The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a feat of modern engineering and was at one point the largest steel-arch bridge in the world. Known affectionately to locals as ‘The Coathanger’, it has become one of the symbols of the city.

History

Before the arrival of Europeans, both sides of the Sydney Harbour Bridge belonged to the Eora people. The notion of a bridge across the harbour was first suggested in 1815. From this point until 1890, the idea had progressed to a cast iron bridge, floating bridge or even a tunnel. The government had even accepted plans for a bridge but never implemented them. In 1890, there was a Royal Commission to examine eight different schemes. By 1912, Dr. JJC Bradfield was made Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Building began in July 1923 and it was eventually completed in 1932. 14,000 workers in total contributed to the building of the Bridge and unfortunately, sixteen men lost their lives in the process. Around 79% of the steel used was imported from Britain. The Bridge was also referred to as the ‘Iron Lung’ as it kept so many people employed for so long and its workers were among the best-paid in the country.

New South Wales Premier Jack Lang opened the bridge in 1932. Since its opening, it has become a focal point for Sydney. Some have likened it to the sight of The Statue of Liberty when you enter New York. For immigrants, it was the sight that let them know they had made it. Not only was the Opera House built nearby and completed in 1973, but the bridge is used for city-wide celebrations. There was a public holiday when the bridge was opened and on its 50th birthday it was closed to traffic and opened exclusively to pedestrians for the second time ever. The arches are used for Christmas, New Years’ and Chinese New Year celebrations. It also featured heavily in the Olympic Games that Sydney hosted in 2000. The Sydney Harbour Bridge has become emblematic of the city and country. It is one of the most recognisable bridges in the world and remains one of the world’s largest steel arch bridges.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who designed and built the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

The bridge was designed and worked on by a team of architects but Dr. John Job Crew (JJC) Bradfield is widely considered to have been the most prominent figure on the project. They employed the help of some 14,000 men to build it.

  • How big is the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is 1,149 metres long, 134 metres tall and 49 metres wide.

  • Why is it called the ‘Coathanger’?

You’ll often see the Sydney Harbour Bridge referred to as ‘The Coathanger’ because of its shape, the large steel arch resembles a coat hanger!

  • How much is the toll and when does it apply?

If you’re driving around Sydney, there is a toll to cross the bridge. The price of the toll depends on the time of day but you can expect it to normally be around $3. At its cheapest it is $2.50 and it’s $4 at its most expensive.

  • Can you climb the bridge?

Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of two bridges in Australia that can be (legally) climbed. It offers up some pretty breath-taking views and can even be climbed at sunrise and sunset! Prices vary from time and day but expect prices of around $300 for an adult.

Location

The Sydney Harbour Bridge can be found in the heart of city and is quite hard to miss! There are wharves at Circular Quay and plenty of public transport options for getting there.

Amenities

There’s plenty to do and see around Sydney Harbour Bridge. Some of the city’s most luxurious hotels are situated near the harbour, offering up views of the Bridge and Opera House. The Opera House is adjacent to the Bridge. The Sydney Observatory, Museum of Sydney and Royal Botanical Gardens are all within walking distance of each other on the south side of the Bridge. There are various restaurants, a zoo and an amusement park on the north side.