Where to stay in Sydney

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Central Sydney stands out for its top-notch attractions — like Harbour Bridge and the Opera House — and the upbeat ambience along the waterfront. On the coast, Bondi Beach and Manly Beach make gorgeous alternatives for those who come to kick back rather than sightsee.

In this guide, we share all you need to know about where to stay in Sydney.

Our favorite location

During our visits, we have stayed in Central Sydney. It makes things easier to base yourself where it happens rather than relying on public transportation.

Each time, however, we have taken day trips to the coast to experience the beaches. Manly may be the most famous northern beach, but we have a thing for the sheltered Shelly Beach, perfect for kids or adults who prefer calm conditions.

There simply isn’t one approach that fits every occasion. Ask yourself what’s more important for you: Proximity to sights or beaches?

Sydney CBD

The Central Business District (CBD) towers high over the glittering Sydney Cove, where Harbour Bridge and the Opera House radiate grandeur. This is the glowing, energy-bursting area you have seen so many times on TV and in movies.

Circular Quay is the hub for Sydney’s ferry traffic. From here, you can choose from a wide range of departures — laid-back Manly Beach is under 20 minutes away with the fast ferry.

You can tick off many of the best attractions in Sydney just by remaining in the Central Business District, though: The Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Garden and Hyde Park Barracks are a few of the many highlights within its boundaries.

It’s only a 30-minute stroll from the eastern Royal Botanic Garden via The Rocks to the western Darling Harbour, a fact making each of these hotels convenient.

Best hotels in Sydney CBD

Capella Sydney

Experience contemporary 5-star luxury in a romantic, sandstone-clad, heritage-listed building built for the Department of Education in 1912.

Little National Hotel

The location next to the Wynyard Train Station makes getting here effortless, and it’s only a good thing thanks to prime noise isolation.

Sir Stamford

Embrace old-world charm at buzzing Circular Quay, for much less than you’d expect to pay for it.

Sydney CBD bursting with sightseers under imposing skyscrapers
Relish the pulsating Sydney CBD.

The Rocks

A timeless pocket in Sydney’s heart, The Rocks provides a humbling, snug contrast just north of the CBD. Discover Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood, complete with cobblestoned roads and laneways.

History-steeped watering holes, like The Fortune of War and The Glenmore, ooze timeless vibes. Meanwhile, the Harbour Bridge rises high, inviting you for a legendary walk or climb.

There’s the modern side, too. The harbour-facing Museum of Contemporary Art Australia displays cutting-edge works by domestic talent. On weekends, The Rocks Market brings the chance to score local fashion and sample new flavours.

With Circular Quay within a few minutes’ walk, you’re in a prime position to explore Sydney from these hotels.

Best hotels in The Rocks

Park Hyatt

Celebrate in style in an eye-popping waterfront setting between Harbour Bridge and the Opera House — be sure to allow time for the rooftop pool area.

Harbour Rocks Hotel

Choose from eclectic rooms in a heritage-listed 1887 building in the The Rocks’ core.

YHA Sydney Harbour

Up for grabs are private and co-living rooms at this immaculate hostel property.

The Rocks Cafe in the namesake neighbourhood
Absorb the cozy vibe in The Rocks.

Darling Harbour

Directly west of the CBD, you find Sydney’s number-two cove. Darling Harbour may be much less recognised than the Opera House-equipped neighbour, but it’s nearly as exciting, especially for younger visitors.

At the Australian National Maritime Museum, climb aboard everything from navy vessels (including a submarine) to historic ships like the three-masted 1874 James Craig. To immerse yourself in the underwater world, visit SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, home to stingrays, grey nurse sharks, dugongs, penguins and some 300 other fascinating species.

For sightseeing beyond Darling Harbour, walk or sit back and enjoy the view. Ferries departing from Barangaroo Wharf and Pyrmont Bay Wharf connect Darling Harbour with Circular Quay.

Best hotels in Darling Harbour

Crown Towers

Be wowed by the lavishness at the imposingly glassy, twisting hotel where Taylor Swift stayed during her Eras Tour.

Meriton Suites

Spacious, comfy, modern — and higher-level units even offer awe-inspiring views of Darling Harbour.

The Woolstore 1888

Count sheep in a former wool store turned into a chic hotel with options ranging from compact shoebox rooms to grand suites.

Bondi Beach & other southern beaches

The beach is an essential part of the Sydney lifestyle. South of the Sydney Harbour entrance, you find several exceptional locations for fun in the sun, sand and sea.

Bondi Beach is the most iconic spot to soak up some rays. On top of the golden sand and varied surf, beachside pools, eateries, gyms and walks showcase a sought-after way of life.

Nearby but with fewer tourists, Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach and Coogee Beach are other beautiful southern beaches linked by the 6-km Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, making beach hopping effortless.

The con? Getting to the sights can be a bit of a hassle. While the CBD is less than 10 km away, the bus is your only public transportation option.

Best hotels on Bondi & other southern beaches

Adina Bondi Beach

Book a home away from home with either a kitchenette or full kitchen where you can cook your own meals.

The Clovelly Hotel

Escape the crowds at “The Cloey” — a bright, blue hotel within steps of the water’s edge.

Coogee Sands Hotel

Holidayers thrive with the beach and eateries outside the door.

People scattered across Bondi Beach on a crisp winter day
Bondi draws throughout the year.

Manly Beach & other northern beaches

There are lovely beaches north of Sydney Harbour’s entrance, too.

Manly Beach features 2 km of soft sand lined by imposing pines. Across the street, places to grab something to eat or drink abound. And despite the remarkable setting, the vibe continues to feel surprisingly local.

From Manly, an ocean-hugging promenade leads to the neighboring Shelly Beach. Facing west, it’s protected from large waves, appealing to families and snorkellers.

Full of marine wildlife, the 20-hectare Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve extends east from Manly Beach and surrounds Shelly Beach.

Travelling to and from Manly is half the fun. Hop onto the fast (20 min) or traditional (30 min) for breathtaking connections with Circular Quay.

Best hotels on Manly & other northern beaches

Manly Pacific Hotel

Check into a stylish hotel where Manly Beach (across the street) and the overlooking rooftop pool allure.

Manly Paradise

This relaxed oceanfront complex features a mix of efficient motel rooms and roomy self-contained apartments.

Stoke Beach House

Stretch your budget by staying at a whimsical hostel with a sociable in-house bar.

Q Station

Bed down at a hotel like no other, a historic quarantine station in Sydney Harbour National Park, 5 minutes’ drive south of Manly Beach.

Golden Manly Beach framed by towering pines and crashing Pacific waves
Be enchanted by Manly Beach.

Inner East

The Inner East ties Central Sydney together with the southern beaches. It’s tucked away from the main tourist quarters, but that’s exactly where the appeal lies.

Surry Hills has a myriad of atmospheric cafes, restaurants and bars. Crown Street is a buzzing local hub where The Clock serves refreshing drinks and pub-style fare — best enjoyed on a sunny afternoon on the balcony.

Stretching from Darlinghurst to Paddington, Oxford Street is the perfect destination for retail therapy. Start at the aptly named Intersection, on the Glenmore Road corner, boasting a cluster of upscale boutiques, many of which are dedicated to Australian designers.

On the harbour, Potts Point brims with tree-lined streets and Art Deco architecture. The core, Macleay Street offers an array of dining opportunities, but detour to the nearby Elizabeth Bay House for the most shining example of colonial architecture.

Next to the Royal Botanic Garden, 410-m timber Finger Wharf is a Woolloomooloo landmark. Once a dispatch point for wool, it anchors a marina and elegant places to dine and drink, plus upscale accommodation.

Best hotels in the Inner East

Ovolo

Stay at the luxurious hotel on Woolloomooloo’s Finger Wharf, with the Opera House a walk through the botanic garden away.

Spicers Potts Point

These three connected terrace houses in Potts Point make passing people stop to take a photo.

Mrs Banks Hotel

Feel like a local in a 1914 bank building on Oxford Street in trendy Paddington, off the tourist trail.

People sunbaking and swimming at Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, overlooking the timber Finger Wharf in Potts Point
Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool overlooking the Finger Wharf.

Inner West

Haven’t found what you’re looking for yet? Hiding away from the sprawling CBD and sun-kissed beaches, the Inner West can make a viable option for those who want their money to go further.

Chippendale unfurls west of the Central Station. Highlights include Kensington Street, where global flavours clash; White Rabbit Gallery, full of contemporary Chinese art; and Central Park Mall, graced with lush living architecture.

Further from Central Sydney, Newtown’s King Street is a hub for vintage shopping, and delicious Marrickville presents countless restaurants and breweries — consider a food or brewery tour.

Just keep in mind that getting from the Inner West to the central sights typically involves a train ride that can eat valuable time from your trip.

Best hotels in the Inner West

The Old Clare Hotel

Marvel at an extravagant former brewery on Chippendale’s Kensington Street, convenient for the Central Station.

Adina Chippendale

Reap the benefits of self-contained living.

The General Gordon

Discover a boutique hotel with an excellent downstairs pub at the Sydenham Station, where trains for the CBD depart.

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