65 Sensational Facts about Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the world’s most famous bridges and a symbol of both Sydney and Australia.  

In this article, you’ll learn several fun and interesting facts about Sydney Harbour Bridge, or as the locals call it, “the Coathanger”!

General Sydney Harbour Bridge Facts

  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge, along with the Sydney Opera House 550 metres away, is the most famous landmark in Sydney. 
  • The bridge spans a narrow section of the Sydney Harbour, connecting the Central Business District to the North Shore.  
  • When the bridge was first built, it saved travelers ferry ride, or a 20 km (12.5 mi) commute that involved crossing five other bridges to get to the same point on the other side of the harbor.  
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge is nicknamed “the Coathanger” due to its arched shape.  
  • Over 160,000 cars, 400 trains, and 2000 bicycles, and thousands of pedestrians cross the bridge every day.  
Traffic on Sydney Harbor Bridge, with buildings of downtown Sydney in the background
Traffic at the start of the Sydney Harbour Bridge before it reaches the arch
  • The main roadway across the bridge (6 lanes, both directions) is the Bradfield Highway. At 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi), it is one of the shortest highways in Australia. The number of lanes in each direction changes according to traffic flow. Another 2 lanes (southbound only) are for the Cahill Expressway.  
  • The Sydney Harbour Tunnel runs below the Sydney Harbour. It was built to relieve traffic congestion on the bridge. It starts near the same point as the bridge at the northern end, running south at a 30-degree angle away from it and passing near the Sydney Opera House.  
Some cars entering Sydney Harbor Tunnel
Traffic enters Sydney Harbour Tunnel, with Sydney Opera House visible in the background
  • There is a toll ($2.50 to $4) for driving across the bridge in the southbound direction, charged with e-TAGs. The original toll when the bridge was first build was six pence for a car/motorcycle and three pence for a horse & rider.  
  • Many tourists visit the bridge, including the southeast pylon, which houses a museum. The museum includes 200 steps lead to an observation deck called Pylon Lookout, which is open every day of the year except Christmas.  
The flag of Australia and flag of New South Wales at the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Australian and NSW flags top the bridge.
  • An Australian flag and New South Wales flag fly at the top of the bridge and have to be replaced twice per year.  
  • For 19 days every year, the Aboriginal Australian flag replaces the NSW one, but many people have petitioned and raised $300,000 to have a new pole erected so the aboriginal flag can be placed permanently. 
  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge has been the focal point of numerous protests, parades, and celebrations, including New Year’s Eve fireworks every year since 1993.  
Fireworks erupting above the Harbour Bridge in Sydney
New Year’s Eve fireworks at Sydney Harbour Bridge

Weird Facts

  • The Bradfield Highway is technically a Travelling Stock Route, so herds of livestock can be taken across it (at night only, with notice). The last time this was done was in 1999. 
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge was a magnet for suicide jumpers until a suicide barrier was installed. The 59-meter falls has an 85% fatality rate.  
Suicide barriers on the walking path across Sydney Harbour Bridge
Suicide barriers line both sides of the bridge’s walkway.
  • Paul Hogan, star of the Australian film Crocodile Dundee, worked on the construction of the Sydney Opera Bridge. He later said that his experience of stopping people to jump from the bridge helped prepare him for the famous ledge scene in Crocodile Dundee II. 
  • The total cost of the bridge, AU£6.25 million (over $1.5 billion in today’s money), was not paid in full to the construction company until 1988. 
  • BridgeClimb guides tourists to climb up the southern half of the bridge’s arch, reaching its highest point. The climb costs $198-388/person. Over 4 million people have made the climb, including one person over 100 years old. 
  • Celebrities including Oprah, Katy Perry, Hugh Jackman, James Cameron, Will Smith, David Hasselhoff, James Blunt, Luke Evans, Ben Stiller, and Gigi Hadid have all climbed the bridge.  
  • 89-year-old Lloyd Poulton has climbed the bridge 125 times, more than anyone else.  
A group of people climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, with boats visible in the harbour below
Climbers scaling the south side of the bridge’s arch
  • Many couples have gotten married at the top of the bridge, including the first gay marriage in 2018. 
  • On International Day of Yoga (June 21) in 2016, a yoga session was held at the top of the bridge. 
  • The top of the bridge has also hosted a Chinese New Year dragon dance, Maori War Dance, a Tai Chi event, and a dance party.  
  • Bungee jumping at Sydney Harbour Bridge is not permitted. 

Structural Facts 

  • The bridge is made up of 8 traffic lanes (six original ones, and two that replace earlier tram lines). There is also a pedestrian path on the eastern side, two tracks of the railway North Shore Railway line on the western side, and a path for cyclists west of the railway lines. 
  • The bridge reaches a height of 134 m (440 ft), with a clearance of 49 m (161 ft) below it.  
View of Sydney Harbour bridge from a walking path below it, with Sydney Opera House in the background
The bridge reaches a height of 134 metres above sea level.
  • On hot days, expansive of the bridge’s steel can cause it to grow 18 cm (7.1 in) taller.  
  • At the end of each arch, there is a pair of 89-metre (292 ft) concrete and granite pylons. They serve no structural purpose, but were added to provide visual balance.  
  • Today the pylons are used for various purposes: the southeaster one contains a museum and 360° lookout, the southwestern one supports cameras, and the northern ones house chimneys for fumes from the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. 
Observatory on the southeastern tower of Sydney Harbour Bridge
Pylon Lookout is a viewing platform in the southeastern pylon.
  • With a deck 48.8 m (160 ft) wide, it was the widest long-span bridges in the world until it was overtaken by Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver, which is 65 m wide, in 2013. The current title holder is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, at 78.74 meters on its eastbound section.  
  • The arch of the bridge is made up of 28 arch trusses, ranging in height from 18 m (59 ft) at the centre 57 m (187 ft) at the ends.  
  • All the steel in the bridge weighs 52,800 tonnes (52,800,000 kg or 116,402,116 pounds).  
  • 79% of the steel used for the bridge was imported from England. The rest came from Newcastle, Australia.  
Close up of rivets on the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The bridge is held together by over 6 million rivets.
  • Over 6 million rivets hold the bridge together, most of which were driven by hand.  
  • Every time the bridge is repainted, 485,000 m2 (120 acres) of surface area have to be painted, requiring 30,000 litres of paint. Two robots, named Rosie and Sandy, are used for removing the old paint before this is done.  

Historical Facts 

  • Plans to construct a bridge across the harbour went back as early as 1815. 
  • In 1840, naval architect Robert Brindley proposed a floating bridge across the harbour. 
  • More proposals for the bridge were made in 1857, 1879, and 1880. 
  • In 1900, the New South Wales government held a competition for the bridge’s design, but the winner’s design was never used. 
Staircase leading down to a subway museum station in Sydney
The chief engineer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge also designed the city’s first subway system.
  • In In 1914, John Bradfield was appointed chief engineer of the project. He is also designed the city’s first subway system and is known as the “Father of Modern Sydney.”  
  • The city hired the British firm Dorman Long of Middlesbrough to design and build the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They based it on their earlier design of the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, England, which itself was modeled on Hell Gate Bridge in New York City.  
  • Dorman Long’s head engineer on the project, Sir Ralph Freeman, did much of the bridge’s design work, and many consider him to be the bridge’s true main engineer, not John Bradfield.  
  • Construction of the bridge took place from July 28, 1923 to March 19, 1932.  
  • 1400 people worked on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. 16 of them lost their lives during construction, only 2 of which died from falling off the bridge. 
A black and white image of Sydney Harbour Bridge and two of its pylons.
Hundreds of families had to be displaced for the building of the bridge.
  • Hundreds of families living on either side of the bridge were displaced for the construction.  
  • The bridge was assembled in sections on the adjacent land which now houses the Luna Park amusement park.  
  • The bridge was built out from either side of the harbor, meeting at the middle in 1930.  
  • The building of the bridge coincided with the construction of a network of underground railways in the Central Business District. 
  • During the bridge’s opening ceremony, before the NSW premier could cut the ribbon, a man rode up on a horse and slashed the ribbon with a sword, in the “name of the people of New South Wales.” He was immediately arrested.  
A red postage stamp in Australia with the Sydney Harbour Bridge on it.
Australian stamp featuring the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Up to 1 million people participated in various ceremonies and celebrations related to the opening of the bridge; impressive, given that the city’s population at the time was 1,256,000. 
  • In the year of the opening, several postage stamps featuring the bridge were released.  
  • There was also a sharp rise in the baby names Archie and Bridget, in honour of the bridge, that year. 
  • The bridge originally had two tram lines. These were removed in 1958, and replaced with to extra lanes for vehicles on the western side of the bridge.  
A train crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Train crossing the bridge. The bridge used to have two tram lines running alongside the traffic.
  • NSW police later used one of the tram tunnels leading to the bridge as a shooting practice area. 
  • In 1973, Philippe Petit walked across a wire between the two pylons at the southern end of the bridge. 
  • For the bridge’s 50th anniversary in 1982, people were allowed to walk on the bridge’s deck for the first time since the opening day. 
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers awarded the Sydney Harbour Bridge a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1988, making it one of around 280 such landmarks in the world.  
North Sydney Olympic Swimming Pool with Sydney Harbour Bridge behind it.
The North Sydney Olympic Pool is right beside the bridge.
  • Construction of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, below the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the harbour itself, began in 1988 and was completed in 1992.  
  • In 2007, Sydney Harbour Bridge was added to the Australian National Heritage List. Today it is one of around 120 heritage sites across Australia featured on the list.  
A waterfront walking and cycling path below Sydney Harbour Bridge
Walking and cycling path below the bridge
  • In January 2021, the railway deck was renovated, with 555 metres of timber portions being replaced with concrete ones.  
  • There are current plans to replace 55 stairs providing access to the northern end of the bridge with a bicycle ramp, which would remove the need for cyclists to dismount when cycling to the bridge.