The Sydney Harbour Bridge — the world's largest and widest steel arch bridge and affectionately called the Coathanger — shares center stage geographically as well as in the hearts of all Sydneysiders with the Opera House across the harbor. Look up at almost any time of the day and you'll see what looks like a trail of ants moving slowly up and over its exposed steel spine: These are adventurers who have signed on for the BridgeClimb, arguably Australia's most exhilarating and fun attraction.
Not half as scary or strenuous as you might think, the BridgeClimb is over before you know it, even though your watch tells you it has been 3.5 hours (the longest of three climb options). And for those counting, it burns only about 50 calories.
Patricia Schultz during her BridgeClimb Sydney experience.
Social media has helped spread the word of the BridgeClimb, thanks to celebrities including Oprah, Prince Harry, Katy Perry and Pippa Middleton (during her Oz honeymoon last year). I joined over 3.8 million adventurers since the BridgeClimb was launched in 1998, who have reached the summit 440 feet above sea level to propose, get married, celebrate a birthday or other milestone, overcome a fear of heights, qualify for bragging rights or simply to drink in those spectacular, 360-degree views of one of the world's most photogenic harbors.
Climbers as young as 8 (accompanied by an adult) are welcome, and there is no cutoff as long as you are fit and willing. The BridgeClimb's website proudly posts their most frequent ascender: an 87-year-old Australian who has racked up 125 climbs so far.
Happy to hear that an octogenarian could easily handle the ladders, catwalks, platforms and 1,332 steps, I joined a group of 14 people (the maximum number), got breath-tested for the first time in my life, was fitted for a jumpsuit and gear and walked through an explanation that readied us for the once-in-a-lifetime experience that awaited.
The Park Hyatt a perfect base camp
The elegant and chic property is not simply the best all-around choice for those wishing to climb the bridge (it's a 10-minute walk to the BridgeClimb starting point) or merely observe those who do (the hotel's rooftop pool area gives you front row seats), it is arguably the finest hotel in Sydney, period. Read More
A lightweight, industrial-strength safety cable tethers each climber to the bridge's structure throughout. Loose objects like jewelry, hair clips and cameras must be left behind in a locker, while glasses, sunglasses, gloves and baseball caps are allowed if secured or attached to the provided jumpsuit.
Our amiable climb leader also served as safety monitor, bridge historian, stand-up comic and photographer and videographer. Each climber gets a certificate, a video and a group photo from the summit, with a host of solo photos also available for purchase.
Headphones come in handy when the winds pick up, although our mild early‐winter afternoon in June offered but a light breeze. We stopped various times along the way to take in the sweeping vistas, catch our breath and enjoy our climb leader's commentary and anecdotes. He explained how the bridge, held together by almost 6 million hand-driven rivets, missed out on being the world's longest steel arch bridge when it was completed in 1932, a title then held by New Jersey's Bayonne Bridge. Construction on the bridge began in 1924 and took 1,400 men eight years to build.
At various points we looked down between our feet on the busy eight traffic lanes and two rail lines it carried. I had driven the bridge, walked across it, sailed under it and glimpsed it from my airplane window seat during previous visits, but this was my first climb, and it was worth every effort and jitter. I am already plotting a twilight climb to watch the Sydney skyline as it comes alive at night. How cool would that be?
Climb prices are scaled by time of day and day of the week, but expect to pay from $253 for a journey to the summit. See www.bridgeclimb.com.