From five star luxury to boutique cuteness, here's our edit of Sydney's best temporary digs.
The Old Clare Hotel is full of ghosts – not the Stephen King kind, but the ghosts of parties past. If you listen closely you can probably hear echoes of Brit pop reverb and dropped bass lines ricocheting off the mottled yellow tiles that still line the room. Thank God for heritage listings. We’re betting there are also trace elements of Jager bombs in the grout. But a whole new era has begun at the old Carlton Brewery site: where once was a temple to sticky carpeted uni shenanigans, now stands a vintage-styled cocktail bar beneath a slick boutique hotel, complete with rooftop pool.
For a taste of inner-city luxury, you can’t go past 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. A reception lounge channels mid-century Modern through the prism of contemporary design.
Tucked away at the back of The Kirketon is Eau de Vie, a bar that has taken the cocktail world by storm over the last 18 months, winning a swag of Time Out gongs for classical cocktails and refined, friendly service. Like the back bar, the hotel is similarly stylish in its design and more than impresses with its service and Darlinghurst location.
The Medusa is one of Sydney's original boutique hotels and to this day remains to this day one of the city's best, thanks primarily to love and attention proprietor Terry Schwamberg has given this huge Victorian terrace. You'll find early-2000 designed rooms that have retained their style, while the hotel is also pet friendly remarkably, one of the only boutique hotels that still is nowadays.
She's just gone through a $60 million facelift and the outcome is a Park Hyatt hotel that's up there with the world's best. The location on the harbour is unbeatable and the service is exceptional. Whether you head there for scrambled eggs, a gourmet burger or just a snack, the Dining Room must be done on any stay. Sure, the place has a $500 price tag, but if you want the ultimate Sydney experience where you have uninterrupted views of the Opera House from your bed then this is it.
Sydney's newest hotel has been worth the wait. Yes, it's in a casino and it's in Pyrmont, but don't hold that against the Darling, which is all about contemporary design and the latest in-room technology. The Darling boasts one of the city's best hotel pools and brilliantly, it's minus any kids which comes complete with poolside cocktail service. In the lobby, great classic cocktails are to be had, while The Star's top restaurants are just a skip away.
Tucked away down a back laneway, you'll have to forgive the cabbie when he needs GPS to find where you're supposed to be resting your head. Located at the back of the grand Establishment bar, Establishment Hotel is quite possibly Sydney's most underrated boutique hotel thanks to its stylish rooms, impeccable service, pure cotton linens and a fantastic concierge desk that really can get you whatever you want. Yes, even a finely crafted mojito in bed.
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 it’s The InterContinental Sydney Double Bay, back at its brilliant best after a huge renovation. There are 140 contemporary rooms and suites, a rooftop pool with cabanas, several restaurants, bars and retail spaces.
Just a few minutes down the hill from the action of the 'Cross is Vibe Rushcutters, a hotel that rates highly for its prime waterside Rushcutters Bay location a hop across the park from Sydney's home of sailing, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. You're also a two minute walk from Maurice Terzini's Neild Avenue restaurant and bar and don't be surprised if you take home the Vibe chillout CD that's playing when you walk into your designer room.
Travelling up and down the wide, brown land can be a lonely and exhausting experience. It's times like those when you need a no-frills hostel experience, with clean rooms and plenty of people in the same boat to share experiences and get really drunk with. Big Hostel is centrally located, reasonably priced and has all the facilities you require to transform all you travel blues into hazy and hungover memories.
No one would disagree when we say that Surry Hills is Sydney's core of cool. That's why Bounce Hostel's location in the Surry foothills, is perfection for the discerning glampacker (glamorous backpacker). Wander up to Crown Street for some vintage shopping and a peerless café latte or make your way to Oxford Street to see and be seen as you're cutting a rug or two. All this and more is within sauntering distance from Bounce's charming decor and agreeable room rates. The hostel is opposite Central Station so getting anywhere in Sydney or NSW is simplicity.
The Cambridge Lodge provides everything you need to have a grown-up hostel experience. The unique location provides access to the super-cool trend centres Newtown and Enmore, while also being close to some of the city's best outlying dining districts like the Petersham and Leichhardt. The hostel itself is housed in a big old building that has the feel of a country manor. Having all this only a speedy train ride away from Sydney’s CBD means that the Cambridge Lodge is perfect for those who want to see Sydney in a new and different light.
With its friendly, laid-back atmosphere and reputation for being very clean and quiet (rare for a backpackers’ hostel in this neighbourhood), Eva’s has rightfully gained a following. There are twin, double and dorm rooms, some en suite, some with airconditioning. Extras include free breakfast, a kitchen, a laundry room with free washing powder, wake-up calls, luggage storage facilities, broadband internet access and a rooftop terrace and barbecue area with fabulous views over Sydney.
With so much of Sydney’s backpacker accommodation squeezed into one or two inner-city suburbs, choosing a place to stay can feel a little arbitrary. The Glebe Village offers a whole new experience to those who are a little jaded the same-old, same-old approach of other hostels. Only a short distance from the centre of town, Glebe, with its cafés, bars and vintage markets, offers travellers the perfect opportunity to live and breath like a local. With all the comforts of your average hostel and the added benefits of a boutique B’n’B, the Glebe Village makes for a truly different backpacking experience.
Established in 1980, this sprawling hostel in a Victorian mansion may look a little on the lived-in side, but it has plenty of character – not to mention lots of extras such as a lovely spacious courtyard, free bed linen and towels, 24-hour check-in and $10 airport pick-up (very welcome after spending a day on an aeroplane). There are single, double and family rooms as well as ten-person dorms, some of which are women-only. Most bathroom facilities are shared but all well maintained. There’s usually something going on in the courtyard, whether it’s karaoke or an Aussie barbie. The kitchen is big and modern, with food lockers, and there are laundry facilities available as well.
The largest of the YHA properties in Sydney, this place has it all. Deep breath: kitchen, laundry, separate games, dining and TV rooms, high-speed internet terminals, mini supermarket, café, underground bar and a rooftop pool, sauna and barbecue area with panoramic city views. Popular activities include pub crawls, big-screen movie nights and walking tours. All of this is housed in an imposing, heritage-listed building opposite Central Station. There are around 50 twin rooms, some en suite, and dorms that sleep up to eight. There are also disabled-adapted rooms.
Nestled comfortably in the middle of Sydney's historic district, the Rocks, Sydney Harbour YHA is the new kid on the block as far as hostels are concerned. And what a kid! The hostel is fitted with airconditioning, barbecue and internet. The thing to really write home about, however, is the view from the rooftop terrace of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House – wow barely covers it. The hostel is surrounded by colonial pubs and is only a short trip via public transport to the city's premier nightlife areas.
This YHA hostel, built in a former parcels shed, is very near its Central counterpart the Sydney Central YHA. The design incorporates a real disused railway platform, with some dorms housed in replicas of train carriages (very Harry Potter) with bathrooms in the main building adjacent. Most dorms have between four and eight beds, and there are a couple of en-suite double rooms. It’s clean and bright, with a large open-plan communal area dotted with sofas, a sizeable kitchen, laundry facilities and an internet café. Mod cons include a fun small spa pool and airconditioning. It’s very popular, so book ahead. Disabled-adapted rooms. No smoking. Pool (outdoor). Restaurant. TV (DVD/TV room). City Rail/LightRail Central. Rates $31-$39.50 dorm; $97 private. Rooms 65. Credit MC, V.