Everything You Need to Know About the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Walk it, climb it, sail under it—whichever way you look at it, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is at the very heart of the city.

As a main thoroughfare linking the city to the north, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a quintessential Sydney icon. Known to locals simply as “the Bridge,” it has been part of the city’s landscape since it was opened in 1932.

Construction took more than seven years, with 52,800 tonnes of steel and approximately 6,000,000 rivets used in what was an engineering marvel at the time. The city’s famous “coathanger” has an arch span of 503 metres and reaches a height of 134 metres. Today, more than 150,000 vehicles cross the Bridge daily, and it holds a special place in locals’ hearts. Here are a few of our favourite ways to experience it.

Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a must for tourists (©Roshan Sukhla)
Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a must for tourists. (©Roshan Sukhla)

Walk Across

One of the best ways to see the Bridge is to walk across it. Start at Circular Quay and walk toward Wharf 2, look across and you’ll see a glass elevator. Take the elevator up to the Cahill Walk. As you exit the lift take in the breathtaking views of Circular Quay and the Bridge. It’s a picture perfect Instagram-worthy spot. Start walking in the direction of the bridge, as cars rush past you on the Cahill Expressway.

Learn about indigenous Australians and the history of Sydney Cove in the lookout display. Continue along and the Sydney Opera House will come into view. Keep following the path, head down the steps, and along to the start of the Bridge. Look up at this massive manmade structure, and out across to Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay and the endless blue of the harbour. Head up to the Pylon Lookout for mind-blowing panoramic views (adults $13, children 5–12 years $6.50). There is an exhibition inside the pylon where you can learn more about the construction of the bridge.

Continue all the way along to the end of the Bridge and down the stairs—you are now in the suburb of Kirribilli. Treat yourself to coffee and cake at the Flaky Tart Bakery or try a burger or fresh seafood from By the Bridge café. When you are rested, head back up the stairs and across the Bridge for the return journey. Exit by taking the stairs all the way down, you will arrive back in the historic Rocks precinct.

Gorgeous views over Sydney with BridgeClimb (©BridgeClimb)
Gorgeous views over Sydney with BridgeClimb (©BridgeClimb)

Climb Up

The world-famous BridgeClimb is the only way to reach the top of the Bridge. In small groups, your climb leader will guide you all the way up the Bridge, while you are safely secured at all times. Nothing beats the feeling of reaching the top and seeing the city sparkling beneath you, but best not to look down when you are climbing up the ladders, with cars speeding past on the bridge.

Established in 1998, BridgeClimb is an iconic Sydney experience, with climbers coming from all over the world. The climb is a magnificent opportunity to see Sydney from a whole new perspective while learning more about the secrets and history of the Bridge. Choose from the original BridgeClimb, a three and a half hour journey along the upper arch or if you are short on time try the BridgeClimb Sampler, a tour along the inner arch at just one and a half hours. Climb during the day or for an extra special experience climb at sunrise, sunset or night. The 3.2 million climbers can’t be wrong!

Sail under the bridge on a Captain Cook Cruises sightseeing cruise (©Captain Cook Cruises)
Sail under the bridge on a Captain Cook Cruises sightseeing cruise. (©Captain Cook Cruises)

Sail Under

Marvel at the wonder of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the water. Sailing under the bridge on a sunny day is an essential Sydney experience. Harbour cruise operators offer many different options, with most sailing right under the bridge between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour.

Captain Cook Cruises offer a variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktail, high tea and highlights cruises daily. Bass and Flinders offer a two-hour sightseeing cruise on their Sydney harbour Eco Hopper. You can also hop on a ferry heading west, in the direction of stops like Cockatoo Island or Balmain, and you’ll feel the wind in your hair as you look up at this massive steel structure. Try to time your trip to witness the sun set to the west, for an extra special experience.

Looking down at the traffic below from the Pylon Lookout (©Roshan Sukhla)
Looking down at the traffic below from the Pylon Lookout (©Roshan Sukhla)

Drive Across

Drive across the Bridge and experience it like a local does—sitting in peak-hour traffic. Although you have to admit that sitting in traffic with the sparkling harbour all around and the Opera House to one side doesn’t sound too bad! Hire a car from Avis or East Coast Car Rentals and drive across the Bridge in style on your way to our northern suburbs. Or if driving sounds too daunting (especially if you think Australians drive on the “wrong” side of the road compared to your homeland) then perhaps a taxi or limousine is more your style.

Whichever way you choose to see the Bridge, there’s no doubt you will walk away with a new appreciation for one of the city’s true icons.