Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon lookout

By Lorenz Rychner
This item appears on page 10 of the August 2018 issue.
The grand entrance to the stairs to the bridge level — Sydney. Photos by Lorenz Rychner

The majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge is probably the most photographed site in Sydney, rivaled only by the Sydney Opera House.

Few visitors realize the bridge can be crossed on foot in about 20 minutes and that the southeastern pylon is open to the public, rewarding a fairly short climb up a flight of stairs with wonderful, 360-degree views from a viewing platform. I’ve taken many visitors up there, and nobody has yet been less than enthralled.

Once inside the pylon, whether on the way up or down, one can study the fascinating displays showing how and when the bridge was constructed, what life was like for those who built it and what impact the bridge had on life in Sydney.

Here’s how to get there.

Circular Quay, at the northern end of the city’s central business district, is a transportation hub for trains, buses and ferries. It’s adjacent to the Sydney Opera House (on the eastern side) and The Rocks (to the west), the latter being the quaint, historic and now very touristy oldest settlement on Sydney Cove.

From Circular Quay, head north along George Street (which runs north-south on the opposite side from the Sydney Opera House) to the corner with the Orient Hotel (89 George St.) and turn left onto Argyle Street. As you pass the Saké Restaurant & Bar (12 Argyle St.), look for the entrance to the Argyle Stairs, then climb up the stairs and follow the path. A couple more stairs will take you to Cumberland Street.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, with the pylon indicated.

Across Cumberland Street, somewhat to your left, you’ll see the grand entrance to the stairs leading to the bridge level. Climb up, and as you reach the sidewalk, with the traffic roaring by on the other side of a safety fence, turn right toward the pylon. This shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes.

(As an alternative, you could walk from the northern end of the bridge, from Milsons Point, along the public sidewalk that takes you to the pylon. Then, reversing these directions, go down to Circular Quay.)

The pylon ( is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Admission costs AUD15 (near $11) per adult, AUD10 for a senior or student and AUD8.50 per child age 5-12. Children 4 and under enter free. No reservations are taken or needed, except for groups.

Note: A very different (and more expensive and time-consuming) bridge experience can be had by signing up for the Bridge Climb (

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The Argyle Stairs start your journey to the bridge.
One view from the top of the southeastern pylon of Sydney Harbour Bridge.