Sydney went through a big hotel boom in preparation for the Olympics way back in 2000 and since then has not added many big new hotels. But there have been plenty of refurbishments and re-brandings of larger properties. Plus, a handful of smaller properties have recently opened in and around Central Business District or “the CBD” as Sydneysiders refer to their downtown area.
I recently flew down to Australia from San Francisco to check out QANTAS’ new business class on its 747 SFO-SYD nonstops (here’s my Trip Report about that!). While I was there, I tried to see as many new business class hotels as I could for this report. I saw six and stayed at two of them. You know what’s nice? I discovered that due to the strength of the US dollar, you currently can snag a really nice, new 4-5 star hotel in Sydney for less than US$300 per night– that would have been unheard of a couple years ago before the US dollar’s ascent.
Keep reading to find out about an art deco gem in an old water works building, another in the executive offices of a brewery, a Starwood property poised to become Australia’s largest hotel, plus a great value in a converted mid-century mod office tower.
At TravelSkills, we love new hotels. They smell better, work better, feel better, and are usually bigger, brighter and hipper than others. But new can also have its downside: Construction noise, service issues, and/or locations in sketchy or “upcoming” neighborhoods unfamiliar to cab or car drivers. Some are so new that TripAdvisor reviews are scant compared to more established hotels. In an ongoing feature, TravelSkills reports on the newest hotels in the world’s most important cities. When we say “newest” we have certain criteria around that: The hotels have to be brand new or deeply renovated within the last few years, 3+ stars and appropriate venues for business travel. See all our new hotels features here.
The 280-room Tank Stream Hotel opened in November 2015 in a converted a 1960’s style, 15-story office building in the heart of the city’s financial district and just two blocks from Circular Quay on Sydney Harbour. It’s just a block from the Wynyard train station for easy airport access. The unusual name for this 4-star hotel comes from the natural springs running underneath the building, the source of fresh water when Sydney was first settled. Today, guided tours of The Tank Stream are conducted by Sydney Water as it is now part of the storm water system.
During my stint in Sydney, I stayed here three nights and found the hotel super-convenient, clean, quiet and a very good value- depending on demand, rates start at less than US$200 per night. Rooms are small (about 200 square feet) but efficiently designed with desks, closets and bathrooms all within close proximity– perfectly fine for a single traveler but might be tight for two.
The best rooms are on floors 13, 14, and 15—they are bigger and brighter with king size beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and some even have views of Sydney Harbour bridge (ask for one!). Rooms to avoid are the handful of interior shaft-facing rooms versus a street view rooms– double paned windows throughout mean that street noise is not an issue.
I really like the hotel’s all-inclusive pitch to business travelers– there are no hidden charges or extras—the reasonable rate includes: wi-fi (superfast with a router in every room), minibar (no booze), Nespresso machine including coffee and milk, 42” TV with 20 Cable TV channels and a range of free “on demand” movies. A hot, hearty breakfast buffet is available in the hotel restaurant, Le Petit Flot (pictured above), for US$18.00.
Don’t miss: Ryan’s Bar inAustralia Square across the street from the hotel entrance—an open-air, wildly popular and social hotspot for professional men and women descending from office towers nearby on Friday afternoons.
Sprouting up in Chippendale, a rough-and-tumble yet up-and-coming neighborhood near Sydney’s Central Station is the 62-room Old Clare Hotel. Even though I did not have a chance to stay there, this hotel made the biggest impression on me because it’s so unusual, yet possesses key features business travelers love such as a central location near transportation, big, bright, clean rooms, free wi-fi, three distinct in-house dining options and a fun corner pub/lobby bar. All rooms feature oversized king mattresses, bespoke linens and pillows and mid-century modern decor.
Plus, with a university across the street, it has a young, quirky hipster vibe that feels sort of like Brooklyn, NY.
One downside (for me, at least) is that there’s little separation between bedroom and bathroom in many of the rooms. Not a problem for a single business traveler, but could be awkward for two.
The hotel is housed in what was once two separate buildings: The Clare Pub and the Carlton United Breweries administration building, and there is plenty of evidence of its past preserved in common areas and rooms– for example, one suite sports massive porcelain mens’ urinals used when the space was a boardroom. And to top it all off, there’s a sexy rooftop pool and bar area with big views of the Sydney skyline and the massive vertical garden on the skyscraper next door.
The 172-room Primus Hotel Sydney opened in December 2015 in the former Sydney Water Board building on Pitt Street in the heart of the Central Business District. Taking Sydney’s easy-to-use airport train downtown, I found the hotel an quick, two-block walk from the Town Hall train station. It’s about a 10-minute walk to Circular Quay.
Originally built in 1939, developers gutted and transformed this heritage-listed, art-deco showpiece into a posh 5-star hotel with a dramatic, airy lobby, chic restaurant (The Wilmot– where I had a nice power breakfast with David Flynn, editor of the excellent Australian Business Traveler) and bar, and comfortable, quiet, well-appointed rooms. There’s even a resort-like open-air pool, deck and bar on the 7th floor roof of the building. In keeping with the building’s original purpose, you’ll find water fountains (known in Australia as “bubblers”) and other office-building-like elements preserved throughout the lobby and public areas.
Rates start in the US$220 per night range. But with the exchange rate so favorable, upgrade to one of the big bright corner rooms (numbers ending in 18 on floors 1-4) for about $80 more. While rooms facing an interior light shaft are nice and quiet (that’s what I had), you’ll likely feel more a part of the busy neighborhood with a street view. Wi-fi is fast and free, bathrooms include big tubs and walk in showers, there are thoughtful bedside plugs, plus there’s a Nespresso machine in each room. Even though it’s only three months old, the Primus currently ranks #7 among Sydney hotels on TripAdvisor.
Each morning I walked a block down Pitt Street to the popular Macchiato for my morning flat white (coffee) and pastry. It’s also a nice place for lunch or people-watching with a glass of wine.
When I rushed over through a muggy morning to my morning meeting with the fine folks at the Four Points hotel on Darling Harbour, I could not believe my eyes. The hotel had set up a special room, catered with fresh fruit, smoothies and savory snacks (plus a spectacular water view) just for me– and you, dear TravelSkills readers. How about that?
I was eager to see this hotel because it’s a favorite among Starwood SPG members eager to earn or redeem points. It’s an SPG Category 4 property with award nights going for as few as 10,000 points.
Plus, it’s probably the nicest Four Points hotel I’ve ever seen. I was also eager to see it because later in June it will add 222 new rooms in a new tower, for a total of 892, making it Australia’s largest hotel. While the hotel opened in 1991, it went through a full renovation two years ago, so rooms feel bright and brand new. The best rooms in the house are those that face Darling Harbour, a beehive of activity scattered with cranes erecting new office buildings, hotels and a massive new convention center. Even better are those with balconies overlooking the water.
Another nice feature of this hotel is its location on the CBD side of busy, buzzy Darling Harbour— so it has access to all the activity around the harbour, and it’s a quick walk to the central city and the Town Hall train station for the 20 minute ride to the airport.
Wi-fi is free for SPG members. Depending on the season, rates start as low as US$175 per night. Until construction is finished in June 2016, be sure to request a room away from construction views or noise.
While one of the most talked about hotels in Sydney is the the showy, burlesque QT Sydney on Market Street in the CBD, it’s not one of the newest. But business travelers who’d rather spend their down time out by the beach should consider the brand new 69-room QT Bondi. That way you can work all day in town, then take a 20-minute Uber or cab ride through the city’s upscale eastern suburbs, to Australia’s most popular and iconic beach.
This luxurious, modern boutique hotel is part of a new mixed use development, which at the time I visited, did not have any bars or restaurants, but there are plenty of choices along the busy esplanade that runs parallel to the beach. Plus there’s a nearby grocery store and kitchenette in each room. Regrettably few rooms offer beach views, but no worries– the sand starts across the street from the hotel. Rates run as low as US$175 per night depending on the season. Surf’s up! (but remember that seasons are reversed down under).
I learned about the QT Bondi when I had lunch with executives from the rapidly expanding QT chain at Gowings Bar and Grill in the QT Sydney. It was by far the best meal I had during my quick visit (order the seafood pie or oysters Kilpatrick), and clearly THE place to power lunch in the CBD. Don’t miss it– and make a reservation because it regularly sells out.
A few more suggestions while I have your attention: The Ovolo Wooloomooloo, which started out as the W Hotel Sydney, then rebranded as the Blue Hotel Sydney, is putting the final touches on a major re-do after getting its new name. This unusual hotel is built over the water on an enormous industrial pier on the far eastern edge of the CBD- near the posh Potts Point neighborhood. It offers attractive rates starting at around US$220 that include breakfast, wi-fi, laundry, happy hour drinks, and in-room mini bar. Tip: Take a walk up the steps across the street from the hotel to Potts Point and have dinner at The Apollo, an upscale Greek restaurant that’s a huge hit with locals. If you are traveling alone, get there early and sit at the marble bar.
Two more hotels that deserve mention, but that I regrettably missed on this trip: The recently renovated, deeply luxurious Langham Sydney (previously the Observatory hotel in the historic Rocks area near Circular Quay) and the Hotel 57 in the trendy, leafy and residential Surry Hills district.
Have you been to Sydney lately? What’s your favorite hotel in town? Why? Please leave your comments below!
See our complete New Hotels series here!
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Should I tip my Uber driver? + Boeing 747 nearing its end? + Bargain hunters travel guide for 2016 + World’s best airline lounge? + Fares to Europe tumble