A cool breeze blows and the rain-heavy clouds are hanging low from the darkened sky. The stars may have the night off this evening but the lights shining from every window are doing a marvellous job of bringing the city to life. And I’m on top of the world.

Okay, so I’m only on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or “the coathanger” as those irreverent locals call it. But I tell ya, with the most breathtaking view of the Opera House I’ve ever seen, it really feels like I’m on top of the world.

First we suited up, accessorising with handkerchiefs (in case you get snotty or teary), beanies, raincoats, fleece, headlamps and headphones.

The carabiner-like metal ball that harnesses you to the railing on the bridge weighs about a kilo alone so by the time you’re fully geared up, you’re carrying almost two kilos of extra weight.

Once everyone has been digi-snapped, Kat, our guide, gives us a few minutes more to take in the view while she regales us with interesting facts about the making of the bridge.

Did you know that the only man to survive a fall from the bridge had the soles of his shoes surgically removed from his feet afterwards?

Instead of walking to the other side of the coathanger, we walk across a steel plank to the other parallel side of the bridge. We stop in the middle and look down at the cars whizzing past.

A five cent coin dropping from this height on a car’s windshield would cause a serious accident. No wonder everything you have on you is lanyarded to your suit – no loose items are allowed on the climb (loose people, it seems, are fine though, phew).

The trek back down is much easier and we stop for more photo ops. On this side of the bridge you get to see the pretty lights of Luna Park and the suburbs of Balmain and Rozelle in the distance.

I have to say that pictures of traffic lights at night make for a more interesting and pretty photo than day ones. My arse muscles may be sore but I do my happy-dance to thank the bridge gods I did the climb at dusk. It’s the best time to climb.

At the end of the three-and-a-half hours I begin to wish that someone had invented a way to stop time because, dammit, it’s over just way too soon.

The damage & the details: BridgeClimbs ( cost from $179.

Sailing the Harbour

When the day of my introductory sailing course arrived, I was shitting myself. What the hell was I doing? I’d never sailed before. The closest I’d ever gotten to being on a yacht was watching the beginning of the Sydney to Hobart on telly at Christmas.

I hadn’t the first clue what I was doing. Visions of raging seas, capsized boats, and my sodden body floating out to sea with nothing but one of those floaty ring things for support filled my mind. It didn’t help that the sky was the colour of a nasty bruise.

Tom, our skipper, and the man to whom I was entrusting my life, assured me that this was perfect weather for learning to
sail – plenty of wind to keep us flying along, but not so much that we’d (meaning I) would have trouble handling it. As
for the clouds?

“At least we won’t get sunburnt,” was Tom’s reassurance.

Tom gave me a quick run-down on some of the main sailing terms (port, starboard, bow, mainsail, headsail, boom, sheets…). There must have been about 50 different words for “rope”, depending on where said rope was used.

Once we were out in the harbour, Tom hoisted the sails, handed the tiller (the thingy used to steer the boat) over to me. It took a bit of time to get used to the fact that when I pointed the tiller to the left (sorry, port), the yacht would head off to the right (sorry, starboard), but before long I was tacking my way back and forth, wind in my hair, spray on my face, and even the occasional bit of sunshine on my back.

Almost before I knew it the day was over. I was surprisingly tired (who would’ve thought sitting on your butt all day would be so exhausting), but as we unrigged the ship, and Tom was telling me to put out the fenders, unclip the clew from the forestay and haul the mainsheet, I realised that some of what he’d been telling me must have sunk in, because it no longer seemed like he was speaking in tongues.

I may have a long way to go before I’m the skipper of my own maxi to Hobart on Boxing Day, but at least I now know my keel from my spinnaker.

The damage & the details: three-hour sailing experiences with Sydney by Sail ( from $150.

I have to confess I’m not the most adventurous person in the world. Anything that involves excessive speed is viewed with extreme suspicion on my part, which is why I probably felt so at home in a kayak.

I was a little apprehensive at first, as i had images of negotiating the busy waterways under the Harbour Bridge and having confrontations with ferries, from which I was bound to come off second best. However, I discovered that we were instead heading north to explore Middle Harbour and stretches of water I never knew existed.

we paddled past the suburb of Seaforth, casting the occasional envious glance at the houses overlooking the ocean, and then we found ourselves surrounded on all sides by bush. Our guide told us that we were on Garigal National Park, and as we glided through I found it hard to believe that we were only

a few oar strokes away from the city – the tranquillity was unbelievable. Apparently this is how the whole harbour would have looked when the first fleet rocked up in 1788.

I also couldn’t believe how easy it was to “drive” these things. I’m also a little phobic about activities that involve excessive amounts of exertion, and I wasn’t sure how my arms and shoulders would hold up to several hours of paddling, but as it turned out the kayaks glided smoothly through the water with the very minimum of effort required on our part.

We stopped on a deserted beach for morning tea, and took the opportunity to take a quick bush walk to check out a nearby waterfall. The paddle back was just as peaceful as the outward trip. It was all too soon that we found ourselves back in the familiar surroundings of the Spit, and back to reality. MV

The damage & the details: four-hour tours with Sydney harbour Kayaks ( from $99.