Most visitors to Sydney stay in the central business district (or CBD), which is characterized by narrow streets, shabby skyscrapers, and two famous landmarks: the bridge and the opera house. It’s a convenient base from which to explore Australia’s harbor city, but there are drawbacks, too: The area is congested during the day and largely deserted at night, and downtown drinking and dining options are limited. Now, with visitor numbers at record levels, hoteliers have started opening stylish properties in different parts of the city, giving travelers the chance to experience Sydney like a local. Here are five of the most impressive places to stay.
The Old Clare Hotel
For decades, Sydney’s bohemians and university students congregated at a grungy pub called The Clare. Now, the premises and a building next door have been joined together and repurposed as the city’s most striking boutique hotel. The 62-room property is in Chippendale, a rapidly evolving neighborhood to the south of the CBD that is also home to the University of Technology Sydney (the only institution in Australia to boast a building by Frank Gehry). There are three restaurants, each helmed by a chef of international repute, plus a sleek gym and a rooftop pool. A day spa will open in 2016.
Pullman Olympic Park
The 2000 Olympics brought world-class sporting facilities to Sydney, but few visitors know that a five-star hotel was built near the stadium in the years following the games. The area, now known as Olympic Park, is unsurprisingly known for its sports, entertainment, and conference venues. The Pullman rates highly thanks to its large and well-appointed rooms, flawless service, and knockout views of the Sydney skyline. There’s an impressive on-site gym, and guests have free access to the pools, spas, and saunas at the enormous Sydney Aquatic Center next door. The Pullman is also considerably cheaper than comparable hotels in the CBD.
InterContinental Double Bay
It’s just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Sydney, but the affluent harborside enclave of Double Bay retains a sedate atmosphere thanks to its leafy residential streets and understated yet chic boutiques. This newly branded InterContinental property was for many years a stately Ritz-Carlton hotel; its renovated common areas pair old-fashioned decor (the brass-plated elevators are wonderfully retro) with contemporary flourishes. The rooms are plush and spacious, and many have balconies with views out toward the harbor. The rooftop pool and adjoining bar are the best places to spot celebrity guests, while the main-level lounge and restaurant buzz on weekends with locals.
Two decades since it began to gentrify, Surry Hills—with its steep streets and old industrial buildings—remains one of Sydney’s most fashionable locales, stuffed with trendsetting eateries, media and tech startups, and glamorous loft apartments. So when 57 opened this year in a corner of the neighborhood that once housed garment wholesalers, it immediately became the hotel of choice for savvy visitors. The property is geared toward young professionals, with affordable rooms but plenty of included extras such as in-house movies and coffee and pastries. Nearby, Central Station provides rail links to all parts of the city.
Cross the Harbour Bridge and drive north along the coast for an hour to reach this elegant city-fringe property, on a hill overlooking the water. With just four guest suites and one large communal area, Pretty Beach House feels more like a wealthy friend’s weekend residence than a hotel. There’s champagne in the fridge, original artwork by the likes of Sidney Nolan on the walls, and a roaring fireplace for the winter months. The suites come equipped with plunge pools, cashmere throws, and turntables for playing the in-house vinyl collection. The secluded setting will make you feel far removed from Sydney, but hop on a chartered seaplane and you can be back in the center of town in 20 minutes.