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There’s nothing better than knowing your hotel is only a short distance away from all you’ve come to explore in a new city. But in a city as big as Sydney, how do you decide which neighbourhood is best for you? Do you choose accommodation in the middle of the city, by the beach, somewhere in between or close to entertainment? We spoke to 6 of Sydney’s local experts for their recommendations on where to stay in 6 of Sydney’s most popular neighbourhoods and what not to miss while you’re there.
We spoke to Bondi local Laura McWhinnie of popular Sydney lifestyle site, This Island Life, for the inside scoop on everything you need to know about staying in Australia’s most famous beach destination – Bondi beach.
1. Bondi Beach is great destination choice for what types of travellers?
Anyone who loves the ocean! What I love about Bondi Beach is that there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a 5-star traveller, backpacker or family, you can’t go wrong with Sydney’s most famous seaside suburb.
2. What’s the number one reason you should choose to stay in Bondi?
There’s no other neighbourhood in Sydney quite like Bondi Beach. You only have to spend a few hours there during summer to realise just how good it is as a summer destination. There’s always something going on – whether there’s epic surf, a top model doing a shoot on the beach, a house party spilling out onto the street, there’s never a dull moment in Bondi.
3. What’s the best attraction in Bondi (besides the beach)?
The Bondi to Bronte – a spectacular coastal walk that takes you past some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. Start at Ben Buckler Point in North Bondi and make the 4km walk past Tamarama and Bronte Beaches, before finishing at Waverly Cemetery.
4. What are your 3 favourite hotels in Bondi for a range of different budgets and why?
Luxe: Ravesis for luxurious boutique rooms with ocean views.
Mid-range: Adina Apartment Hotel for its great proximity to everything, including delicious restaurants like Atavola and Mr Moustache, and Sydney’s most talked about gelato – Gelato Messina.
Budget: Sinclairs Bondi for budget accommodation near the beach that doesn’t feel like a backpacker joint.
5. What’s the most important thing to look for in a hotel in Bondi?
6. If you love Bondi, then you will also love..?
Watsons Bay – it’s about a 10-minute drive from Bondi Beach and has the same laid back vibe – but instead of life revolving around the waves and the surf, Watsons Bay is all about getting nautical on Sydney Harbour. If you don’t have access to your own boat, grab the ferry over and feast on seafood and icy cold beers at Watsons Bay Hotel, followed by a dip in harbour beaches like Camp Cove and Kutti Beach.
Next we chatted to local Sydneysider Sara of popular Sydney food blog, Belly Rumbles, for her top picks on where to stay in Sydney’s CBD and why.
1. The Sydney CBD is great destination choice for what types of travellers?
Sydney CBD is incredibly versatile and no matter what you’re into is there is something for everybody. It’s kid friendly with tonne’s of family experiences to be had. Couples wanting to have a romantic weekend away are also well catered for. I must admit I love my town, Sydney has everything. From major art galleries through to small pop ups, museums, fashion, shopping and history. Then there is food! Sydney can boast having some of the best restaurants in the world. Amazing local cuisine as well as food from around the world. Don’t get me started on our amazing seafood!
2. What’s the number one reason you should choose to stay in the Sydney CBD?
Location. Location. Location! What’s brilliant about staying in the CBD is that your home base during your stay is convenient to everything you want to do while staying in Sydney. You are a short train, bus or ferry trip to Sydney’s stunning beaches. You have Sydney Harbour on your door step to enjoy some time on the water. Plus a short stroll to Darling Harbour to check out our native wildlife. Everything really is at your finger tips.
3. What’s the best attraction in the Sydney CBD?
You want me to narrow this down to just one? I have to say Sydney Harbour and that includes the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Botanical Gardens. I also have to recommend checking out the small bar scene in Sydney while you are here. Some hidden and quite a few quirky ones, we are up there with NYC, if not better. Plus a trip to the top of Sydney Tower is a must, its the ultimate view of Sydney from up there.
4. What are your 3 favourite hotels in Sydney’s CBD for a range of different budgets and why?
Luxe: If budget isn’t your concern the the ultimate place to Stay in Sydney is the Park Hyatt Sydney. Newly refurbished, it is the ultimate in luxury and location. The harbour is on your doorstep along with everything Sydney has to offer.
Mid range: The Hilton Hotel Sydney is a firm favourite of mine, you can often score a great deal through hotelclub.com which includes breakfast. The breakfast at the Hilton is amazing, and is one of my favourite hotel breakfast options hands down, not just in Sydney.
Budget: If you are on a budget then you can’t go by Sydney Harbour YHA at The Rocks. The view of the Sydney Opera House and harbour from the terrace is brilliant.
5. What’s the most important thing you would look for in a hotel in Sydney’s CBD?
It really depends on the reason for your visit to Sydney. If you are on business, then you will want a hotel that offers comfort, service and all your needs while working away from home. Sydney is home to all the major hotel chains for those business travellers that like to stick to chain loyalty. If here on vacation, then a hotel with a harbour view would be my recommendation. Alternatively go for one of Sydney’s quirkier boutique hotels, that offer character and will be something you will remember.
6. If you love Sydney’s CBD, then you will also love..?
The next best area to stay in Sydney, if not in the CBD, would be one of our inner suburbs. They have so much character, some with a great village vibe, and still close to everything you would want to do and see in Sydney. Potts Point, Glebe and Surry Hills are great examples. But my favourite would have to be Pyrmont. Close to Darling Harbour, walking distance to the CBD and has a great collection of restaurants.
7. Anything you would like to add?
If you are staying in a Sydney CBD hotel which has self catering, make sure you head to The Rocks Foodies Markets on a Friday to pick up local and in season produce. You may even score some in season native ingredients to play around with.
Plus the best picnic spot in the CBD is the Botanical Gardens. It has a killer view of Sydney Harbour and is very rarely crowded, so there is plenty of space for the kids to run around. Grab some food to make up your own hamper from David Jones Food Hall, then enjoy some quiet time outdoors while soaking up Sydney’s great weather and views.
To discuss all the wonders of The Rocks Sydney we tracked down Sydney local, Sarah of the incredible food, travel and design blog, Love Swah, for her insider tips.
1. The Rocks is great destination choice for what types of travellers?
It’s a great destination for tourists, foodies and those with an interest in the arts.
2. What are the main reasons you should choose to stay in The Rocks?
The historic architecture, winding lane ways and gorgeous harbour views make The Rocks a great place to stay. Plus, you are so close to everything!
3. What’s the best attraction in The Rocks?
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is my favourite place in The Rocks to visit. They always have fascinating exhibitions on, host monthly MCA Art Bar night events and the MCA Cafe offers uninterrupted views of the Sydney Opera House.
4. What are your 3 favourite hotels in The Rocks for a range of different budgets and why?
Luxe: And if you want to splurge, then look no further than the Park Hyatt. This is luxury at its finest with stunning harbour views, impeccable service and world-class amenities.
Mid range: If you’ve got a bit of cash to splash, then I would suggest the Rendezvous Hotel. This boutique hotel is modern and offers self-contained kitchens in the apartments, a big bonus if you’re travelling with family or like to prepare the occasional meal at your hotel.
Budget: If you’re on a tight budget, The Russell Hotel is perfect. It’s a great value-for-money bed and breakfast located in a central location.
5. What’s the most important thing you would look for in a hotel in The Rocks?
It would be a balance between location (convenience is king) and price.
6. If you love The Rocks, then you will also love..?
Potts Point because they both share amazing views of the city and the Harbour from opposite sides. Plus Potts Point is filled with historic architecture, cute bars and restaurants with charm and character.
7. Anything you would like to add?
Go to the Glenmore Hotel and grab a drink at their scenic rooftop bar. Or if you’re feeling peckish, try the high tea at Ananas Bar and Brasserie. If shopping is more your thing, then hit up The Rocks Markets on the weekend.
1. Manly is great destination choice for what types of travellers?
Manly has something to offer for everyone – young independent travellers will love the beach and surf culture, and more mature couples will be happy to find a range of really good, romantic restaurants with water views here. Families will never get bored either – for the kids there’s of course the beach and the parks, plus fun activities such as Water Works, kayaking, and bike hire.
2. What’s the number one reason you should choose to stay in Manly?
Manly is a great choice for a hotel stay as it offers you the best of both worlds: you have a range of beaches right on your doorstep while at the same time it is really easy to reach the CBD of Sydney. Manly is relaxed and has this distinct holiday feel, yet at the same time you can find everything here you might desire during your stay, from excellent restaurants and bars to beautiful scenery and lots of activities, many of them water-based of course! It really is a very Australian experience. Yet, Sydney’s city centre is just a short ferry ride away – one of these things that you should include in your itinerary anyway, it’s the best way to experience Sydney’s beautiful harbour.
3. What’s the best attraction in Manly (besides the beach)?
In my opinion the best attraction are the lookouts on North Head.
It’s a little bit outside of Manly, so you will either need to plan a cool day for the hike up there, rent a car or a bike or take the bus. But trust me, it’s totally worth it! From this lookout you have the very best views of Sydney, you can see the harbour all the way from South Head to Manly, with the tips of the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s arches in the distance. An absolutely magical experience and extremely romantic if you take your sweetheart and time it so that you catch the warm rays of a glorious Sydney sunset. Don’t forget to take your camera!
4. What are your 3 favourite hotels in Manly for a range of different budgets and why?
Luxe: The Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific is a classic when it comes to good, no-nonsense accommodation in Manly. It’s biggest draw card is that it’s located right on the beach, with many of the rooms offering fantastic ocean views. Imagine waking up to the sound of waves every morning!
Mid-range: If you’d rather get away from it all or if you are looking for a secluded place to stay with your loved one, then check out Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park. This hotel is located in the historic location of the former Manly Quarantine Station and is boasting its own beach which is really picturesque.
Budget: More of a budget option, and with the additional bonus of your very own kitchen, the Manly Beachside Apartments are well located just steps from the ocean beach and the Corso, which is the main shopping street in Manly.
5. What’s the most important thing you would look for in a hotel in Manly?
Manly has a number of really good hotels, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a place to stay in town. However, do make sure you select a hotel with great online reviews as sometimes it can get noisy, and you don’t want to have a back-alley view.
6. If you love Manly, then you will also love..?
There’s this old rivalry between Manly and Bondi Beach, so I guess if you cannot or do not want to stay in Manly then check out the options in Bondi Beach. It’s also a Sydney beachside suburb with a great beach culture, restaurants, bars and shops, and you are not too far away from the attractions that are located in Sydney’s CBD. However, if you choose to stay in Bondi then you will not be able to travel to the city on a ferry – so in my view Manly should always be your first choice!
7. Anything you would like to add?
Manly is the quintessential Australian city life experience. Even if you are short on budget there are endless possibilities to spend an enjoyable day in Manly. Just get some great take-away food and enjoy the sunset in the harbourside beach park, sip a coffee on your way to Shelly Beach or test your binoculars when whale watching from one of the lookout spots. The walk from Manly to Spit Bridge is one of the best in Sydney, and for some wildlife encounters try snorkelling, check the cliffs for the famous lizards that like to sunbathe here, and join the crowds that watch the fairy penguins that come out to play at night.
For a taste of Darling Harbour we spoke to family travel expert and Sydney local Lisa Wolff editor of Sydney’s leading online family activity guide – Ella’s List.
1. Darling Harbour is great destination choice for what types of travellers?
Darling Harbour is one of Sydney’s most popular entertainment hubs. One of the best things about Darling Harbour is that it is suited to all kinds of travellers and for all ages. It has activities for the little ones (including a spectacular free water park and playgrounds) as well as for adults (excellent range of cafes and restaurants, bars and clubs). Darling Harbour would be high on the list of the top 5 places to visit in Sydney for ANY traveller.
2. What’s the number one reason you should choose to stay in Darling Harbour over other Sydney neighbourhoods?
Darling Harbour is very central. It is a two minute walk into the heart of the city and is well connected by public transport (bus and ferry) to famous beaches and other attractions.
3. What’s the best attraction in Darling Harbour is?
For kids, the best attraction is the free fountain/water park and the playground.
4. What are your 3 favourite hotels in Darling Harbour for a range of different budgets and why?
Luxe: The Star would be top of my list for a luxurious stay
Mid Range: The PARKROYAL Darling Harbour is in a good location.
Also, the Sebel Darling Harbour is great for families.
5. What’s the most important thing you would look for in a hotel in Darling Harbour?
From a family perspective, it would be a modern apartment hotel with kitchen and washing facilities.
6. If you love Darling Harbour, then you will also love..?
Watsons Bay. This is also on the water but is more laid back than Darling Harbour. It has some great fish and chips, lovely views and lots of grass for leisurely picnics.
For an insiders look at Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park we spoke to locals Alice and Sharon of the mouthwatering Western Sydney Food Blog for their take on what not to miss in this popular Sydney suburb.
1. Parramatta / Olympic Park is great destination choice for what types of travellers?
The region is suitable for a number of different kinds of travellers. Business travellers of course flock to the region as it is close to conference centres and public transport. But if it’s leisure you’re looking for, then look no further. Sports lovers, entertainment seekers and families are bound to have a fantastic time when they visit Sydney Olympic Park and Parramatta. From the footy (all codes), to the races (car, horse, swimming – you name it!), the Sydney Royal Easter Show to international musicians, there is never a dull moment in this area of Sydney.
2. What’s the number one reason you should choose to stay in Parramatta/Olympic Park?
The number one reason why you should choose to stay in Parramatta/Sydney Olympic Park is its diverse range of great attractions. The area features beautiful parklands, such as Blaxland Riverside, Bicentennial and Parramatta Park. There are world class facilities like our Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre or you could even visit the beach and go bushwalking at Parramatta Lake! The area can also give you a dose of Australian history through visits to the Elizabeth Farm Historic House, the Brickpit and Old Government House.
3. What’s the best attraction in Parramatta/Olympic Park is?
It’s impossible to pick the best attraction in Parramatta/Olympic Park, there is just so much to do! There is all that we mentioned above, however, as foodies we have to say that the food in this area is top notch! There is an incredible range of cuisines on offer. Food is authentic and affordable in this region of Sydney. Visit the famous Church St Parramatta, AKA Eat Street, where you can visit Jamie’s Italian Trattoria, Messina Gelato, Restaurant 317, Bondi Pizza and Crinitis, just to name a few. Nearby Wigram Street in Harris Park is full of heritage homes that have been converted into Indian restaurants. Then there’s also local gems like Newington’s Mokoji BBQ, Granville’s El Jannah and Parramatta’s Paper Plane Café and Circa Espresso. You certainly won’t run out of options.
4. What are your 3 favourite hotels in Parramatta/Olympic Park for a range of different budgets and why?
Parramatta/Olympic Park is a great place to stay, because of the attractions. On top of that it is also a lot cheaper than the Sydney city CBD. Our favourite hotels that we’ve visited and often had friends from out of town stay at are:
Meriton Serviced Apartments, Parramatta: Located right on the bank of the Parramatta River, you can stay in a completely self contained room which is fantastic for families.
The Novotel, Sydney Olympic Park: It is a stone’s throw from the train station, stadiums and arenas. It has a fantastic viewing deck, a great restaurant, and is parkland is on your doorstep.
The ibis Budget Sydney Olympic Park: It is slightly further from the train station than the Novotel, but still within walking distance as are the other Olympic Park attractions. Perfect for those that will be spending most of their time exploring and don’t want to spend as much on accommodation.
5. What’s the most important thing you would look for in a hotel in Parramatta/Olympic Park?
Definitely ease of access to attractions. While there is plenty of car parking available in both Parramatta/Sydney Olympic Park, if there is a major event on in Sydney Olympic Park, it’s best to get public transport or walk if you are close enough.
6. If you love Parramatta/Olympic Park, then you will also love..?
The Parramatta/Olympic Park area is so unique, there is nowhere else in Australia quite like it. But if you are looking to explore the region further though, continue to head west. Head down the M4 to Blacktown where you can visit Wet and Wild, the Skyline Drive Ins and stay at the brand new Atura Hotel. If you’ve got more time, head towards Penrith where there is more family fun to be had at the famous Panthers Club, the Whitewater Stadium and the Penrith Regional Gallery located on the shore of the Nepean River. From here, you’re at the foot of the Blue Mountains, where you can continue to explore.
Now you’ve got a great overview of 6 of Sydney’s most popular neighbourhoods, check out our great deals on hotels in Sydney.