A visit to the Sydney Harbour Pylon Lookout

Have you heard of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout and museum? Well, if not, read on because I believe a visit to this iconic Sydney lookout is the best way to get a bird’s-eye view of the city.

When it opened in 1934, the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout provided the finest view of the harbour that Sydneysiders had ever seen. Sitting at the top of the granite covered southeast pylon on the southeast side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this original Sydney lookout offers 360-degree views over the city.

It also houses a museum detailing the story of the bridge and the people who made it happen, from the engineers and designers to the workers who risked their lives every day during the nine years it took to build.

After a brief history lesson, over 2 levels in the small museum you emerge on the top floor and are rewarded with a vista that has been impressing guests for over 80 years.

Some people consider the Pylon Lookout to be the poor cousin of the Bridgeclimb, but I beg to differ. I think it is one of our most underrated attractions. Both are worth a visit, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to the big climb, do not fret; the Pylon Lookout has lots to offer.

Pylon Lookout vs Bridge Climb

5 Ways the Pylon Museum gives the Bridgeclimb a run for its money.

  1. You can bring your camera to the lookout – and get some pretty amazing shots. Unfortunately, due to the safety of the motorists below, you can not take a camera on the Bridgeclimb.
  2. It costs less than 1/10th of the fantastic but budget squeezing bridge climb.
  3. You can take young kids. However, children under eight years are not allowed to climb the bridge.
  4. You don’t need to book in advance – so wet weather days can be rescheduled.
  5. There are fewer stairs than the Bridgeclimb and more places to sit and rest along the way, making it suitable for almost everyone.

A photo guide to the Sydney Harbour Pylon Lookout

The 12 photos here will give you an idea of what to expect on your visit.

You enter from the Pylon at the Rocks end of the bridge on Cumberland Street. Now the stair climbing begins 🙂  a couple of flights of stairs here will take you to the pedestrian walkway on the bridge. A few hundred metres along the walkway brings you to the lookout entrance.

Sydney Harbour Pylon lookout entry

The sign warns you of 200 steps (no lift) but don’t worry they are broken up into just a couple of flights at a time. There are lots of things to look at on each level, giving you breathing time between flights. I would class it as suitable for almost everyone without significant health issues. Unfortunately, there is no disabled access.

Once inside, its two short flights to reach the first level.

The first get of stairs at the Pylon museum
Looking down after climbing the first steps

On level 1, you will find the ticket counter and some models showing some techniques employed in building the bridge.

Sydney Harbour Pylon museum displays

Next to the ticket office is a video that gives lots more detail on the bridge’s construction. I have to admit I didn’t watch the whole thing, but it had some great old photos. The major highlight in this room is the stained glass windows. These serve as a memorial to those who worked on the bridge.

stained glass sydney pylon lookout

After another set of stairs, you reach level 2 where there are more very well placed information boards providing an excuse to stop and rest if you need to, no one will realise you are not super fit 😉

Sydney Harbour Pylon lookout museum facts

Just one more floor and you are at the top.

harbour bridge pylon last stairs
top floor display Sydney Harbour Pylon Museum
Read the history of the iconic Sydney Bridge

There is a small indoor area here that features some more information about the construction and history of the bridge.

Finally, you reach the top!

Sydney harbour Pylon walk
Walk right around this harbour lookout

There is a walkway that runs right around the pylon, allowing you to get a magnificent view of The Rocks and the western side of the harbour.

View of the Rocks from the Sydney Harbour Pylon
Looking towards The Rocks, with Pyrmont in the distance

The view to the south-west with the Anzac Bridge in the distance.

Sydney Harbour Pylon lookout

The Southwestern pylon is home to a traffic control centre.

Sydney CBD from the Harbour Bridge Pylon lookout
A fantastic view of The Rocks and Circular Quay

The view to the south over The Rocks and Circular Quay.

View from the Habour Bridge Pylon lookout to the east
Watching the Sydney Harbour traffic from above is fun

You can stay up here as long as you like. The ferries and other boats crisscrossing the water make for some exciting photos.

bridgeclimbers close up

If you have friends climbing the bridge and are not joining them, this is a brilliant spot to watch all the action.

My only wish is that the lookout stayed open later. Sadly, it currently closes at 3pm, so your only chance for some golden hour photos is in the middle of winter.

Pylon Lookout ticket cost: $19 Adults, $15 students and seniors, $8.50 for kids (5-12 yrs)
Opening Hours: Open every day during the NSW School Holidays (26 June – 11 July) from 10am to 2pm.

Before or after you visit the Sydney Harbour Pylon Lookout, I suggest you walk across the Harbour Bridge.

I like to start at Milson’s Point, walking towards the city with the view in front of me. However, you can also walk towards North Sydney and take the train or ferry back to Circular Quay. You might also like to explore Lavender Bay and Wendy’s Secret Garden while you are there.

Once you are finished at the pylon, take a stroll around the Rocks on a self-guided walk.

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14 thoughts on “A visit to the Sydney Harbour Pylon Lookout”

  1. Beautiful views from the Pylon Lookout. Definitely worth the $19AUD per person stairs to the Pylon Lookout observation tower around the middle of the bridge. It is a much less alternative to the bridge climb and you are allowed to bring your camera here which you cannot do on the bridge climb. The downside is that it is only open till 4PM. It is recommended that you do not come here after 3:30PM so you can take it all in. I could only imagine the night views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour from here.

  2. As far as I know, you can’t but in the dozen or so times I have been up there I have never seen a queue. It really is a hidden gem, so many people do not visit. Try to go in the morning for the best light for your photos.

  3. Can you book tickets in advance for the pylon to avoid the crowds? There from the 28th December for new year and know it will be crazy busy! Great site BTW really useful.

  4. I missed this in Apri; last year, I didnt even know about it, I am going back in December for Christmas and New Year and this will be one of my very first thing to do….cannot wait, and dare say that I will do it at least twice.The photographs look fabulous.

  5. We were just in Sydney two days ago and already did so much, could not fit this in. Loved sydney, especially the food at chatswood!

  6. Ahh i didn’t know about this when I visited Sydney – everyone was raving about the bridge climb but i’m scared of heights (…..need to work on this….!) and it was too expensive. This seems reasonably priced and actually way more interesting! Oh well…next time 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  7. I haven’t been to Sydney yet, but I will definitely visit the Pylon Lookout when I do. The view looks amazing! Plus, I like your suggestion of walking over the bridge to get there.

  8. I think that is the main thing that hits you on a visit here. That they could do this in the 1930s by mainly manual labour is beyond impressive.

  9. This looks like a great vantage point for photography, and I think I would actually rather do this than the bridge climb (which would play havoc with my vertigo!!). Thnks for makng me aware of this alternative option.

  10. Just imagine, the skill sets and the engineering marvel in 1934. They are able to build this, and with all the perseverance it took them a whopping 9 years to complete. Sometimes we tend to take things for granted, and never understand that others had paid the price for our convenience now.

  11. I visited the Pylon on one of my first visits to city over 10 years ago and I always recommend it to visitors. It’s a wonderful spot from which to view the harbour, it’s really informative and as you so rightly point out, it’s a great alternative to the Bridgeclimb if you’re on a budget!

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