“ LANDMARK BUILDING. At nearly 305m (1000 ft), this is the second tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (the tallest being "Auckland's tower, approx. 24m taller). But...Sydney's AMP Tower has the highest "observation deck". An a „
Sydney CBD is quite densely populated with lots of tall buildings, so to get any sort of view you really need some height. Sydney Tower provides this quite nicely in the form of an observation deck at 819 feet (250m) up. The tower stretches a total of 1000 feet (304m) with the space above the people deck occupied by a 162 000 litre water tank that steadies the building on windy days and topped off with an antenna. A popular attraction for tourists, the tower has 3 main sections:
1. THE TOWER ITSELF
You can go up the tower, which is good. Not much point in spending US $25 million and 6 years building something that tall if you cant charge people for going up it. Tickets are on the high side of moderately priced: adults cost $23.50 (~ 10GBP) and kids, students and seniors between $14 and $17.50 (~ 6 GBP 8 GBP) but this price includes the tower and the Oz Trek experience (below). The tower is open from 9am until late, and though I quite fancied seeing the skyline at dusk, the price persuaded me to go up during the day to have an excellent view of miles around. I went up during my second week here which, with hindsight, might have been a mistake as I was still new to the place and wasnt really sure what I was seeing out of each of the windows which way Bondi was, whether I could see my (temporary) home, what that great expanse of water was. But since most tourists dont stay here for months like Im doing, I suppose I had the same experience that most people get.
Lifts take approximately 40 seconds to travel to the top, and these were a rather fun experience as no member of staff travels with you as they do in some other locations. Instead, they press the button for you when the lift is as packed as possible, and jump back as the doors slide semi-shut. I say semi because on the way down we noticed some small gaps between the doors and between the side and the floor of the lift. These werent small enough to drop anything down, or trap a toe or finger in, but they were still quite alarming as no one in the lift could work out whether it was supposed to be like that.
The observation deck at the top is very large and can accommodate, along with the restaurants, almost 1000 people at any one time. We went midday on a Saturday in September and it was busy but not unpleasant, with probably a hundred or so people milling around. This level has binoculars (for hire for a few dollars) and a gift shop which had an excellent selection including some unique items Im yet to find elsewhere. One of these was on my mothers bring back from Australia wish list so I snatched it up on the assumption if I never saw it anywhere else Id have to come back up the tower to fetch it prior to heading back to the UK. Prices were the same as in any other shop, including the Chinese Tourist Empires that litter the streets, so I didnt feel ripped off the way you often do when buying from attraction gift shops.
Below the observation deck there are two layers of restaurants and a coffee lounge where we had lunch. There was a very limited selection, the food was a bit stale and prices were high, but having a window seat with that view was worth it. The other two restaurants revolve and as such you can sit there and watch the world go by if youre willing to pay through the nose for it. These restaurants book up ages in advance, and even the buffet one would be outside my budget, but for those who can afford them they are supposed to be worth it for the scenery and the cuisine evidently they direct anyone with talent down to those two, with the coffee lounge having whatever remnants are left behind.
2. OZ TREK
I think they include entry to OzTrek with the price of your tower ticket because its not the sort of thing people would pay for separately. Located on the entry level across the lobby from the lifts it is the largest simulated ride in the southern hemisphere and the only one of its kind in Australia. They like to say that here hoping youll fail to notice there isnt that much else actually in the southern hemisphere in terms of major tourist attractions. The ride starts with a small safety video, and then you experience a virtual adventure across Australias cultural history and geography where diverse Australian landscapes are brought to life with a unique integration of 3D holographic technology, animated models and scenic art. It is as bad as it sounds, and yet you feel you have to go because youve paid for it. Im not even going to try to describe it, so heres the rest of the blurb:
You start your OzTrek journey soaring like a sea eagle above Sydneys icons, gliding effortlessly over the Bridge, Opera House and the warm sands of Bondi beach; feel the exhilaration of white water rafting down a tropical Queensland river; take a mark on the field at a game of Aussie Rules Football; muster wild buffalos by helicopter in the Outback and get right into the jaws of a huge saltwater crocodile! Your OzTrek journey excites the senses with its 180-degree cinema screens, special effects with sensational surround sound and heart-stopping real-motion seating! This ensures your virtual Australian tour is a fun addition to your Sydney visit and it should not be missed.
Youre shepherded through in groups, so we got to see other peoples reactions to this. A lot of the Japanese tourists didnt seem to understand the commentary so spent the whole time snapping pictures of the fake outback you walk through, and the little puppet-theatre-style scenery the holograms appear in. We also has some little kids with us they seemed to be the ones who really enjoyed it although one memorable little girl spent the whole of the time telling her obviously weekend-only mother that she absolutely, positively had to go to the toilet this instant. Probably used to weekday nannies taking care of things like this, the mother decided to risk it and we spent the last 10 minutes watching the big screen adventure (with those chairs that move and rock and make you feel like youre right there) with one eye which keeping the other one on the two of them to see how the story unfolded. We lost them in the mad scramble for the door when it finished, but came across them moments later in the ladies loos where the little darling was sporting a rather dubious stain on her pale pink trousers.
OzTrek just reeks of an in-your-face, Americanised approach to tourism. I just checked the visitor feedback and it includes a comment from a girl from NYC saying Very fun tour and ride which I think proves my point adults have to be on a different wave length to love this, and the ones more likely to be so are the typical American travellers, doing Australia the way they do Europe, spending as much time on their whole trip as I would in one city, and fitting in as many dreadful, tacky stops as possible. It reminded me very much of a whirlwind tour of America I did in Baltimore like low- budget Disney.
The newest attraction at the tower opened a few weeks after we went. Cashing in on the success of their rival, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, Skywalk offers an exhilarating outdoor walk 260 m above the city. Its a little more than that, though. You also get to model high fashion protective clothing (like bridge climb) and snazzy safety harnesses (ditto). The kindly inform you in their marketing that their walk takes place at a height twice that of the Harbour Bridge and at the same height as the Eiffel Tower. You get 360 views of the city, but really you get that on the observation deck too, and though the latter is enclosed, the glass has very little impact on the quality of photos that can be taken. Skywalk takes 1.5 hours and costs between $109 and $139 (about 45 65 GBP) so it doesnt come cheap, but evidently lots of people think its worth doing since they run trips all day every day.
The tower is located in the middle of the CBD, very near Hyde Park and within walking distance of both Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. The entrance is located in a small shopping centre, but the neighbouring streets house much better retail opportunities. If you look down from the tower and see a building that is adorned with mouldy green midget gems, thats the QVB, or Queen Victoria Building which is an old arcade with some nice place to spend money. Failing that, Myer and David Jones (the big 2 department stores) and Pitt St Mall are close by the latter has an amazing food court.
Sydney Tower is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. Oooh, sounds fancy and like something out of Star Trek, dont you think? I did, until I discovered that Blackpool Tower is also a member of said club. I like views, but I also like to climb things, and unfortunately the only way to gain access to the 1504 stairs that lead up the tower is to tackle them head on and sign up for the annual tower run-up (its been done in under 7 minutes. That scares me). Despite the compulsory lift usage, however, going up the tour is a must. The views are fantastic on a clear day (and since youll know the weather before you go up, so you can always postpone if its cloudy). The tower is very well managed and queues when we went were not long the only bottle neck was the metal detector for bags and bodies, which interestingly didnt squawk at me belt the way airport ones do. You can easily spend an hour up the tower, and another 30 mins trekking Oz in OzTrek, so you do get something for your money. Comparing it to other towers Ive been up the twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, The Empire State Building, Berlins Fernsehturm and, yes, Blackpool tower, this is by no means the worst. Given the lack of alternative viewing platforms in Sydney, a visit here is a must, just try and keep clear of any incontinent children with inexperienced mothers.
For the tower and the walk (opening times, prices, getting there, background info)
Also in the area
For local transport information
The Sydney Tower is probably as famous a landmark in Sydney as that bridge and that opera house! Sitting on top of the Westfield Centrepoint shopping complex and reaching quite literally for the skies, it is visible right across the city and for miles beyond. Construction of the shopping centre began in 1970 with the first stores opening in 1972. The Tower itself was built later and opened to the public in 1981 and provides the highest Observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. At first glance, the 305 metre tall edifice doesnt look that safe; the Tower is narrow in its reach upwards, with the decks looking almost too large to be stable at the top. It is, however, one of the safest constructions in the world and could withstand earthquakes and extreme wind conditions! The tower is held in place/stabilised by fifty-six cables that each weighs a hefty seven tonnes. Apparently if you laid all the fibres in the cables end-to-end they would stretch from Sydney to New Zealand. Also aiding in the stability of the construction is a 162,000-litre water tank right at the very top. This tank is also the Towers primary damping-system should the worst ever happen and there are also 1504 stairs from top to bottom. These are monitored by surveillance cameras and provide an emergency exit from the Tower. There are also countless sprinklers and the whole kit and caboodle far exceeds normal building standards. Why am I telling you guys all this? Because despite having conquered my fear of heights in Melbourne by ascending to the Observation Deck fifty-five floors up Rialto Tower, I was still more than a little dubious at scaling something much taller. The sheer distance to the ground, should something go wrong, did worry me so I studied the tourist literature available VERY carefully before I took the plunge and decided to give it a go! Sydney Tower is accessed either by walking through the Centrepoint shopping centre and following the escalat
ors upwards, or directly from Market Street where a lift takes you the 3 floors up to the PODIUM LEVEL. On this level there is a gift shop, the entrance to the "Skytour Experience", the Tower lifts and the ticket office. Pricing when I went in February 2003 was around A$19 per adult but most tourist brochures offer vouchers that allow a 20% discount; my ticket cost A$15.80. This ticket does cover admissions to both the Tower and the aforementioned Skytour, but more about that later! On the day I went there were no queues as it was mid-week and the longest wait I had was for a lift to take me up the Tower. I have to admit to being more than a little bit nervous as I stood awaiting the elevator. The lifts are surprisingly small and wedge shaped, they are build to all slot together around the central shape of the tower. It took around 40 seconds to ascend to the OBSERVATION DECK, the ride was beautifully smooth (although my ears did pop) and was far better than the express elevator that took me up Rialto Tower when I wanted to go back down and retrieve my stomach! The observation deck is number FOUR of the levels at the top of the Tower and as such is as far up as the public can go. Stepping out of the lift I made my way to the windows and WOW what a view! The windows stretch from floor to ceiling and slope slightly downwards (they are further out at the top than the bottom) which in reality gave me a very weird, almost stomach churning feeling. What I mean is that when you look down, you are literally looking STRAIGHT down. The panorama is fully 360 degrees but due to other buildings being in the way the Opera House is NOT visible although it says in all the literature that you read about the place that it is. But, who cares! The view is breath taking and on a clear day like I had the pleasure of, you can see for miles. Fixed and most importantly FREE binoculars are spaced around the entire circumference and allow for close-ups of the dis
tant sights. The harbour, to the north and east looks splendid from this height and clearly visible are all the little yachts and other sailing craft on the water as well as Manly in the further distance. The Harbour Bridge is also clearly visible in the panoramic view north. Looking South you can see as far as Botany Bay and beyond with the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) amongst other structures that can be seen. The view to the west stretches as far as Paramatta and shows clearly how far the conurbation has sprawled. Friendly staff members are on hand to answer any questions you may have at the information desk and FREE guided tours are also available to tell you all about exactly what you can see. As I wandered around the windows I kept one ear on the tour that was in progress; you really dont need the tour to work out what is what on the horizon, there are clear labelled photographs for each of the four main compass points. When youve had your fill of the spectacular scene that is laid out in front of you there is a gift shop to browse around with prices to match the high level you are on! Toilets are also available, the cubicles, like the lifts are built around the Towers centre and so are a bit of an odd shape! Via a curved staircase you can descend from the Observation Deck to the COFFEE SHOP and BAR located on level THREE. Serving great hot and cold drinks as well as good quality snack food it has to have the best views of any café in the world! Both the drinks and food were being sold at what I would describe as slightly over-inflated prices, but Sydney does tend to be an expensive place anyway. Levels ONE and TWO are where you will find the SYDNEY TOWER RESTAURANTS. Said to be the largest in central Sydney I cannot comment on either of them, as I didnt have the privilege of high-rise dining. Only open at night they run on a reservation only basis and therefore the Tower lifts completely bypass them on the way up and down
the Tower. As I have already said, the Observation Deck is only one part to this remarkable feat of engineering. When I had had my fill of the view it was time to get back in the lift and head for part two of the deal; the SKYTOUR EXPERIENCE. The entrance to this is back down on the Podium level and does involve a small amount of waiting around, as there is around a 10 minute gap between each "expedition" (show). Once inside youre led to the ORIENTATION CAMPSITE, which is the first of FOUR "pre-shows". This is really nothing exciting as it is merely an introduction to the rest of the experience. From here you go into the next room, the EXPEDITION TENT. Lit only by small lamps you take your seats, pop on a headset, close your eyes and listen to yarns from the early European settlers. From here it is on to the DISCOVERY CHAMBERS. Here your guides are in holographic form and take you on a quick tour through four unique Australian landscapes with the aid of scenic art and animated models. This part was quite interesting and was even more so when we all discovered that the auditorium you are sat in moves! From here you walk through the VIRTUAL CAVE, which is climatically controlled to simulate real caves. There are replicas here of Aboriginal rock etchings and photographs are permitted. This is the final pre-show and from here you move on to the piece-de-resistance, THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN EXPEDITION RIDE. Real motion seats, which you are secured into "roller-coaster" style, face a 180-degree screen. The "movie" shown takes you on a journey across this vast country and with the accompanying sound effects coupled with the fact that your seat moves A LOT, it was a hair-raising ride at times! This part of the show really does take audience participation to a whole new level… We all came out of the auditorium asking if we could go round again! So thats it and as you can see there is far more t
han initially meets the eye with the Sydney Tower. Im glad Ive been up it, but still not entirely sure if I would repeat the experience. The view from the Observation Deck is nothing short of spectacular but the effect from the sloping glass a little disconcerting! I was glad I hadnt chosen this particular structure with which to try and cure my phobia of heights, I may well have come down a gibbering wreck! I recommend this to anyone who isnt afraid of heights but please pick a clear day to ascend. From the hostel I stayed in the Tower was clearly visible and on one memorable evening we watched the fog roll in from the sea and the cloud descend until all that was left of the Tower was the bottom third. I would NOT have liked to be on any of the levels up there when that happened. Must have been eerie to say the least…. ~ CONTACT DETAILS ~ Sydney Tower and Skytour Podium Level 100 Market Street Sydney NSW 2000 Tel – (02) 9223 0933 One Australian Dollar = approximately 35 pence.
""LANDMARK BUILDING. At nearly 305m (1000 ft), this is the second tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (the tallest being "Auckland's tower, approx. 24m taller). But...Sydney's AMP Tower has the highest "observation deck". An a""