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Photograph: Supplied/George Apostolidis

The best luxury hotels in Sydney

Head to these high-end hotels when only Egyptian cotton sheets and 24-hour butler service will do

Maxim Boon
Alex Floyd-Douglass
Written by
Maxim Boon
Contributor
Alex Floyd-Douglass
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Who needs far-flung destinations when you can have world-class staycations right here at home? You don't need to leave Sydney to find astonishing accommodation where you can get your glam on for an evening or two. To guide you in your search for the temporary high life, we’ve road-tested five-star spa hotels overlooking the city and boutique offerings that provide proximity to a wild night on the town and the city's best attractions.

Want a rustic retreat without slumming it? Sleep under the fanciest canvas in these luxury glamping locations.

Sydney's best luxury hotels

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  • Sydney

This is Kimpton’s first Australian outpost and it heroes the same mix of luxury and pragmatism showcased at its hotels in Barcelona, London, Tokyo and San Francisco, to name just a few of the 75 locations the group boasts worldwide. Rather than simply leaning into the luxe, there’s a real understanding of the little details tourists actually care about, like the option to bring their pets along on their vaycay – and all species are welcome “as long as they can fit in the lift”, we kid you not. Fitness and wellness are both high priorities at Kimpton establishments, and guests can take advantage of the rooftop lap pool, the expansive gym and the yoga studio in the basement, or for a more secluded stretch, an on-demand yoga tutorial via the in-room tablet – yoga mats are available upon request from reception. 

Time Out tip: Make sure you book in for the bottomless brunch at the hotel's in-house fine dining restaurant, Luke's Kitchen.

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  • Barangaroo

Boasting 14 dining venues (nine of which are already online with the others due to open in the coming months), a world-class spa complete infrared sauna and a 37-degree ‘vitality pool’, state-of-the-art fitness facilities including a waterfront yoga terrace, a luxurious lido with an infinity pool and private cabanas, and black-label retail outlets, it's best not to think of Crown as a hotel, but rather a luxury cruise ship, permanently docked in Barangaroo. 

Time Out tip: Opt for a Harbour facing room for iconic views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

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  • Sydney

Located in the heart of Sydney's CBD, the Fullerton is a five-star hotel that oozes luxury throughout its walls. From opulent rooms featuring flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and coffee machines – along with bathrobes and free toiletries in the ensuite bathroom – to the fully equipped fitness centre and spa, this luxury Sydney hotel has it all. Keen on an easy but delicious meal? Head to the on-site restaurant to enjoy a fusion of modern Australian and Southeast Asian cuisine – along with handcrafted cocktails that pack a punch. Bottoms up!

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  • Darling Harbour

This 590-room five-star beauty is Sydney’s first luxury hotel built in the CBD (central business district) since 1999. Splash out on one of the corner rooms with a view of Darling Harbour. The bedroom has a long wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, but the bathroom has one of the best views in the city with sheer glass on two sides. Enjoy a long soak while watching the city buzz by at its regular frantic pace.

Time Out tip: You’ll want to spend some time in the infinity pool, which juts out dramatically over Darling Harbour. 

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  • Dawes Point

Every room in this beautifully restored finger wharf in Walsh Bay is unique, but one thing you can guarantee is that your stay will be a high-luxe affair from start to finish. Be sure to book in for a meal at the hotel's in-house restaurant The Gantry, one of the most highly regarded eateries in Sydney. In search of a posh stay with your pooch? Pier One has special wharf-facing suites designed specifically with puppy parents in mind.

Time Out tip: Never done the Bridge Climb? Fix that. Locals leave just as gobsmacked as tourists after they enjoy views from its summit. Climbs run every day of the year.

The Langham Sydney
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  • Millers Point

For old-world opulence, the Langham is the place to be. Friday afternoons are reserved for tea, scones and petit fours – a fixture of the hotel since 1865. With the charm and ruffled curtains of a boutique hotel, but the class and glamour of an international institution, the Langham will have you feeling like a royal with its plush suites, panelled walls (for real) and sumptuous, velvet furnishings – and that's before you set your sights on the Observatory Suite's ornate, gilded fireplace.

Time Out tip: The otherworldly Roman bathhouse-style indoor pool is waiting for you downstairs, so be sure to stop in for a splash.

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QT Sydney
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  • Sydney

For a taste of inner-city luxury, you can’t beat QT Sydney. It packs 200 individualised rooms, a day spa (spaQ), men’s barber, two bars, a café and restaurant into the heritage-listed Gowings building – and still feels boutique rather than behemoth. They’ve themed the place around the full-service men’s department stores of the ’50s and ’60s, from vintage American barber shop chairs to the Hammam-inspired steam room.

Time Out tip: When you wake up, head downstairs to Parlour Lane Roasters. 

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  • The Rocks

The jaw-dropping, close-up vista of both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge is a major selling point, but you get what you pay for (and that's a lot) – the cheaper rooms offer just glimpses of what the more expensive suites have framed through their windows. A recent refurbishment has transformed the top-end suites into über-minimalist apartment-style hangouts. Extras include a rooftop swimming pool, deluxe spa and much-vaunted 24-hour butler service.

Time Out tip: The Park Hyatt’s minimally named bar the Bar makes some of the best cocktails you can find by the water; and definitely the best club sandwich.

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  • The Rocks

The hotel was extensively renovated in 2015 with a fresh palette of gold and silver and specially commissioned carpets and artworks. A spectacular chandelier made of three brass rings hangs in the atrium of Horizon Club and can be seen from many points on the foreshore, fulfilling the architect’s original vision of the building as a ‘lighthouse’. The rooms evoke classic luxury with marble bathrooms and the largest windows of any of the city’s harbourfront hotels. 

Time Out tip: Take a stroll through the beautiful waterfront Barangaroo Reserve just to the west of the hotel.

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  • Double Bay

There are 140 contemporary rooms and suites, a rooftop pool with cabanas, several restaurants, bars and retail spaces. In its previous iterations, it hosted US presidents, our own Prime Ministers (Bob Hawke famously ran through the area in budgie smugglers), Princess Diana and, sadly, Michael Hutchence on the last night of his life. Now the InterContinental Sydney Double Bay is at its brilliant best after a huge renovation. 

Time Out tip: Walk along New South Head Road to the Murray Rose Pool, a harbour beach and large swimming enclosure that’s ripe for a dip any time of year.

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  • Darling Harbour

Australia’s largest hotel, overlooking Darling Harbour, recently upgraded 649 of its guestrooms and 17 of its suites (just over three-quarters of its occupancy), giving them a chic new look with a subtle nautical vibe inspired by its waterfront setting. The interiors are sleek and streamlined, unquestionably luxe yet minimalist in their classic, uncluttered finishes; think mid-century modern meets executive retreat with just a touch of superyacht chic. Other facilities include a 24-hour fitness centre, underground parking, state-of-the-art meeting spaces for events and access to Hyatt's e-concierge service.

Time Out tip: should you want a few extra bells and whistles, you can upgrade to one of the rooms on floor 11, which grants guests access to the Regency Club lounge – a comfy retreat with complimentary drinks, canapés, and breakfast options away from the busier public spaces elsewhere in the hotel.

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  • Mosman

Taronga has taken bold strides into the luxury accommodation market with its purpose-built 62-room Retreat. This complex of sleek, timber-clad lodges encircling a private bushland garden full of native fauna is a fusion of elegant sophistication and sustainable design, where wildlife and the high life exist side by side.

Time Out tip: the average stay is just a single night, but a longer stay grants you unlimited access to the zoo.

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  • Darling Harbour

You know you're in a swanky hotel when the menus extend to the bedding. You're sure to get a good night's sleep here with 400-thread Egyptian cotton sheets and a hand-picked pillow menu, so you can find a neck height that's just right. Even the name sounds posh – The Darling – and they make sure that's reflected in every inch beyond the bed, too, from the textured wallpaper and bespoke furniture to the eucalyptus-scented pool.

Time Out tip:  Just downstairs from The Darling, in the same complex you’ll find Sokyo Japanese restaurant, where chef Chase Kojima serves up some of the best sushi and sashimi in the city.

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  • Luxury hotels
  • Woolloomooloo

There’s a cute little pool here for the lap-swimming inclined and plenty of rooms have harbour views. Book into one of two Insta-worthy, 70s-referencing ‘Rockstar Suites’, which have harbour views, eccentric neon lighting, hammock nooks and round, marble bars.

Time Out tip: The Ovolo is right next to one of Sydney’s loveliest walks. Wander around the finger wharf to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, then head through the Royal Botanic Garden to the Opera House.

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  • Darling Harbour

Our CBD is not like Melbourne’s. There you expect the laneways to be teeming with small bars and boutique hotels for a double dose of whimsy when you’re staying in the heart of the city. In Sydney, it’s a different story, which is why it’s surprising that they’ve managed to create such an intimate feel at the new West Hotel Sydney, a boutique accommodation project from Hilton down amongst Barangaroo’s new towers.

Time Out tip: There’s a beautiful rooftop bar at Barangaroo House that is extremely popular with locals. 

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  • Sydney
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This five-star apart-hotel was recently crowned Best Technology Hotel at the HM Awards, but far from being crammed with gimmicky gadgets, a combination of savvy restraint and intelligent design has delivered plenty of bells and whistles without overwhelming the overall experience.

Time Out tip: Test drive the mood lighting in the pool, where you can also stream your own music via the integrated sound system.

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  • Palm Beach
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Money might not buy you a lifetime of happiness, but it will certainly achieve it in the short term if you use it to book a weekend escape at Jonah’s at Whale Beach. It's a famous romantic getaway for Sydneysiders who want to soak their troubles away in a spa bath that has sightlines out to the ocean. 

Time Out tip: Arrange a private sail with Taylor Made Escapes, who will take you out on the high seas with a heartily stuffed picnic hamper and a bottle of Bollinger bubbly. Landlubbers might prefer to stay put and cruise the award-winning whopper of a wine list instead.

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