Joan Larsen’s Travel: Climbing New Heights: Finding Sydney

Posted on July 24, 2013


By Joan Larsen


How often do we get an opportunity to climb to the top of a bridge in the first place?  Now, how often do you get to climb a bridge that is the national icon of one of the larger countries in our world?  A bit afraid of heights?  So am I.  More than once, I am a bit embarrassed to say, I have heard “scaredy cat” attached to my name.  (I hope I am not alone in that!)  But finally I was in Sydney – yes, in Australia – and the “Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb” had just opened.  Not one of the 13 other people in line to climb looked in any way like an athlete.  .  . and with a three hour limit to make the entire climb – well, it looked doable.  The safety briefing and demonstration gave me ample time to cop out, but I found myself donning a Bridge Suit, a specially designed, rather embarrassing coverall that I wore over my clothing.


Yes, with a Climb Leader as a guide, and attached somehow to the bridge itself, we steadily climbed up ladders and catwalks to its VERY HIGH summit, looking out at a 360-degree view of the city, the incredible Blue Mountains beyond and the Sydney Opera House, seemingly a stone’s throw away.  Plenty of time to stand and soak this beautiful world in.  A bit of heaven is what I thought — with a little of sprinkling of gold stars that I had made it to the top.  Was it worth it??  I will just say – GO!  Now, when the view of Sydney Harbour is shown in photos and movies, I find myself staring at “The Bridge”, still getting a thrill from knowing that I was one of the first to get to the top of its arch.  If you feel you are able (and you probably are), then you must go as it is one of life’s most unusual experiences – far better than playing King of the Hill back home, I promise you!

Below, on the harbor, the Sydney Opera House is another iconic piece of the city itself. When you too are “down under”, be sure to take the backstage tour as it is well worth it.  Before leaving home, we made our reservations to see an opera as well as another reservation to dine at another of the “don’t miss” to-rave-for restaurants of Sydney within the structure – the Bennelong.  (To prevent massive disappointment, nail the reservations long before you leave!)  Fine dining followed by a performance of Falstaff, and then afterwards, taking in the stars above and the boats and ferries plying  Sydney Harbor in late evening – well, it seemed more than a little otherworldly.  I found myself humming “Unforgettable”.  Surely that evening truly was.



So many things to see in Sydney (and easy ways to get to everything) . . . and yet so little time. To me, a “must” each time I return is hopping a Taronga Zoo ferry at the Circular Quay near the Harbour Bridge – a 12 minute ride that you wish were longer – and quickly finding that – at the Zoo – you will find yourself  at the most perfect place to take picture after picture of the city across the bay, the Opera House and – of course – that Sydney Harbour Bridge you have climbed. 


All the Australian wildlife that have seemed in pictures to be so unusual looking that they could not be truly real are soon found to be inhabitants of Taronga Zoo.  We all know that not one of us can resist koalas, never dreaming we could ever be touching one of them.  Wander through the Australian walk-through, where you will come face-to-face with  hand-raised Australian animals:  kangaroos, wallabies, birds of many colors, wombats, and the strange echidnas who are not adverse at all to be photographed with you.  I think you can trust me when I say that – when you are picking and choosing what you have time to do in your days in Sydney – the Zoo must be at the top of the list.



If you are heading for Australia, you already know you are going to be having the trip of a lifetime.  Just know:  this place is bigger than the United States and planning to spend two weeks in this land of spectacular scenery is not time to even begin to do it justice.  But with any extensive travel we do these days, we must pick and choose.

Fiji-OnWayHomeThe latest options in flying allow stop-overs in New Zealand, Fiji (don’t miss those islands!) and Tahiti.  We have found a few days in paradise are a good way to break up a long time in the air… and a perfect stop on a return trip to relax and enjoy the islands — as you look back fondly at your time spent in Sydney and the larger world of beautiful Australia.

Australia is about as far away as you can get.

 I like that.

– Andre Benjamin


JoanAvatarWriter Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”