Looking for the best views in Brisbane? I’m always looking for good spots around the city – Kangaroo Point, New Farm, a picnic beneath Story Bridge (a regular spot of ours). However, it wasn’t until I received a Father’s Day gift of a Story Bridge Adventure Climb that I found out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the best views of the city are on top of the Bridge!
Of course, most Brisbanites and even tourists know about the city’s Story Bridge climb, as it’s actually one of only three bridge climbs in the world. The other two are in Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand (which I plan to do). It was always one of those things I thought I’d get to one day. Well, after my jaunt up the bridge just last Sunday, I recommend you bring it forward on your list.
Of course, being a city blogger, I was excited about the prospect of the Story Bridge Adventure Climb for this blog too. If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you’ll know I love taking lots of photos and I typically post a video in every post too. However, for reasons I totally understand (like not dropping your gear onto a car), you’re not allowed to take any camera equipment or your phone on the Story Bridge Adventure Climb. The few photos I’ve added to this post are courtesy of our guide, Alex.
If you want to save some money and see the best views in Brisbane at the right time of day, book the 3:40pm bridge climb. It’s a little cheaper than the sunset experience, yet you still get the start of the sunset on your return journey.
The Beginning of Our Climb
We arrived ten minutes early and suited up in our climbing gear. I was doing the climb with my 12-year-old son, Olin, and the remainder of our group was a family of four. After receiving some brief instruction on safety, we walked down the street to one of Story Bridge’s pylons, opened a door and began our ascent up the bridge’s scaffold. This isn’t typically the way things go, but as the bridge is steadily being cleaned of rust, the bridge access behind the Story Bridge Adventure Climb office is currently out of bounds.
So, we ascended the scaffolding in a couple of minutes and arrived beneath a bridge pylon, where Alex gave us a few more instructions before we continued up the staircase towards the best views in Brisbane. Past this point, Alex warned us, you couldn’t swap your position in the line – as we were all attached to a cable via our safety belt harness. He also asked us if we were afraid of heights and if so, then best head to the front. I admit to being not particularly comfortable with heights, but not terrified either and I ended up at the back of the line.
Our Ascent to The Best Views in Brisbane
The ascent up the first arch to the top was the scariest part for me. I kept looking down and I was exhilarated, but feeling a tad uncomfortable at the same time. My son was just in front of me and by the time our group got to the very top of the first arch span, I felt totally fine.
The views from up here really are the best I’ve seen in Brisbane – amazing. I stopped and looked across to the Gabba, right across towards Southbank, to Felons on the other side of the river and then right the way over to the Gateway Bridge. As you can see, we had the perfect weather!
After this blissful experience – the highlight of our trip – Alex then engaged us with the bridge’s history. I purposely won’t do any research for this part, as I don’t want to ruin too much for you. I’ll simply recall the highlights of our tales of history from memory (two days ago), so you’ll get a more informative perspective on your live ascent to the best views in Brisbane.
A Bit of Story Bridge History
Story Bridge was completed in 1939 and took five years to build. When you’re standing at the top looking at the complexity of the construction, I thought that was pretty fast! The idea was to connect the north and south parts of the river, particularly as people used to row over the Brisbane River to the Story Bridge Hotel (and back) just to get a beer!
Interestingly, Story Bridge almost runs directly from north to south. It was intended to run accurately north to south – I can’t exactly remember why, perhaps it was safety? – but the Story Bridge Hotel was in its path. Brissie locals put up a fierce protest as the pub was slated for demolition. As typically happens in Australia, pubs are always more important, so the bridge was built around the hotel and so it runs 2 – 3 degrees askew of its perfect axis. Askew or not, you’ll still get the best views in Brisbane once you’re at the top!
During the bridge’s construction, three people fell to their deaths while a fourth died on his way to work in a tram accident. Technically, the fourth person was also counted as a bridge fatality as he was on his way to work. Other things I remember are that the bridge went through several name changes before it arrived at Story Bridge, when it was named after a public servant. At one point it was named the Brisbane River Bridge. I like Story Bridge better.
The bridge is a cantilever construction, meaning that it functions by balancing and the southern pylon stops the bridge from typing forwards into the river. It’s also 80 metres from the top to the water and as I read in a newspaper clipping while I was waiting for my climb, a guy once flew a small plane beneath the bridge and was subsequently jailed for several months. What a nutter!
Onwards and Downwards..
After Alex’s tales of history and soaking up the best views in Brisbane from the top, we continued in our convict-esque line downwards. Again, at this point, I was definitely more comfortable and as we reached the middle of the bridge – a mere 20 or so metres above the road – I could tell my son was too. He was playfully kicking and punching me. In between the two large bridge arches we crossed over to the other side and got some more photos. More epic views!
From here we steadily made our way back up the other side of the arch and we saw two more groups in their various stages of ascent/descent. By this point in the afternoon, the sun was beginning to set and I thought it was indeed a good idea that my partner booked at this time. As you can see in the photos, the light is pretty ace! So we reached the top of the bridge once more and stopped for a short while before beginning our final descent.
I’ve seen a few things during my time in Brisbane, but the Story Bridge Adventure Climb definitely gave me a new perspective on and a new appreciation for Brisbane. There is really no place quite like it, as it has the best views in Brisbane, hands down. One final thing that I thought was pretty weird – when we were back at Story Bridge Adventure Climb HQ, getting out of our jumpsuits, I saw my boss about to do his climb. How’s that for timing?! Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe Brisbane still is a big country town!
Our Guide and Story Bridge Adventure Climb
I’ll straight up say our experience was ace. Alex our guide was assertive and spoke loudly and clearly to our group. He also had an excellent knowledge of Story Bridge and the surrounding area, which I was expecting from a guide. Nevertheless, he did a sterling job and at no point did I feel unsafe, uncertain and definitely not bored! In all, I definitely recommend an experience with Story Bridge Adventure Climb, 100%!
Of course, if you have a fear of heights, you’ll definitely be feeling some trepidation about experiencing a Story Bridge climb. However, I can just say with the safety harnesses and the guide, there is no chance you’ll fall or hurt yourself, particularly as the group maintains a steady pace.
If that doesn’t assuage your fear, my boss told me today at work that in his group, one girl left the group halfway up the first arch. She was able to walk across and join another group coming down. I guess it’s nice that you have the option but you certainly don’t want to miss out on the best views in Brisbane, but then again you want to feel comfortable. Your call!
This walk is not demanding as it’s on a gradual incline and decline and as I’ve mentioned, the group maintains a slow and steady pace. You also rest at points of interest. The hardest part fitness-wise, as your guide will tell you, is the scaffolding at the start. Even this is not difficult, unless you’re particularly unfit. If you have a heart condition, this might not be for you but you can ask Story Bridge Adventure Climb about that.
A Few Things to Know
- The Story Bridge Adventure Climb takes about 2 hours in all. This includes suiting up, instructions and getting to the bridge. The climb itself goes for about an hour and a half.
- You can pay extra to ‘walk the plank’ or lean off the edge if you’re particularly game. Book these in advance as I believe you need two instructors with these options.
- There are sunset and nighttime options to walk the bridge, which will give you a whole different experience.
- Photos are $30 for a package, which are digital images sent to you via email. You can opt to get shots just of yourself/your own group, or your entire group, or as I did, both.
- Story Bridge Adventure Climb is located near the Story Bridge Hotel, beneath the bridge. There’s parking nearby, but best get there early as the area can get busy.
- There are no toilets on the bridge but there are drinking fountains at the top of the scaffold, prior to your bridge climb. Best not to eat before your climb. You don’t want to chuck on the cars below!
Enjoy the best views in Brisbane!