Bay.
The pontoon bridge was built in 1888 and connects Punda and Otrobanda. It swings open to let ships pass the canal in and out of the harbour.
If the bridge is open, free ferries shuttle between the two parts of town.
Built in 1888, and named after Queen Emma (1890–1898), this bridge connects the Punda and Otrobanda districts.
Points of interest—16 floating pontoon boats support the “Pontoon Bridge.” Also known as the “Swinging Old Lady,” it swings open using two powerful ship motors, allowing ships to access the port. From 1901 to 1934, people had to pay a toll to cross the bridge—with the exception of pedestrians going barefoot. When the bridge is open to let ships from the harbour pass, pedestrians are transported free of charge by the ponchi, a small ferry.
The bridge has recently been restored to its glory. All asphalt was taken off and replaced by originial wooden boards, the pontoons were repaired or replaced and at night the "swinging old lady" now swings in living color with her new lights.
It was fun when we were in the middle of the bridge and the alarm started warning the it was opening. In fact it turns counterclockwise pivoting on the Otrobanda side and separating from the Punda side. Interesting bridge, illuminated by color neon lights during the night. By the way, if you stay at the Marriott or Hilton, it is easier to park or take a cab to Otrobanda and cross the bridge by foot to Punda.
Pontoon Bridges are relatively rare. There was one for automobiles on the Intercoastal Waterway in Sunset Beach which has finally become a boat ramp. It was the only vehicle pontoon bridge left in operation on the entire East Coast. But a floating pontoon bridge has“zero clearance,” so all boats, no matter how small have to have the bridge removed so that can go through. The Queen Emma Bridge is a pontoon bridge across St. Anna Bay in Curaçao is just a foot bridge. It connects the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of the capital city, Willemstad.
On our first trip to Willemstad, the bridge was being repaired. We were told it was still out of service when we came back in 2007, but I saw it from the ship while we were eating lunch. Bob didn't want to walk across the bridge, so I went on my own.
Since we were docked on the Otrabanda side, I wanted to get a taxi to our end of the bridge and walk across and take a taxi back. But the taxi driver convinced me that I should take the taxi over to Punda and walk back. After he let me off, I sat at the edge of the river and took pictures of the bridge being moved back into position. There were two Caterpillar engines - one on each side of the bridge (at the free end) and they had like an outboard engine to push and pull the bridge.
There were directions for pedestrians in multiple languages. The English version said:
The Queen Emma Bridge is accessible 24 hours a day
unless there is vessel traffic. When the bridge is open,
you can use our free ferry-service.
Explanation bridge signals
* Orange flag day/time/ orange light night time:
bridge opens at half (plus or minus 10 minutes)
* Blue flag day time/blue flag night time: bridge
opens completely (plus or minus 20 up to 40 minutes)
* Siren goes off: all pedestrians must abandon the
bridge s soon as possible
IMPORTANT: using the bridge is at your own risk, CPA is not responsible
Built in 1888, the Queen Emma Bridge is a floating pedestrian bridge across St. Anna Bay connecting the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of Willemstad. The bridge is hinged and opens frequently, while we were there it opened at least a couple of times to let ferries go through. When a larger ship goes through it can take longer, I read that there is a free ferry to get you back but I didn't see it nor did I have to use it. You'll want to make sure you are on the correct side of the bridge should your ship's boarding time be getting close.