Atop an Aussie Icon on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

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No, I’m not referring to Shane Warne or Russell Crowe. Minds out of the gutter people.

As part of our ongoing attempts to see as much of Sydney before we leave as possible, and to coincide with Adam’s visit to Australia, the three of us signed up to do a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb last night.

I’ll admit that I was unenthusiastic about spending three hours of my Monday night climbing a bridge, no matter how iconic it was – but like so many things when it comes to travel, I came down glad that I’d taken the time.

I can’t recommend the experience highly enough – whether you’re an Aussie in Sydney for the weekend or a foreigner in Sydney for the first and likely only time ever. The view from the top of the harbour bridge climb is one you’re not going to get anywhere else in Sydney, and it’s ever bit as visit defining as ascending to the top of the Statue of Liberty or walking the Great Wall of China in my eyes.

The Tour

I don’t have as many pictures as I like, so I’m going to keep this as straightforward and brief as possible. The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb starts with a briefing, a jumpsuit fitting, and then some training and equipment checks. It all looks a tad daunting on the video they show while you wait, but the two instructors we had kept it light-hearted and the whole process was over a lot quicker than I expected.

If you are planning to do the harbour bridge climb, the only real requirements are that you’re not under the influence (you’ll get breath-tested on site) and that you’re healthy enough to survive the 1400+ stairs involved. And for the lazy, don’t worry, for the most part those stairs are up the very gentle incline of the arch proper.

After you’re all race suited up and ready to go, you’re set up with your harnass and climbing essentials (head lamp, headsets so you can hear the commentary etc) and do a quick climbing drill. Two ladders up and two ladders down. It’s all very easy.

Then it’s time to begin your ascent.

Being in the underbelly of the 52 million tonne harbour bridge is an experience all of its own. Our tour guide, Robin, kept us entertained with a good mix of information and terribly bad Dad jokes as we made our way towards the pylons that, contrary to popular belief, actually have nothing to do with supporting the bridge. Although they were built to give that impression.

You’ll pass over the site where the first British flag was raised and then it is time for the arduous climb up four ladders so that you can get to the fun part. It’s a little tough, but nothing you won’t survive, and soon you’re up on top of the bridge and gazing out over the world’s most picturesque harbour.

Alas, there’s no cameras or phones allowed on the harbour bridge climb, but the basic package includes a free group photograph – and additional posed prints are only $20 more. A tad pricey, but you’ve just forked out $180 to climb the bridge, so an extra $20 probably isn’t much more in the grand scheme.

We were lucky enough to be out on a clear evening, and watching the sun set behind Star City Casino was a sight to behold. Then there’s the lit up Opera House, the Sydney skyline, and the harbour itself – which is alive with boats big and small every night of the week.

The walk up the iconic arch is over all too soon, and after posing for some pictures and hearing a few more fun Sydney facts, you’re on your way back down.

Being silly (and a little Korean) on the way down

After you’re inside it’s time to strip off, change back into your regular clothes, collect your photo, and pay a quick visit to the gift store. There’s everything from shirts and postcards to jewelry and DVDs on the bridge’s construction. All of it is pretty reasonably priced by gift shop standards.

Want to learn more? Visit the Harbour Bridge Climb website or drop in to their office on Cleveland Street in The Rocks. If you’re in Sydney and you want to do something that not everybody does, I’d thoroughly recommend it. Anybody can snap a photo in front of the Opera House or down on Bondi Beach – but it’s a surreal experience to stand atop the bridge, feel the wind whipping your hair, and spend a few minutes gazing out over the city below. Only the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb offers that opportunity.

I’m certainly glad I did it.

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  • Apparently you’re considered a Bridge Climb Master if you do it more once! When my best friend visited me a month ago and we went, it was #2 for me (1st was 4 years ago with my sister) and I got a special certificate (gold trim and it really did declare me as a master) — ooooooh, spiffy.

    • CWBush

      Huh, good to know. I guess I’ll have to do it again someday and get my Masters.

      I’ll save that for foreign girlfriend #5.

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