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The best way to see Vivid Lights

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait

Every year the city is lit up by a winter festival of lights, music, art and ideas, but if you thought the Vivid projections around Circular Quay looked good from sea level, wait until you see them from the apex of the Harbour Bridge. If you have yet to ascend one of our most famous landmarks, or even if you have, it’s worth booking into a night climb during Vivid.

They set off just after 6pm when the Songlines projections have been turned on and as you climb up the lower arch of the bridge the city begins to open up beneath you. You’ve got the Opera House sails at the very centre of the panoramic views that include Customs House, the Cathedral of Light in the Botanic Gardens and installations along Campbell Cove. Plus the harbour is teeming with ferries and private boats also lit up for the occasion.

As a climber you are offered the chance to be part of the tableau with a flashing jacket, but we recommend saving it until you hit the multi-coloured dance floor at the pinnacle – walking behind a flashing light for an hour will prove deeply irritating for the person behind you on the climb. During the day you can see Sydney Harbour in all its majesty, but by night it takes on a whole new magnitude – without sunlight to give scale and depth you really get a sense of the enormity of the city at night.

It’s an experience that is difficult to describe and incredible to witness. If you’re worried about the chill-factor you’ll be well rugged up in fleeces and weather-proof jackets, and we rate the express climb which is a little shorter and takes you up the inside arc so that you are surrounded by hand-riveted steel and feel a little like you’re inside the ribs of a metal skeleton. Adult tickets are $238-$253, and it’s totally worth the money. Even if you’re a Sydneysider, this is an experience you should definitely tick off the bucket list.

Hot tips for first-timers

  • Eat before you climb. It's a longish walk so make sure there's something to keep you going.
  • Stick to the back of the group if you want to feel alone with the bridge, aim for the front if you have lots of questions.
  • Celebrate your achievement with a pub dinner at nearby watering holes like the Glenmore Hotel, Australian Heritage Hotel or the Lord Nelson.

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