December 5, 2018
Two structures define Sydney’s skyline: the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. While you may have heard of Bridge Climb – walking over the bridge’s arch to the summit – there's also a completely free Sydney Harbour Bridge walk with equally unmissable views.
There are three ways to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk;
- The free pedestrian walkway at road level
- The low-cost Pylon Lookout, and
- The pricey Bridge Climb tour experience
We’ve tried all three options and while they each offer amazing views, there are differences to discover which Sydney Harbour Bridge walk is best for you.
Walk Across Sydney Harbour Bridge
Like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge can only be accessed from one side (the other is reserved for cyclists). Luckily, walkers have the eastern side with the most iconic views, including the Opera House, The Rocks and Fort Denison.
How long is the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk?
From Bridge Stairs in The Rocks (see details below), all the way across the Harbour Bridge to Milsons Point, it’s a 20 minute walk, one way (that’s assuming you’re not stopping for photos!).
The Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk is actually part of the longer Cahill Walk – the bridge is the northern section – and if you did the whole lot it’s still only a 45 minute stroll.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk Cost
Free! Seriously, this has got to be one of the best free things to do in Sydney.
Bridge Stairs, Cumberland Street
Starting from the city, the best access point is the Bridge Stairs on Cumberland Street in The Rocks.
The Bridge Stairs are between the Glenmore Hotel and The Rocks YHA / Big Dig archaeological site.
Going straight up the stairs from Cumberland Street (NOT using the subway tunnel across to Fort Street), means you're on the correct eastern side to do the Harbour Bridge walk. But keep in mind this subway goes to Observatory Hill for another adventure later!
The Bridge Stairs are historic and spacious.
From the top of the Bridge Stairs, turn left for the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walkway, and right for the Cahill Expressway Lookout.
There are two new sets of access lifts to improve accessibility for people in wheelchairs and people with prams. One is at Cumberland Street, The Rocks (just up from Bridge Stairs), and the other is at the Kirribilli / Milsons Point end.
The new lifts are in addition to one at Circular Quay, and a ramp from the Royal Botanic Gardens. Here are more details about alternative access points to the Harbour Bridge walkway.
Views from the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk
The views from the Harbour Bridge walk are fantastic but limited. The pedestrian walkway offers 180 degree views over the harbour (hello Opera House!).
You are walking right next to a seven lane highway so cannot see anything to the west. High safety fences can also obstruct views.
The video featured on this page was taken from the Harbour Bridge walk, so you can see the views are still worthwhile.
Is it worth walking the whole way across Sydney Harbour Bridge?
It depends on your time constraints.
If you only have a short time, then walking the 10 minutes or so to the first pylon (home to the Pylon Lookout – details below) will provide enough views of the harbour and Opera House to satisfy.
But if you have time, it's worth walking the whole way across. By walking over the Harbour Bridge, not only can you say you've done it, but you'll also end up at Milsons Point – a place popular with locals with unique views of the bridge and Opera House.
Milsons Point is on the northern side of the bridge. (If you'd like to start your walk here, read instructions on the Cahill Walk, which is the proper name of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk).
At Milsons Point, go down the stairs to exit the bridge, then turn left immediately to pass underneath the tunnel of the bridge’s footings.
Turn left onto Alfred Street, staying on the left side of the road (passing underneath the “Luna Park, Olympic Pool” sign).
This is Bradfield Park, a grassy expanse underneath the northern end of the Harbour Bridge, with views across the water to Sydney Opera House and the city.
Either have a picnic in Bradfield Park, or grab takeaway from one of many cafes in Milsons Point.
For a fancier long lunch, go to the end of Alfred Street for superb views from Ripples, a licensed cafe overlooking the bridge and harbour.
Walk right down to Milsons Point ferry wharf at the end of Alfred Street for amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout
The south-east pylon of the Harbour Bridge is open to the public every day (except Christmas Day). It houses the Sydney Harbour Bridge Museum with interesting facts about the Harbour Bridge’s history, structure and build.
But really, the main reason to pay for entry is to access the Pylon Lookout. Far out! 360 degree views of Sydney Harbour.
And there are views over the Harbour Bridge itself (and a birds eye view of people doing Bridge Climb as you’re higher than halfway up the bridge).
Be warned: there are 200 stairs to get to the top of Pylon Lookout. It’s like climbing a belfry or church tower – the stairs are inside the pylon, with no windows or external views until you get to the top.
Pylon Lookout Sydney Price
The Pylon Lookout costs $15 for adults, $8.50 for children 5-12 years, and is free for kids 4 and under. (Prices correct at time of writing, check latest prices).
Most people spend about half an hour at the Pylon Lookout, depending how many photos they take (and how many interpretative signs they read!)
Pylon Lookout Entrance
The Bridge Pylon Lookout is a short walk along the Harbour Bridge walkway, about 10 minutes.
The Harbour Bridge walk passes through the pylon. It is the only pylon with doors and Pylon Lookout signage.
From the Pylon Lookout, it’s a further 15 minutes walk to Millers Point, the northern side of the Bridge.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and not just for tourists. I was chatting recently with a bunch of friends – all born and bred Sydneysiders – and they'd all either done Bridge Climb or wanted to go.
We've been and loved it (look at my ridiculous grin)!
The only downside is that it's fairly expensive (about $260 AUD) and you can't take your own camera or photos. Check prices and book Bridge Climb here.
Now that you've done the Bridge Walk, you may also like…
- Just by doing this walk, you've ticked off one of the 1001 Walks You Must Do Before You Die. There are three more walks in Sydney that qualify.
- Want more big city sights but in the greenest way possible, keep walking with the Sydney City Walk.
- Sticking with iconic Sydney, then the Bondi to Coogee Walk is next (or Bondi to Bronte for a shorter walk).
- Combine the Harbour Bridge with more walks even if you only have a limited time in Sydney. See our itinerary suggestions with 24 Hours in Sydney's Outdoors.
- Another Sydney must-do is a ferry ride on the harbour. A quick ferry trip from Circular Quay will get you to Watsons Bay for the South Head Walk, or return you back to the city on the Spit to Manly Walk.