Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

People silhouetted against a blue sky climbing Sydney's Harbour Bridge.
To get a view like no other, climb Sydney Harbour’s iconic “coat hanger” bridge. It looks steeper than it is and the climb is slow with plenty of breaks, making it accessible for nearly everybody, Photo © Alberto Loyo/123rf.

The best way to really appreciate the Sydney Harbour Bridge is to climb it. There are about 200 steps to get to the top, but the views are some of the best in Sydney.

BridgeClimb (3 Cumberland St., The Rocks, tel. 02/8274-7777, from $198 adult, $148 child midweek at night up to $308 adult, $208 child weekend at dawn or twilight) offers four “ways” to climb the bridge. There is really only one route, but the time of day creates four different experiences: You can go at dawn and maybe not quite catch sunrise (but close to it) or at twilight and catch the sunset. You can go in the middle of the day and be one of those strings of ants people point at from the ferries, or you can go up at night and watch magic happen over lit-up Sydney. Each time has its own advantages and disadvantages, so think what suits you and book ahead, as certain times, such as the night climb, have severely restricted numbers.

Once checked in, climbers are thoroughly briefed by the experienced staff about the possible dangers and dos and don’ts during the climb. You’ll get suited up in a special “bridge suit” worn over your normal clothes, not only to protect you from the worst of the weather and from getting your clothing snagged, but also to protect the people crossing the bridge underneath you from falling debris. Then you get into a harness and will be wired up with communication equipment. You have to leave cameras and phones behind. Then you go on the climb simulator, to learn a little more about how to behave on the bridge before you are let loose on the real thing. Finally, you are attached to a static line for the duration of the climb, on which you follow a professionally trained climb leader to the top. It takes around three hours to get to the top and back, so you need a good head for heights and a bit of fitness. Be prepared for wind, too—you will be 134 meters (almost 420 feet) above sea level. You will get a photograph of yourself and the group at the top of the bridge.

Note: Climbers must be over 10 years old and more than 102 centimeters (40 inches) in height. If you are up to 24 weeks pregnant, you’ll need a doctor’s certificate to climb; if you are more than 24 weeks pregnant you can’t participate. You will be tested with a Breathalyzer and only allowed up if your blood-alcohol reading is below 0.05. Bring sensible shoes, comfortable clothes, and a sense of adventure.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.