You can hear water lapping beneath the floorboards of this boutique hotel, inhabiting a 1912 pier just west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is where ferry passengers used to wait to cross the harbor before the bridge was built. A hotel was first constructed in 1999, taking care to preserve the original pier pilings and steel support beams, incorporating them into hallways and guestrooms. Today, Pier One is a 198-room beauty that’s part of Marriot’s Autograph collection of unique properties. Co-owner Ruth Magid put extra love into the 18 sunny suites, which she designed like waterfront apartments. Some feature modern globe lights juxtaposed against the original wood-beam rafters, as well as brass sink basins, twin rain showers with side jets, and egg-shaped tubs. Two balcony suites take guests eye-to-eye with the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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A collection of old finger wharves turned into artists studios and lofts, Walsh Bay is a cultural hub just west of the Rocks precinct. It’s the city’s best area for dance and theater, thanks to the Sydney Theatre Company , which has cast the likes of Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and even Mel Gibson. Guests should start their day with a coffee at the Bar at the End of the Wharf, and continue with a slow-paced walk or bike ride to gain new perspectives on the harbor and its famous bridge. For visitors who've seen enough of the neighborhood, the hotel’s private pontoon can ferry people from Pier One across the harbor, just as Sydneysiders have been doing for more than a century.
Need to Know
Rooms: 180 rooms, 18 suites; from $250. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: In November 2014, a new paddock-to-plate restaurant debuted with an open kitchen, central bar island, and outdoor seating to take advantage of western sunsets—which are best enjoyed with a barrel-aged cocktail in hand. Spa and gym details: Pier One houses a small gym as well as an exclusive bike rental station. There’s no spa on-site, but bathrooms come with deep soaking tubs and organic Appelles Apothecary products. The Park Hyatt spa nearby is open to the public.
Who's it best for: Design-savvy travelers who are most comfortable on the water. Our favorite rooms: All the suites are gorgeous, but the Harbourview Balcony Suite on Level 2 boasts an over-water succulent-studded corner terrace that looks up at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Festival fun: Pier One is an ideal home base for the Sydney Writers Festival in May. Old wharf warehouses are transformed into lecture stages, comedy theaters, and reading lounges. Around the same time, the Harbour Bridge projects colorful light installations for a few weeks during the Vivid Sydney festival.