Harbour Bridge, Sydney
In addition to its beautiful natural harbour, Sydney boasts two instantly recognisable man made structures, the Sydney Opera House and the rather unimaginatively named Sydney Harbour Bridge - sometimes referred to as the 'coat hanger.'
The 134 metres high steel arched bridge, in a design similar to New York's smaller Hell Gate Bridge, was opened in 1932 and today carries 8 lanes of vehicular traffic, two train lines, a cycleway and a walk way. The Tyne Bridge in Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a baby version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It only has 777,124 rivets!
I won’t go into technical details and bore you with how many tonnes of steel or how many rivets there are in the Harbour Bridge. Ok, I know you want to know, there are 6 million rivets.
Rather, Dear Reader I will bore or entertain you (you decide which I have done!) with a lesser known detail relating to the bridge – one going back to its opening on the 19th March 1932.
The bridge opening ceremony was billed to be a spectacular affair with full pomp and circumstance appropriate to the day. Well almost, rather than a member of the Royal Family, the Governor-General or the State Governor being invited to do the honours and cut the ribbon to officially open the bridge, the left wing, socialist State Premier, Jack Lang, decided he would officially open the bridge himself.
Well, this was too much for arch royalist and member of the right wing paramilitary New Guard, General Francis De Groot, an Irish immigrant of Dutch heritage. De Groot decided to mount a personal protest against what he perceived to be an insult to the aristocracy and a communist push by Premier Lang.
Mounted on a steed and attired in his World War I military uniform, replete with the ceremonial sword he had been awarded during service with the 15th Hussars on the western front during that war, De Groot gate crashed the bridge opening ceremony which was attended by some 300,000 people. To evade being caught by hundreds of soldiers and other security, he joined in at the rear of the official mounted escort party of New South Wales Lancers and slowly made his way to the point where dignitaries, including Lang, had gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Just before Lang was due to cut the ribbon De Groot did the honours and sliced it in two with his sword at the same time declaring the bridge open "in the name of the decent and respectable people of New South Wales"
While the two parts of the ribbon were rejoined and Lang proceeded with his opening of the bridge, De Groot was removed from his steed and arrested. His ceremonial sword was confiscated.
The fun continued.
De Groot was, later the same day, taken to the Lunatic Reception House at Darlinghurst where he was formally charged with ‘being insane and not under proper care and control.' Over the next couple of days various medics found him to be totally sane.
Three charges were subsequently brought against him:
• Having maliciously damaged a ribbon which was the property of the Government of New South Wales to the value of £2;
• Having behaved in an offensive manner in a public place; and
• Having used threatening words to Inspector Stuart Robson in a public place.
The first and third charges were subsequently dismissed and he was fined the maximum penalty of £5 plus £4 costs for having behaved in an offensive manner. In terms of the first charge, De Groot’s lawyer successfully convinced the magistrate of the validity of an archaic law that said that any of His Majesty’s subjects was allowed to remove any object, even a ribbon, which barred progress on the King’s highway.
In an attempt calculated to embarrass Premier Lang, De Groot subsequently sued for wrongful arrest on the grounds that a police officer had no right to arrest an officer of the Hussars. Rather than face further public humiliation the government caved in and an out of court settlement was reached whereby De Groot received £68 – a tidy profit of £59. He also got his sword back. The sword is now in the hands of Paul Cave, the founder and chairman of Bridge Climb Sydney, the company that conducts the climbs I refer to later in this review.
De Groot had final victory - two months after opening the bridge, Jack Lang was sacked by the State Governor, Phillip Game.
For many years pranksters 'doing a De Groot' became a frequent accompaniment to the opening of roads and bridges in New South Wales.
Visiting the bridge today
In addition to viewing the bridge from a distance from any number of vantage points around, and indeed on, the harbour I encourage you to get up close and get under the bridge at either end (Dawes Point Park at The Rocks or Bradfield Park at Milsons Point) or via taking a ferry that passes under the bridge into the inner harbour.
In terms of accessing the bridge, I highly recommend a walk or cycle across it (1.2 kms) though good views can also be had from taking a train across to Milsons Point station if you are not up to the walk or ride.
There are two options in terms of climbing the bridge – either a climb up the south-east Pylon, the one closest to Circular Quay, or an actual bridge climb by which you can get to the top of the arch.
The Pylon climb is 200 steps high taking you to a height of 87 metres above mean sea level. En route to the top you pass through three levels of exhibits detailing the history and construction of the bridge. Incidentally, the four bridge pylons are mainly there for aesthetic reasons and have little or no structural value.
Hours : Daily: 10am – 5pm (last entry 4.45pm) –closed Christmas Day.
Cost: Adult A$13.00 with concessions available for seniors, students and children. Note that entry is free if you have completed a full bridge climb.
While I have no doubt the view from the top of the bridge would be spectacular I cannot recommend that you due it, principally due to what I consider to be the outrageous cost. I actually believe that this is one of the worlds greatest tourist traps and accordingly you will find my review in that section here on VT - Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.
Incidentally, it is cheaper to take a 30 minutes helicopter ride around the harbour and beyond than do the bridge climb. I know which I would pick should my Dear Reader wish to offer me either :-).
My next Early December 2015 Sydney Review: Sydney Harbour Bridge - Climb
One of the most recognizable sites in all of Sydney, nothing can actually prepare you for the size and beauty of the bridge.
There are pedastrian and cycle paths and for those on the adventurous side, take a shot at the BridgeClimb.
John Bradfield took one of New York's lesser known bridges and turned it into a Sydney icon, and one of the world's most easily recognised landmarks. Flanked by four decorative granite pylons, the arch of the Harbour Bridge curves graciously up as it spans the waters of Sydney's magnificent natural habour. You can cross it by foot, car or train, and if you want the best views you can climb one of the pylons for a 360-degree panorama. If you have the stomach for heights you can also climb the arch itself.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is another famous sight of Sydney and according to some polls it is even the most popular sight of Sydney.
It was built in 1932 and as a tourist you will be able to walk over the bridge, you may also step up to the very top of it in a guided tour (that you have to book for a long time in advance)
or you might, like I did as well, cruise under it while entering or leaving the port of Sydney.
The total length of the bridge is 1149 meters, the hight is 134 meters.
With a total width of 50 meters it is the world's widest of all giant bridges according to the book of records of 2004.
The bridge has 2 tracks for the trains, 1 track for buses , 7 tracks for cars, 2 rails for trams plus 1 path for pedestrians and one for bicyles.
Local people also call the harbour Bridge "The coathanger"
some interesting detail that I have learned from the webpage below is the fact that
At one time actor and comedian Paul Hogan was a rigger on the Harbour Bridge
before finding fame and fortune
Renown for the fireworks during the centennial midnight celebration, the bridge is a large steel structure that tourist, including me, must photograph. Some climb it in groups of a dozen, but that was not our goal. Sydney has a free central business district bus, the 555, that dropped us within walking distance. Climbing from the docks through the old town, now mostly restaurants, shops and museums, we stepped onto the walking path, free, and meandered out onto the bridge. The din from light rail and cars changed speech into screech. The reward was the iconic view.
It is possible to have the most spectacular view of Sydney Harbour for free, by walking across Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is different to climbing the arch of the bridge (which costs a lot of money and must be done in a group, and you cannot take a camera). Walking across the bridge, using the pedestrian footpath or walk way, at the same level as the traffic and the train is free, and an exhilarating experience.
For example, start at The Rocks side of the Bridge, and walk north across to Milson's Point on the other side of the harbour. And then you can either walk back to The Rocks side, or, you can catch a train back across from Milsons Point station to Circular Quay Station.
If the weather is clear and nice, you will get the most beautiful photos from the walk way on the Bridge.
If you're in The Rocks area (which is itself an interesting, old and historic area to explore in its own right), look for a sign along George Street, not far from Argyle St pointing you towards the sheltered flight of stairs leading to the Bridge's southern end. These stairs are located near Gloucester Street and Cumberland Street.
You can walk to or take a train to Circular Quay station. You will see the Bridge, you cannot miss it. The Opera House will be to your right as you face the water and ferry terminals. The Harbour Bridge will be to your left as you face the Harbour and the ferry terminals.
If walking north up Pitt Street, there will be a point where you will see the Harbour Bridge at the end of the street.
Sydney has become world famous for the fireworks displays centred around the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After viewing them on television for several years I finally got to see the 2014 New Years show. Initially from a friend's place adjacent to the Opera House and then from Bradfield Park at North Sydney.
It's certainly something every Australian should aim for, something like the Melbourne Cup or Anzac Day parade; you've got to do it at least once.
I didn't realize the 9 p.m. display was in a different location to the midnight one. Early on there's only one lot of fireworks that comes off the Bridge and that signifies the end of proceedings.
However, at midnight there's stuff coming off the Sydney Harbour Bridge at all angles.
The latter is definitely the best of the two and worth the interminable wait as all venues are chock a block and the early arrivals get the best positions.
I guessed the Opera House, did you? I was wrong. I hope that you weren't.
According to Lonely Planet, the Sydney Harbor Bridge is the number one tourist attraction in all of New South Wales. It is also richly admired and heavily used by the locals. It can, of course be driven over, but it can also be walked across, cycled across, climbed, seen from a train, and, of course, sailed under. I was fortunate enough to walk and drive across and to climb up it. I even met some hardy souls skateboarding across. It is the most massive structure in Sydney and can be glimpsed from some very unexpected places within Sydney.
Nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of its arch-based design, it opened in 1932 and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the world's widest long-span bridge. It is also the fifth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world, and is the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134 meters (440 ft) from top to water level. Until 1967 the Harbor Bridge was Sydney's tallest structure.
A harbor bridge was first proposed in 1815 but serious planning did not begin until 1912. When it finally began on 28 July 1923, construction of the bridge coincided with the construction of a system of underground railways in Sydney's CBD (Central Business District), known today as the City Circle, and the bridge was designed with this in mind. Designed to carry four lanes of road traffic, flanked on each side by two railway tracks and a footpath, both sets of rail tracks were linked into the underground Wynyard railway station on the south (city) side of the bridge by symmetrical ramps and tunnels. Plans for the north end were more nebulous and have changed several times over the past 80 years.
The bridge was formally opened on Saturday, 19 March 1932.
In his 1951 book, "Return to Paradise," James Michener said,
"To get on in Australia, you must make two observations. Say, "You have the most beautiful bridge in the world" and "They tell me you trounced England again in the cricket." The first statement will be a lie. Sydney Bridge [sic] is big, utilitarian and the symbol of Australia, like the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower. But it is very ugly. No Australian will admit this."
There are two very different ways to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Being cheap and not a mountain climber anyway, I simply climbed the 200 steps of the bridge’s South East Pylon to its 87 meter summit at a cost of about Aus$2. Some of my more daring, and richer, friends suited themselves up and strapped themselves to the exoskeleton of the bridge, at a cost of approximately Aus$200, to climb all the way to the 134 meter (~ 400 foot) ultimate top of the bridge.
You can see both Harbour Bridge and the Opera House by going to Circular Quay. We walked across the bridge though on the pavement, not on the bridge climb! There were great views on the way.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened on March 19th 1932 by Premier Jack Lang. It took six years to build. The bridge is made of steel and contains 6 million hand driven rivets.
If you have the courage and energy to do this climb it is well worth the outcome. Only 1 company offers the trip up, It's called Bridgeclimb. The only down side about this adventure is that you can't take your own camera for the fear that you might drop it into traffic down below !!!!! but of course your travel guide has a camera ready to take pictures of you.....at $20 there a bit pricey but where will you get such a breathtaking picture with the gorgeous city of Sydney in the back round ??, we did the climb at sunrise and the words to describe it could not be put into soooo many words !!!!!! a MUST DO !!!!!!!!! but don't try if your scared of heights !!!!
UPDATE : MAY 2008
Price now is $179 AU for the climb and no group rates !!!!!
This bridge can be driven over, walked across, cycled across, climbed, seen from a train, and, of course, sailed under. For some reason I decided that we needed to go across to the other side because that would be a good place to see the Opera House. So on our last day, I got a taxi and had him drive us across the bridge to the other side.
We didn't climb it, but not because of fear of heights. It was lack of time and, on my part, bad knees that prevented us. Otherwise I would certainly have done that. (Although the ban on photographs would have been a reason not to go)
One side of the harbour bridge allows pedestrians the other side is for bicycles.There is also the pylon lookout which is worth the view,far less expensive than paying for the bridge climb for the same view.
My first view of this bridge was from the ferry. Then I saw it from the Opera House. We drove across the bridge in a taxi, and took some photos from underneath on the other side. We also saw part of it from the Sydney Tower.
I understand the bridge can be climbed, but we didn't do that.
SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE
.Have some spare time?? Take a walk over the bridge !!.Check out the view from the roadway sidewalk (footpath). Its fantastic..What a great photo opportunity looking across the Harbour to the east or west , or the panorama of the city skyline . This is a great photo opportunity at night.. and it's free. The walk across the bridge is a longer walk than you may think and its not flat. Entrance to the bridge walkway is from either the City end at the "Rocks" or catch a ferry or bus over to Milsons Point and walk back. When arriving by train or ferry you will have to climb the stairs up onto the bridge..but firstly ,have a walk under and around the bridge . Underneath the bridge is a lovely large lawned area where local North Sydney office workers sit and eat their lunch and chat.
Stop for a coffee here as this is a lovely leafy little local suburb. This is a really pleasant way to spend some time and I quite often do this walk when friends fromO/S visit Sydney.. IT'S FREE
If you're afraid of heights, this is probably not the thing for you. But if you're looking to get a great unique view of the Sydney Harbor and an experience you'll remember for a lifetime, head to the Harbor Bridge and climb on up.