Fun fact: The flagpoles on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge are taller than the water below it is deep.
I’m not sure just how deep I imagined Sydney Harbour to be, but it was definitely deeper than that. It never occurred to me that if one of those poles was touching the harbour floor you could still see a few metres of metal sticking out of the water.
In fact, as the poles are 20 metres high and the water below is between 14 and 16 metres deep, depending on the tide, those five by ten metre flags could still be seen on top of the poles.
Flagpole trivia may seem like a strange thing to bring away from the BridgeClimb Sydney experience, but it’s just one of the things I remember vividly from my most recent adventure to the top of this iconic structure.
It’s been more than ten years since I first did the Sydney Harbour bridge climb, and at the time I thought it was one of those incredible once in a lifetime experiences. I figured I’d done it and I loved it and that was that. But it turns out I was wrong, because nowadays there’s more than one way to climb that bridge.
The first time around I did the original Bridge Climb, the one that Paul Cave started back in 1998 which takes you over the top of the upper arch to the summit, across over to the other side and back down again.
This time I went the Express Climb route and I loved it even more.
The Express Climb is a faster version of the Discovery Climb. They were both introduced in 2009 when the climb base was redeveloped, they both follow the same path, but as the name suggests the Express Climb has fewer stops along the way.
Rather than walk over the top of the arch, on these climbs you walk over the lower arch, so you’re actually inside the bridge; walking through the heart of it, rather than over it.
I adored this climb because you not only have gorgeous city views that you see on the original Bridge Climb, you also have the stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge architecture all around you. Everywhere I looked was a wow moment.
It’s probably a good thing they don’t let you take your own cameras up there. Not only is it safer for the motorists below, but I’d probably still be up there saying ‘just one more shot!’
But don’t panic if you’re a BridgeClimb Sydney newbie. As you can see in this story, you can still get photos of your experience, it’s just that the climb leader will take them for you. They take a mix of individual and group photos as you go, and you get one free group photo at the end of the climb and can buy others if you’d like more memories.
And if you’re thinking, “I like the idea of climbing the inside arch, but I really want to follow in Oprah’s / Matt Damon’s / Kylie Minogue’s / Prince Harry’s footsteps and stand on the very top of the bridge” you don’t have to worry.
When you reach the middle of the bridge on the lower arch you get to take the staircase to the summit and stand up there, with the flags flapping around you on those poles you now know so much about, and feel on top of the world.
For this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras the lovely folks at BridgeClimb Sydney came up with a great idea – to have some special climbs that featured a little disco on top of the Harbour Bridge.
They even put a disco ball above the summit platform on the very top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and then when people did the special Mardi Gras climb they got to bust some moves underneath it. Amaze-(disco)balls!
One of the other things I really liked about the Express Climb was the pace. The original Bridge Climb and the Discovery Climb both take three and a half hours, and I remember on my first climb it felt like we were moving a bit more slowly than I’d like (clearly I had some adrenalin coursing through my veins).
The Express Climb is just over two hours long, but it felt a lot longer. In a good way. It felt like there was still lots of time to just soak up the view and look around, but it was a much better pace for me, and would also be better for out of town tourists with only a limited time to try and fit everything in.
As they’re along the inside arch, the Discovery and Express climbs are 1,002 steps compared to the original Bridge climb on 1,332 steps (just in case that comes up in your pub trivia sometime).
The climbs cost the same, regardless of which one you do. So that ranges from $198 for an adult doing a night climb, to $308 for a dawn or twilight climb.
And if you’re considering popping the question, make sure you chat to the staff beforehand. They get excited when they know someone is about to propose and break out the “Engagement Ring Device.” That’s ERD for short.
As you’re not allowed to take anything that’s unattached to your jumpsuit, or should that be BridgeSuit, up with you, they’ve come up with a clever device to allow the proposer to safely get the ring onto their delighted lover’s finger.
Okay okay… so it looks a bit like a couple elastic bands with a bit of string between them, but it does the trick, and you definitely don’t want to drop that piece of jewelry into the traffic below. And if it all goes well, you can even get married on top of the bridge.
Now that I’ve re-discovered BridgeClimb Sydney I can’t believe I left it so long between trips to the top of that famous arch. I want to see Vivid Sydney from up there, do a sunrise climb, and yes, dance on top of the bridge when they bring the Mardi Gras Disco climb back.
I’m told the most frequent climber is 86 year old Lloyd Poulton, a Sydney man who has done 71 climbs so far. He’s definitely got the lead on me, but you never know. Maybe that’s a record I’ll go for one day.
Amanda Woods did the Sydney Harbour bridge climb as a guest of BridgeClimb Sydney but as usual, all thoughts and opinions remain her own
You can also check out some travel tips from BridgeClimb Sydney guide Emily Pressnel, who led Amanda’s climb with on the day.
Looking for more fun Sydney ideas? Check out my list of 20 great tours and things to do in Sydney for every budget.