Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge

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

Background Information

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!

Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge

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).

Sydney Harbor Bridge
Megan, Claire and I all ready to climb!

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.

Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge 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!


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Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Things to do in Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House

Australia had been near the top of my “want to travel to” list for a long time but every time I started planning a trip to go there, I couldn’t hit the “book” button. Flying is not my favorite thing and the idea of being contained on an airplane flying over an ocean for 14+ hours made me really nervous. But last summer, I found a great deal on a flight so I booked it and then there was no turning back.

Why Australia?

Why was Australia at the top of my list? One reason was I wanted to go visit my friend Claire. My mom and I met Claire in Italy several years ago while on a tour of Tuscany. That was such a great day filled with lots of laughs and lots and lots of wine. We were able to connect with Claire via Facebook at the end of that day and have kept in touch ever since. Claire even offered to let me live with her for at least four years when I asked late in the evening on November 8, 2016. Claire lives in Canberra, which is the capital of Australia. She came to Sydney on my second day in Australia to explore the city with me and then I flew with her back to Canberra and spent a couple of days there with her and her mom. More on that in a later post but I had so much fun and am very thankful for their hospitality.

As luck would have it, I had another friend, Megan, staying in Australia while I was there as well. Megan grew up in Iowa (like me!). I met her in Chicago. She moved to Seattle three years ago and was staying in Brisbane for three months as part of an employee exchange program at her company. She explored so much of Australia while she was there and planned her time in Sydney for when I was there so we could also explore it together.

I took off from Chicago on a Wednesday evening. I only had one layover – in San Francisco (SFO) – on my way to Sydney, which helped limit the amount of actual travel time I had to endure. I got really, really lucky and had a window seat with no one in the middle seat on the flight from SFO to Sydney. It allowed me to spread out a bit and as a result, I slept at least 10 of the 14 hours from SFO to Sydney. The Advil PM I took might have helped as well. 🙂

A Day in Sydney

Once I landed (on Friday morning), it was go, go go from then on while I was in Sydney. I got through customs and jumped on the train to get from the airport to our hotel in the city. We stayed at The Grace Hotel. It came highly recommended by Claire and it didn’t disappoint. It was in a convenient location in the city center so we could walk or take the train almost everywhere we needed to go. It was clean, safe and reasonably priced. It checked all of the boxes I needed. I would definitely stay there again.

After dropping our stuff at the hotel and a quick shower and change for me, off we went for a tour of the Sydney Opera House.

While Megan was waiting for me at the train station near our hotel, she took the photo below. It was near the Parliament House. It was like being transported back in time! How funny! ???? Megan

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Here was out first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a beautiful site to behold!

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Touring the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect and formally opened in 1973. The building has many different performance venues inside (which surprised me, I expected one massive space). The opera house hosts over 1,500 performances each year. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The tour was a couple of hours long and along the way, we got to see several of the different performance venues as well as walk around the concourse and the outside of the building.

One of our first stops was in the concourse of the opera house. The thing people remember most about touring the opera house? The purple carpet pictured below! Holy moly it was bright!


The windows of the opera house had little imprints of the opera house on them. Megan took this neat shot while we were on the tour and looking out towards the Sydney Bridge. ???? Megan

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This is a photo of the inside of one of the portions of the roof. The supports spread out like a fan as they go up.


While we were on the tour, we had the opportunity to duck inside one of the large concert halls and listen in while a symphony rehearsed for a show scheduled for later that evening. It was amazing! I could have stood there and listened to them play for hours. Before we went in, the tour guide told us to be silent and that there was no clapping allowed. It took all of my willpower to hold my applause when they finished playing. I wish I had considered going to an actual performance at the Sydney Opera House while I was in Sydney (the performance for the evening we were there was sold out. I checked while on the tour). If I ever go back, I am definitely going to do it.

Here are the tiles on the outside of the opera house. I assumed they would be plain white but they are not.


Looking under one of the peeked rooftops…


And another photo outside of the opera house, this time of Megan and me. I’m so glad that we were able to meet up and explore windy Sydney together!


A photo of the Opera House’s “bosom.”

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Fun fact – Some people think the roof of the opera house looks like sails welcoming boats into the harbor. Others say it looks like three turtles having an orgy. You be the judge.

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After the opera house tour, we joined a free walking tour of the city of Sydney. I’m all for free walking tours when I visit cities I have never been to. It’s a great chance to walk around and get my bearings while learning new things in the process. We used I’m Free Walking Tours ( I would recommend them to anyone visiting Sydney.

This is where we met for the walking tour – St Andrew’s Cathedral. I liked the pretty blossoms below.

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The Commonwealth Coat of Arms, pictured below, contains a shield with the symbols of the six Australian states. The shield is held by two native Australian animals, a kangaroo to the left and an emu to the right.

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Cadmans Cottage (below) is the second oldest surviving residential building in Sydney. Built in 1816, it is located near the bottom of the Sydney Bridge in the Rocks area of Sydney and is now used as the home for the Sydney Harbor National Parks Information Center.

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The Sydney Bridge. We were planning to climb it the next day. At this point, I was seriously doubting my decision to participate.

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The bridge climb goes up along the outside of the bridge to the flags shown below. Ugh. That is so high up!

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As I have said many times on this blog, one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people from all over the world. After the free walking tour, Megan and I headed over to the opera house and met a couple of ladies that Megan had met a few weeks earlier during her travels through Australia. They were Gemma and Angela and they were both so much fun to hang out with! We managed to snag a table outside of the opera house along the harbor and spent the night chatting, laughing and drinking Prosecco. We ended the night with a food stop at Macca’s (aka McDonalds). It was the perfect ending to my first night in Australia!

One quick note: I didn’t have any jet lag while in Australia. It was a welcomed, wonderful surprise! I think having no time to slow down and rest on my first day in the city and the amount of sleep I got on the plane worked out well.

Our view of the Sydney Bridge from our table outside of the opera house.

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The beginning of the sunset.

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And then it was dark…and so pretty!

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What a great night with great people! Notice the opera house roof in the background. Amazing! And the cherry on top of the sundae? Gemma messaged Megan and me a few weeks ago to let us know she will be coming to NYC to work for a year beginning in April. I am looking forward to hanging out with Megan and her in the U.S. soon!

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