Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of those fantastic ‘must dos’ while on a trip to Sydney. Here’s everything you need to know, how to prep and why you’ll never forget the Sydney Bridge Climb experience.
Affectionately known as “The Coathanger” by locals because of its arch-based design, it’s taken me 32 years to climb one of Australia’s most famous icons, the Sydney Harbour bridge.
Whenever you think of Australia most likely the Sydney Opera House will spring to mind along with Sydney Harbour Bridge. This beautiful bridge is one of Australia’s most well-known and photographed landmarks.
Maybe it’s just my obsession for scaling the highest tower, church dome, and skyscraper wherever I travel, but as an Australian, I feel like I couldn’t miss (yet again) the opportunity to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge.
I’m originally from Melbourne and have been to Sydney twice before, so my third visit was definitely the charm.
A Special Welcome to Sydney
Even though I’m based in London, I’m currently showing off my beautiful country to my South African boyfriend who’s never been to Australia before. I knew that I wanted to share this unique experience with him so I made sure it was part of our itinerary.
I contacted the BridgeClimb staff about doing a piece on the climb and they offered me a complimentary climb in exchange for exposure. I scheduled it for our first day in Sydney as sort of ‘Welcome to Sydney’ present.
A Super Quick History of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Way back in 1815, Francis Greenway proposed building a bridge to connect the northern and southern shore of the harbour. But it took quite some time for this to become a reality.
The first designs were submitted in 1900 but were all considered unsuitable, unfortunately, this slowed the momentum of the project.
It wasn’t until after the First World War that more serious plans were made. A general design for the bridge prepared by Dr J J C Bradfield and officers of the NSW Department of Public Works.
If you think the bridge’s design looks familiar then you’re probably thinking about Hell Gate Bridge in New York City from which it was influenced.
Construction started in 1924 and took 1,400 men eight years to build. A mind-blowing six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel were used in its construction!
To build the pylons, around 300 Australian, stonemasons and their families relocated to a temporary settlement at Moruya 300 km south of Sydney. Because Australia lacked the knowledge in stonemasonry they called upon over one hundred Scottish and Italian stonemasons to assist the project and educate the locals.
They quarried around 18,000 m3 of granite for the bridge pylons. The stonemasons cut, dressed, and numbered the blocks, which were then transported to Sydney on three specially built ships. They did such an amazing job preparing the blocks perfectly that none were sent back to be reworked.
The Bridge officially opened on 19 March 1932.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (but not the longest) steel arch bridge with the top of the bridge standing 134 metres above the harbour. It now carries eight traffic lanes and two rail lines, bike lane, and pedestrian path.
The Cultural Symbol
Connecting the City of Sydney to North Sydney, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is used by almost 59 million vehicles a year. Since its opening in 1932, the Bridge has been an important cultural symbol, representing Australia’s maturity as a nation and its growing technical and industrial development. It was a symbol of hope and future prosperity at a time of severe economic depression.
Since then, the Bridge has continued to be associated with positive achievements, and a sense of civic and national pride. Historic milestones, military victories, sporting events and the new year are all celebrated with spectacular fireworks displays from its famous arch.
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge
What to Expect
I felt a mixture of both nerves and excitement leading up to the climb. But, after meeting our hilarious climb leader Max, his jokes distracted me from any fear I felt.
The group was nice and small with only 13 people consisting of a mixture of British, American and Australian travellers. After receiving an introduction to the climb and safety measures, we were led to the next room containing lockers and change rooms where we got suited up.
Since it was a chilly and windy day we left our clothes on underneath and were given a fleece to wear in case we needed it during the climb. In warmer weather, staff will let strip down to as little as your underwear and go in the suit as is. Don’t worry, everything is washed after each climb!
Bobby pins, watches, cameras, wallets, phones, loose change, and hats were all left in your lockers as a safety precaution. God forbid something were to land on the cars, pedestrians, or boats below. Ladies, make sure you bring a hair tie if you have long hair. It can get fairly windy during the climb.
Next, we met our awesome climb leader Max. We were led into a larger room and took our places around a metal ring with hooks where we put on our harnesses.
There were rows of climb gear, all organised and numbered. Everything about this process was so efficient and well-organised.
Then, it was time to do a practice climb!
Inside the same large room (which used to be Chocolate factory) there are four ladders which we practised climbing. The hook from our harnesses slid onto the line and we each had a turn climbing and descending the ladders, making sure no more than one person was on a ladder at any given time.
With practice time over. Next up was the real thing!
Climbing the Bridge
We slide our hook onto the secure cord running the length of the climb and within a couple of minutes we could see the cars beneath our feet as Max led us along a series of metal grated paths, then up four ladders which we had practised climbing.
For such a massive bridge, the climb wasn’t remotely strenuous, or scary!
Perhaps the scariest part is when you first step out onto the elevated grated path where you can see all the way down to the grown. From then on, the rest of the walk is like climbing up a really shallow staircase.
There were plenty of stops along the way to simply take in various points of views and listen to Max as he shared interesting facts about the history of bridge and Sydney harbour.
Half way up the bridge we stopped and drank in the stunning views of the harbour. From up here, I realised just how beautiful Sydney is. Parts of land jut out and cut into the harbour’s aqua blue water which is busy with water taxis and ferries transporting locals to all parts of the city.
Sydney usually has great weather and today was no different. It was a chilly but sunny Spring day with great visibility. Facing East we could see all the way to the heads leading to the Pacific Ocean, to the west we saw the silhouettes of the Blue Mountains.
Once we reached the top we followed the weaving shoreline around the bright blue harbour, admiring the skyscrapers dominating the skyline to the right, and the Sydney Opera House sparkling in the sunlight.
As we walked above eight lanes of traffic, we stopped to see the equally beautiful western side of the bridge with swirling landscapes of blue and green, and the faint Blue Mountains poking out in the distance. In the 1800s early explorers struggled to surpass these seemingly impenetrable mountains, beyond which they dubbed as being ‘outback’, giving birth to this very famous Australian term.
One of the successes of the BridgeClimb is how much time you have to enjoy the view and gaze out onto the harbour. There was no sense of urgency in rushing us to the top then back down. It felt more like a leisurely activity than a hardcore climb which I thought it would be.
Evaluating the BridgeClimb Experience
The BridgeClimb is a must-do experience. I don’t know of anything else like this in the world.
Multiple climbs run throughout the day which means that everything runs like a well-oiled machine. On top of that, the staff are wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable.
There must be dozens of employees working simultaneously, from the guides to the people at the front desk to the people in the changing area to the pre-climb guides and all the people whom I didn’t see.
The whole climb is extremely safety-conscious, which put my mind at ease.
Our guide Max was fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about him. I was especially impressed by the fact that he learned all of our names right away, even our reasons for joining the climb and where we were visiting from. I’ve heard similar reviews of other leaders, so no matter how you get, I’m sure you’ll be in great hands.
Is the BridgeClimb Worth the Price?
In my opinion, YES!
While the BridgeClimb is one of the most expensive activities you can do in Sydney (Adults range from $178-378 AUD / $140-298 USD), with all the 5-star reviews I read, the panoramic views I saw and how the experience made me feel, I can honestly say it was worth every cent.
The BridgeClimb is run really well too. Safety is of the utmost importance so you’ll always feel like you’re in good hands, plus everything is run so efficiently.
Everyone in our group was beaming at the end of the climb. It was like we all bonded in some way after sharing such a memorable experience together.
It had been a long time coming and expectations were high, but I loved every minute of the Bridgeclimb. I would love to go back and do a both the dawn and sunset climbs during summer to see those electric coloured skies.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge climb costs $178-378 AUD / $140-298 USD for adults. If you’re short on time then you might want to consider the Sampler or Express tours.
For safety reasons, you can’t carry anything with you on the Bridge. Secure lockers are provided for you to keep your things in, including phones and cameras. The climb leader will take photos of you during your climb.
Every ticket to the top includes a group photo, a Certificate of Achievement, a BridgeClimb Cap and free entry to the Pylon Lookout. Additional photos can be purchased when you book your ticket or after your climb.
Climbs are available at dawn, day, twilight, and night. Climbs take place in all kinds of weather except for electrical storms or very strong winds (up to 100km). Climbs are available in Mandarin as well.
Children over 8 may climb, provided they meet the height of 1.2 meters. Children aged 8 to 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Pregnant women may climb when up to 24 weeks pregnant as long as they have a doctor’s note giving permission. Inhalers and other medications may be taken on the climb.
Be sure to wear sneakers or other comfortable shoes with good grip and comfortable clothing. If you happen to find yourself without the appropriate foot attire, you can borrow both shoes and socks which are handy if you’re travelling light.
The whole process takes a few hours, so be sure to eat something beforehand or grab something in the cafe downstairs.
There is a breathalyser test beforehand so don’t have a big night out before your climb.
Ensure you arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled climb time to allow enough time to check in.
Like it? Pin it for later!
And just because I love fun facts…
10 Fun Facts About the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Did you know…?
- The bridge is made up of 52,800 tonnes of steel, runs 1,149 metres in length and has 6 million rivets.
- With 1,390 steps to the top, the bridge’s arch is 134 metres above the harbour.
- The top of the arch actually rises and falls about 180 mm due to changes in the temperature!
- None of the steel work on the bridge is curved – it’s all made up of straight pieces of steel. The bridge engineers in the 1920’s designed each adjoining steel section accurately to produce the perfect arch.
- John Job Crew Bradfield is known as the ‘father’ of the Sydney harbour bridge, having nurtured and guided it from concept to completion.
- In 1932, 96 steam locomotives were positioned in various ways to test the load capacity of the Bridge.
- The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s widest long-span bridge.
- One of Australia’s well-known celebrities, Paul Hogan, was once part of a workforce virtually permanently employed repainting the Bridge, in that they started another coat of paint after finishing the last.
- Contrary to what you may believe, the pylons themselves have no structural purpose nor provide any kind of support to the bridge. They were included solely to provide a frame for the arch panels and to give better visual balance to the bridge. The pylons weren’t part of the original design but added only after public concern about the structural integrity of the bridge.
- Sixteen men died whilst building the Bridge. Eight were iron workers, one was a carpenter, one a painter, two were quarrymen and four were labourers.
Many thanks to the Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb for providing me with a complimentary climb. They did not request a favourable review, and all opinions here are, as always, my own.
I never travel without travel insurance and used World Nomads for my trip to Australia.
Staying in Sydney? Here are my accommodation recommendations
While in Sydney I stay at Mercure Hotel located near the train station it’s super easy to get too from the airport. The room was clean and modern as you’d expect. Located at the end of George Street, the main thoroughfare, it’s only a 7 minute before you hit the Queen Victoria Building.
Want to venture out of the city? Take a Day Trip
- Blue Mountains Helicopter Day Trip from Sydney Including Scenic World
- Canberra Day Trip
- Australian Wildlife 4WD Tour
- Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Day Tour
- Hunter Valley Wine Tour Including Lunch, Cheese, Chocolate and Distillery Tastings
- Port Stephens Day Trip with Dolphin Watching, Sandboarding, and Australian Wildlife
- Blue Mountains Nature and Wildlife Day Tour from Sydney
- Blue Mountains Day Trip and River Cruise
Over to you!
Do you have a question about climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Ask me below! Have you visited Sydney? What other things would you recommend doing?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
Like what you see? Subscribe using the form below to have all of my posts delivered directly to your email.