Sydney Harbour Bridge is a Sydney heritage-listed site and one of the city’s iconic landmarks. It is a half-through arch bridge, with a total length of 1,149 metres, constructed under the direction of engineer J.J.C. Bradfield of the NSW Department of Public Works. It opened in 1932 and is known today by the nickname “The Coathanger” by Sydneysiders.
The bridge was designed and built by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough and took eight years to finish. Taking after Hell Gate Bridge in New York City, the bridge is made up of about 52,000 tonnes of steel and six-million hand-driven rivets. Sydney Harbour Bridge currently holds the record for being the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world being 503 metres long. It is also the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134 metres above water level.
On 19 March 2007, the bridge was added to the Australian National Heritage. While on 25 June 1999, it was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register.
As early as 1815, there had been plans to build a bridge that would connect the northern and southern shores of the harbour. The first proponent of the plan was the convict and architect Francis Greenway. He proposed the plan to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and then wrote a letter to “The Australian” newspaper in 1825, saying that the bridge would “give an idea of strength and magnificence that would reflect credit and glory on the colony and the Mother Country”.
Although no bridge was constructed following Greenway’s proposal, the idea remained alive in the 19th century that further proposals had been made. In 1914, the government appointed John Bradfield to be the “Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway Construction”. This appointment made him popular today as the “father” of the bridge. However, due to financial constraints, it was only after World War I that actual steps towards building a bridge had been taken.
After reviewing 20 proposals from six companies, the government awarded the contract to British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd. of Middlesbrough on 24 March 1924. The arch design they proposed were cheaper than the other suspension bridge proposals and its rigidity also made it suitable for the expected heavy loads of vehicles.
The construction finished in 1932 and the bridge underwent load testing for three weeks. The total cost of building the bridge was AU£ 6.25 million. However, it was only fully paid by 1988.
Things to do in Sydney Harbour Bridge
Being the largest steel arch bridge in the world, Sydney Harbour Bridge offers lots of fun activities to tourists and visitors.
Climb Up the Bridge
With the BridgeClimb Sydney, you can climb up the highest peak of the famous arch bridge and get access to a 360-degree view of Sydney. The tour only accepts eight-year-old visitors and older. They must also be in good health and measures 1.2 metres and up.
There are three climbs to choose from, but all start early in the morning and continues through the evening with regular intervals. The main climb is BridgeClimb. It is 3 hours and 30 minutes long and includes taking the ladders, catwalks and the outer arch of the bridge leading to the summit. The shorter tour is BridgeClimb Express, which takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete. The quickest tour of the three is the BridgeClimb Sampler, which is a 90-minute tour. It includes a walk through the inner arch going to a magnificent vantage point halfway up.
Get Married at the Bridge’s Summit
This private climb is open to all couples, celebrant and their guests, who want to take marriage to a different height. It takes 4 hours to complete and includes preparation for the guided climb, taking the same route as BridgeClimb Express. Time is also given for the official ceremony at the peak on the specially designed platform, Sundeck.
Sightsee at the Pylon Lookout
The Pylon Lookout is the highest viewing point in Sydney being 87 metres above sea level. It contains three levels of exhibits that feature the history and construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, its builders, as well as the vision of its chief engineer, JJC Bradfield. After ascending 200 stairs, visitors will be treated to a breathtaking view of the Sydney Harbour, Botanical Gardens and its surrounding areas. Even the Blue Mountains can be seen on clear days.
Fly Over Sydney Harbour Bridge
Several tours offer aerial tours of the city. One of them is the Bankstown Helicopters, which gives visitors a tour covering all famous spots in Sydney. The tour starts from Manly Beach and ends in the sandstone cliffs of Stanwell Tops. Another is Navair, which offers a private jet flight over the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, while tourists enjoy a glass of champagne.
Cruise Around the Bridge
For tourists who don’t find flying fun, another option is available for them to enjoy the stunning view of the city. There are lots of tour companies that offer ferry rides and lunch/ dinner cruises around the harbour. Some offer day tours, some offers tours with lunch, dinner, tea selections, and even cabaret cruises.