We travel across it by car and train, cruise under it, invite it to our New Year's Eve parties and walk across it in the sun. But even though the Sydney Harbour Bridge poses a climbing challenge simply by being there, it's a local Everest that most of us never tackle.
But BridgeClimb is now likely to tip more one-day-maybes over the edge – so to speak - with a stay, dine and climb idea that wraps up a night at hotel Ovolo on the Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo; dinner at waterfront Otto next door and a BridgeClimb the following day in one neat and very Sydney package.
Convenience has to be part and parcel of any package. Ovolo is a short cab ride or a half-hour walk to the BridgeClimb office in the Rocks and a 20-minute or so beautiful stroll to other city jaw-droppers such as the Botanic Gardens and the Opera House. You have plenty of time to chill out before dinner though, because Otto also sits on the historic Finger Wharf, which was saved from demolition by locals and unionists in the early 1990s and now houses Ovolo, apartments, bars and restaurants. Walking through this strikingly beautiful industrial space makes taking a moment to thank its saviours mandatory.
Reaching new heights takes derring-do and Ovolo and the Finger Wharf both have this in spades. From that mesmerising kinetic art clock in the hotel foyer to the soaring industrial beams overhead to the cheeky designated play areas with books and Space Invader machines that amuse and lure you at every turn, Ovolo is funky and fun, stylish and stunning. Restaurant and bar Alibi is on the ground floor – perfect for a pre-dinner rather than pre-climb tipple.
Our twin share room has visitors in the form of six women in 60s-style pastel pop art who adorn our bedheads. The fun touches don't stop there: with complimentary mini-bar, free body pillows on request (the snuggle is real) and pops of green and red in the grey-toned interior. You can let Alexa do the talking to the Apple TV via a speaker system. The classic black and grey tiled bathroom with deep bath and round mirror is swish, but the fun continues to be poked with the Wash This Way and Slow Hands products.
One look at Ovolo's snug lounges and cosy sign-posted book nooks ("I like big books and I cannot lie") and we're not keen to move too far. We watch the grey ghostly navy ships glide by at the end of the wharf, look over a sculpture exhibition in one section of the cavernous space and have a luxurious swim in the stunning indoor/outdoor pool – complete with spa and cabanas - which we have to ourselves.
There are reasons why wharfside Otto Ristorante, a minute's walk from Ovolo, has lasted 20 years in fickle Sydney. They are the same reasons that it has a full (though socially-distanced) house on this Thursday night in the midst of a pandemic. Think modern Italian, think classic, think simple – and think generous. A taste? Saffron linguine, Moreton Bay bugs, cavolo nero, pistachio pesto and lemon oil or strozzapreti, king prawns, black olives, chilli and calamari sauce.
The icing on our affogato are the lights from the city buildings that play on the water, white tablecloths, warm and expert service and that clink of cutlery that sounds so much better outside, particularly on warm spring nights that are a Sydney specialty. This is the perfect place for a celebratory dinner - particularly if you are planning to scale new heights the next day.
There's been some light rain. It's windy. After being suited up and shown how best to put one foot in front of the other, we head off, stifling our nerves as we listen to our guide's tall tales and true through our earpieces. We hear of the man who survived a fall from the bridge by contorting his body into a diving position at the last minute and how builders used to toss and catch white hot rivets to each other atop those arches - with no safety nets. The walk is surprisingly relaxing, the view breathtaking, and before we know it we are mere metres from the red light that pulsates like Sydney's heart from the summit. The light, dubbed Blinky Bill, is not the only thing blinking. I'd expected to be petrified on this climb to the top of these soaring arches, but am unprepared at how moving this silent view of the city is. Why did it take me so long?
Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Otto and BridgeClimb all play to Sydney's wow factor and show-stopping beauty. This is the perfect package if you want to show off Sydney to a first-time visitor, treat yourself to a staycation or celebrate a milestone.
The BridgeClimb packages start from $480 a person or $960 a couple. All guests at Ovolo receive "The Perks" which is free mini-bar and a drink in the hotel bar as well as complimentary breakfast. See bridgeclimb.com ovolohotels.com ottoristorante.com.au
What can be more of a high point that standing on the summit?
Perhaps it was pre-climb nerves, but the coffee machine at Ovolo's breakfast bar was a wee bit complicated.
Jane Richards was a guest of BridgeClimb.