The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney

The Sydney Harbour Bridge (Sydney's greatest tourism icon) - on a par with San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, New York's Statue of Liberty, London's Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower in Paris - took eight years to build and opened in March 1932. Once nicknamed the 'coathanger' it is now simply called 'the bridge' by Sydneysiders.

Linking the city with North Sydney, it carries eight lanes of road traffic and two railway tracks which form part of the city's rail suburban network.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge has a pair of granite clad pylons at each end, they are actually there for show and do not support the great arch which is 530 metres (1650 feet) long and connected to huge hinges tied to bedrock at either end - technically Dawes Point in the south and Milsons Point in the north.

Nearby Accommodation - There are a few hotels which have unequalled views of the Harbour Bridge. Hotels like the Park Hyatt, which is situated right on the harbour's edge. Others include the Quay Grand Suites Sydney, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney and Autograph Collection, Pier One Sydney Harbour which actually sits on the water right beside the bridge.

The road and railway track actually hangs from the arch, 59 metres (194 feet) above sea level. Where the Golden Gate suspension system loops down to the centre, the Sydney Harbour Bridge loops up.

At its highest point, the arch is 134 metres above sea level. Taking into account the road approaches, 'the bridge' is 1150 metres or about a mile long. There are 58,000 tons of steel in the bridge, the arch of which was built from both ends and met in the middle.

Steel supports for the road and rail platform were 'hung' beginning at the middle to the pylons. Its two eastern lanes were originally tram tracks, converted when Sydney abolished its trams in the 1950s. The main arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is about two feet shorter than the main span of the Golden Gate.

Before it opened, its entire length was packed with railway carriages, trams and buses to test its ability to support a total traffic jam. It was designed to withstand winds of 200 kilometres and hour, which are cyclonic (hurricane) in force and have never been recorded in Sydney.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge has become a major adventure with the opening in 1998 of Bridge Climb Sydney, a company which conducts tours over the arch. Clad in overalls and clipped to a safety line, you can walk and climb 1500 metres over the arch.

A challenge for the faint-hearted, the traverse attracted thousands of people in its first year. The climb is open to anyone over 12 who is fit enough to handle some steep climbs on metal ladders and can cope with heights.

The south-east pylon of the bridge includes a lookout for the less adventurous. It includes an exhibition explaining the construction and history of the bridge and offers great views of Sydney Harbour. The entrance is from Cumberland Street at the edge of The Rocks.

There are about 200 steps to the lookout, which is enough of a challenge for some. Open daily, The Pylon Lookout is one of Sydney's oldest tourist attractions.

Walkers can cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the eastern side. The Western side is for bicycles. Both walkways are fenced with steel and wire and perfectly safe. They offer great views up Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River. The eastern side is the more popular, with entrances off Cumberland Street in The Rocks in the south and Milsons Point railway station in the north.

The entrance to the western cycleway is near Milsons Point in the north and Observatory Hill in the south (access from Kent Street). You can walk from the city and catch a train back to Wynyard or Town Hall. It takes about 20 minutes to cross the bridge.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Harbour Bridge Bridge View Sunrise