Sunday, 24 April 2016

# 3 - Sydney Harbour Bridge

I'm going to start this review with a shocking revelation.  You may want to be seated before reading any further.  The revelation is this:  I don't actually think the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a particularly nice bridge.  Feel free to take a break at this point to allow the enormity of that statement to sink in.

Take out the sea, the Opera House, the city skyline, and it's just a hunk of grey metal

Now, before I start getting hate mail, I should stress that I love the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It's just that I love it in the way that Adrian loves Rocky in the Rocky films.  You know, it's more about its personality, its heart, and what it stands for.  I just don't find it particularly aesthetically pleasing.  It's big and chunky and metal.  The pylons help make it look a bit nicer, but I actually think the Anzac Bridge is a much nicer looking bridge.

I suppose it has its appeal though
Of course, regardless of my views regarding its beauty, it is not the job of a bridge to be beautiful. The job of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is to get people from one side of the harbour to the other, without getting wet.  It does this job very effectively.

Let's never speak of this picture
There are a number of ways that the bridge carries out this functionality too.  There are 6 lanes of roads, to allow you to drive across the bridge.  It can and does get very busy at peak times, but it is good fun to drive across just for the experience.  It also has a walking path on the right hand side if  you are coming from Circular Quay, or the left hand side of you are coming from the North side of the harbour.  Hopefully you could have figured that second part out on your own.  It also has a cycling track on the West side, which is the side furthest away from Sydney Opera House.  Finally, there is also a rail track wedged in between the cycle path and road.

The closest you will ever get to swimming under the bridge.  All things going well...

Probably not the greatest shot of the bridge, but included because this was the view from our flat in St Leonards
There are many ways that you can 'do' the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  You can view it, from a huge number of vantage points around Sydney.  Although I've been a bit harsh on judging the prettiness of the bridge, I should add that it fits really well into its surroundings.  On its own, I don't think it is hugely attractive, but it provides both a frame and a viewing platform for many of Sydney's greatest sights.  It may not be individually beautiful, but I think it makes the overall picture that bit more attractive.

If you do the Bridge Climb, you walk up the right staircase to the flags, then cross over and come down the left stairs

A group of people on their way up the Bridge Climb
In addition to viewing the bridge, you can actually go over it.  I've already mentioned the roads, rail line, walking path and cycling path.  The roads don't tend to have the best views, as they are in the middle of the bridge, but you do get an up close view of the bridge.  The rail line isn't on the outside, but is close enough that you get a decent view from the top deck of the train.  It is less obstructed towards the West, away from the Opera House though.

A nice grass area at Milson's Point - nice place for a picnic, if you don't mind the noise from the trains

The bridge looking particularly patriotic at night
Likewise, the cycling path offers reasonable views, but again, these are best towards the West.  Also worth noting that you cannot stop on the cycle path to admire the views.  There is generally a steady stream of cycling traffic so they understandably don't want the lane getting blocked up with people stopping for pictures.  Yes, I know there is a picture of us on bikes on the cycle path.  This was wrong, and not just because of the way we look.

The bridge has no doubt seen some sights down the years, but few as horrifying as this picture
Meanwhile, the walking path does offer some nice views to the Sydney Opera House and over the harbour, albeit through a mesh fence.  It also gets busy, but in this case you are quite welcome to stroll slowly, take your time and stop to get pictures.  Preferably don't block the whole path though.  The walking path also contains the entry to the Pylon Lookout, which is one of the best views over Sydney Harbour.

The traditional 'standing in a bath in front of the Harbour Bridge' photo

What better way to admire the bridge than with a glass of prosecco?
In addition to the more traditional methods of crossing the bridge, there is also the more unique option of climbing up to the top of the arch, via the Bridge Climb.  You can see a full review of this by clicking the link, but it really is a great experience and offers some awesome views.

Something about the bridge just brings out our cheesy poses

Not quite sure what I was doing with my trousers - trying to get a breeze I think.  It gets really hot...
As well as going across the bridge, you can also go under it.  Any of the ferries leaving Circular Quay for any destinations towards the west of Sydney will pass underneath the bridge.  This gives you the opportunity to see it up close, and from some unusual angles.  You also get the great scene of the Opera House being framed by the Harbour Bridge as you sail West away from the bridge.

Yet another angle

For those that always wanted to know what the underside of the bridge looks like
One final way to see the bridge is to fly over it.  Commercial flights do often give you the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the bridge if you are lucky enough to be in the right seat, but you can also take a helicopter tour over the bridge.  This is unsurprisingly expensive, but an incredible experience, and you can read a review under #38 Helicopter Tour.

Sydney - not bad

The silhouette of the bridge as the sun sets
The bridge is striking during the day, and can actually look quite nice at night.  The pylons are lit up, and some clever lighting does make it look a bit prettier, in my view.  During the Vivid festival, the decorations are taken a step further, and you can expect to see the bridge clad in a variety of bright and colourful fluorescent lights.

From the Opera House at dusk, with Luna Park in the background

A bit blurry, but you get the idea

I feel like I started this review by being a little bit harsh on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, so let me wrap up by being a bit nicer.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the great icons, not just of Sydney, but in the world.  It dominates the skyline and, along with the Opera House, creates one of the best known and loved city scenes anywhere.  Whether you go under it, over it, or on it, it is definitely one of the best things to do in Sydney.

Still pretty nice from a distance

Last one - I promise...
Want to have a go at me for daring to question the beauty of the Sydney Harbour Bridge?  The words pot, kettle and black do spring to mind...  Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the appropriately titled comments box.

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