While researching things to do in Sydney, Australia, one activity that kept coming up was climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. If you know me, you probably know that climbing a bridge isn’t really my thing. I don’t like heights. I don’t like activities that expose me to the scorching hot sun with for hours on end. And I don’t like climbing.
The friends I was visiting Sydney with, Megan and Claire, really wanted to do it though so I decided to suck it up and take the risk and climb the bridge with them. We scheduled the climb for our second day in Sydney, the day after exploring the Sydney Opera House and having drinks with new friends along the harbor. You can check out more about that here.
Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge
The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a steel through arch bridge that goes across Sydney Harbor. The bridge carries rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. It is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch-based design. It opened in 1932 and is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 440 ft (so high!) from top to water level.
We bought our tickets to the bridge climb several weeks in advance. It worked well for us because we were able to pick the date and time for our climb. I would recommend you do the same if you are planning to climb although there were tickets available the day-of the day. I am not sure if that is normal or not. You can buy advance tickets here.
The climb started from the left bottom corner in the photo below. It went up one side of the bridge, across the top of the bridge by the flags and then back down the other side of the bridge (it ended where it started at the bottom). We did not go all the way across the bridge and harbor. The flags on the top – one is the Australian flag, the other is the state flag. Yes, Australia has state flags too!
Preparing for the Climb
They are very, very strict about the preparation process for climbing the bridge. There were about 10 people in the group we climbed with.
The first step was signing the waiver and then we had to change into the blue and gray suits you will see below. I am pretty sure I have never put anything so unflattering on my body. It was part awful, part hilarious. The suit was way too long on me so without the belt, the crotch of the suit hung below my knees. It looked like I was wearing a penguin suit! Luckily, the suits looked better on Claire and Megan.
Once we had the suits on, everything was tied down and strapped on, cell phones were put in lockers and specific instructions were given. It was all fine until anxiety or food poisoning or a stomach bug got the best of one woman in our group as we were preparing to walk out on the bridge. I will spare you the details but it was bad (and gross). I am actually surprised that no one else lost their breakfast as well because we were all standing right next to her when it happened. That poor woman. I hope she felt better quickly (clearly she was not allowed on the climb).
The adventure started with a long, flat walk above the street to get the the actual climb. The walk along the flat surface was the only part that made me nervous. You could see through the boards and they didn’t seem super sturdy to me. I went slow though and kept going until we finally made it to the actual climb.
In the photo below, you can see there are closed steps all the way up and railings on both sides. We were anchored to the railing all the way. I never felt unsafe once we were climbing. We also went slow with lots of stops so we could enjoy the experience and the views.
Note: All of the bridge climb photos below were taken by the company that manages the climbs. Some of them are funny and cheesy but climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge was a day filled with great memories.
After the Climb
After making it back to the starting point, changing into our street clothes (no way was I leaving the premises with that penguin suit on) and making it down from the bridge, we wandered around the The Rocks Market to find a bite to eat.
The Rocks is what the area around the bridge is called. The market is near the bottom of the Sydney Bridge. It was a neat market filled with stalls selling food, jewelry, artwork, etc. We decided to get our lunch from Hero Sushi Box., which had different versions of the dish below, called Okonomiyako (which means ‘grilled as you like it’). It is a savory version of a Japanese pancake, made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat/ protein and topped with a variety of condiments. Okonomiyako is better known as ‘Japanese pizza’ in the US (because we can’t be bothered to try to pronounce the real name apparently?).
It was delicious!