Where to stay in Sydney for 3 nights -- that aren't consecutive?!
April 25, 2023 9:31 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are traveling to Australia from the west coast of the US for a week-long planned event in Hervey Bay, north of Brisbane. We need a hotel for one night in Sydney, and then two nights again before we head home.

We are arriving in Sydney at 6:30am on May 1 and fly to Hervey Bay around 11am on May 2. We then return to Sydney on May 7 and have two nights before we fly back home at 9:30 am on May 9.

We'd like to explore Sydney a bit. I have never flown to Australia before, I imagine that we'll be incredibly tired that first day, and that we'll just want to rest, so my initial thought was that we would just get a hotel at the Sydney airport for the night of May 1, because we have to fly out late morning the next day anyway. But that seems kind of lame, maybe there is something nicer?

And what part of town is the best place for us to stay when we have a little more time to explore? If you had a few days in Sydney just to take it all in, what part of the city would you stay in?

Are there cool parts of Sydney that are easy to get to the airport from? How hard is it to get to/from the airport? How is the public transport? Uber? Taxis?

Budget is not too tight. Willing to pay for a nice four star hotel to make sure we get decent rest, and enjoy the city.
posted by pazazygeek to Travel & Transportation around Sydney, Australia (9 answers total)
You're right - don't stay at the airport. The airport is so close to the city (the central business district aka CBD) which is about 20 minutes by train. If you stay in the city you could wander around the botanical gardens, have a drink or a snack at the Opera Bar, check out the Art Gallery of New South Wales or the State Library of NSW. Gaze at the Opera House...

Alternatively, you could go stay in the Eastern Suburbs (e.g., Coogee, Bronte, Bondi) if you'd rather hang around at the beach. If so, grab a cab or Uber as it is a bit convoluted to get there by transit.

Both areas have plenty of cafes, coffeeshops, eateries, pubs etc etc.

Oh, cabs, uber, public transport all good. You can download the TripView app for train schedules. There is an airport transit fee around $20 per person when you take a train to/from the airport (in addition to the actual fare, which is under $10) so factor that in. I prefer the train regardless as it's easy.

Enjoy your stay!
posted by lulu68 at 9:50 PM on April 25, 2023

Welcome to Sydney! There is a train service from the international and domestic airport into the city, it is fairly expensive but easy to navigate. The train will take you to Central Station, which confusingly is on the fringes of the city proper.

Airport hotel would be an ok option but yes it would be boring and in a bit of a boring part of the city.

For a short stay I would be tempted to get a hotel near Central Station. If you can afford it the Old Clare is fun, there is a rooftop pool and a lot of good food options around it and it's easy walking distance into Chinatown and Darling Harbour.

Sydney public transport is mostly geared towards getting people in and out of the CBD. Being near Central gives you easy access to buses or trains pretty much anywhere. I'd suggest catching the train to Circular Quay to see the harbour and the Opera House and take a walk through the Botanic Gardens.

Uber exists but can get extremely expensive depending on surge pricing. Uber is not permitted to operate from the Airport taxi ranks and the local taxi services vary a bit in quality. Occasionally hear stories about people getting ripped off but it hasn't happened to me in a while.

I love Sydney! Lot of options for what to do depending on the type of things that appeal to you. Feel free to drop me a mefi mail if you want some more in-depth suggestions.
posted by arha at 9:52 PM on April 25, 2023

The airport train is very efficient and fast (though a bit expensive). You'll get from there to the CBD without any trouble at all, and to any number of international hotels, really as easily as you'd get an airport hotel. That train line goes round the city circle and through Circular Quay Station which, even as a lifelong resident, has a view that still makes me shut up and look out the window.

Public transport around the centre of town and inner suburbs is really very good, you can tap on and off trains and buses with a credit card, or better yet get an Opal card. I second the TripView app, it's great. Harbour ferries are worth catching just for the sake of catching a ferry.

The centre of the city itself is a bit of a business park on steroids. Get out if you can. Come back and stay in the eastern suburbs near a beach (Bondi/Bondi Junction, Coogee, Maroubra), in the upscale eastern suburbs closer to town (Paddington, Surry Hills) or inner west (Newtown, Balmain, Glebe, Marrickville). All those places have good transport and good eating options.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:00 PM on April 25, 2023

Hotel check-in is 2pm. If you want to go straight to a hotel on arrival, you may need to book the night before as well or make special arrangements with the hotel.

Don't bother with train when there are two of you. A taxi should not be more than $50 to your city accommodation.

Anything rated over 8.5 on booking dot com for Sydney CBD should work for you.
posted by Thella at 12:33 AM on April 26, 2023

If you can afford to splurge on a central (CBD) hotel location, I'd do that. Nothing beats being central to all the sights. Having access to the ferries at Circular Quay on your return stay could be a bonus. The ferry out to Manly Beach is a really fun excursion. You can do train + bus to Bondi beach from the city. Or indeed, stay at the beach if that's your thing.

I agree with others to use the train to get in and out of the city to the airport--only provided you don't have too much luggage. A taxi will run you ~$50 (compared to $30 for 2 train tickets), but traffic can be unpredictable, and sometimes the taxi journey is inexplicably long. In low traffic times, it can be a 25 minute journey, but with traffic, can stretch to an hour or more, which can be nail-bitey if you are trying to catch a flight. (Tuesday mornings are less bad than Monday mornings.)

For your first arrival night, an airport hotel would indeed be fine. Look for one that has shuttle service to the airport, as some taxi drivers can be jerks about the short distance between the airport hotels and the airport.

But since you have a full day to kill after your 6:30 am arrival, you might like to come into the city anyway, since there isn't much to see or do in the immediate vicinity of the airport, and restaurants are limited in that area too. I find that the best strategy to cope with jet lag is to try to power through that first day and go to bed early--right after dinner. It's a tough day, but I find I acclimate to the time change much faster. Taking a long nap that afternoon (which you will be strongly tempted to do) will mean you'll have trouble sleeping that night, and the process will keep repeating itself. Note that many of the bigger hotels have an early check-in option for people who are arriving on those early morning flights. It usually incurs an extra $50-80 charge.
posted by amusebuche at 12:42 AM on April 26, 2023

I have some specific hotel recommendations (and anti-recommendations). Good news: with the current exchange rates you may find your budget allows some very nice places to stay.

Frequent traveler to Australia here. Do not nap when you get there - you will completely throw off your body clock. Drink some delicious Australian flat whites (which bear no resemblance to the Starbucks version) and spend as much time in the sunlight as you can to get your body to adjust. (If you need tips for sleeping on the plane to Sydney, memail me, I have it down to a science - and I am normally a terrible sleeper.)

With Sydney, you should think about the experience you want to have. Do you want your focus to be on the urban experience or beaches?

For urban, everyone is dead right that you should go to the CBD. I would recommend this for the one day that you have at the beginning of your stay, just due to the ease of getting to and from the airport. Sites will recommend the Park Hyatt Sydney. While it does have a renowned view of the Opera House, it leaks like a sieve when it rains. It's also a heck of a walk to anything you'd like to do. The InterContinental or the Sir Stamford are better if you want to be at Circular Quay, get that iconic Opera House view and take the ferry to Manly. (There are a million boat tours of Sydney, but the ferry to Manly is a lot cheaper and gives you the same views.) If you want to stay closer to downtown, the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park is fantastic, with great views, great staff and a great location. The Pullman on the other side of the park is also a delight. You can walk through Hyde Park and the Botanic Gardens to the Harbour, which is a walk I really love. Another recommendation would be the QT Sydney, which puts you in the thick of everything and has a great vibe.

Have fun. We miss that place.

For beaches, Bondi, Bronte and Coogee are all great places to stay. There is a beautiful coastal walk that runs from Bondi to Bronte, and you can keep walking along the coast all the way to Coogee (with a couple of detours along suburban streets). Bondi is kind of the ne plus ultra of beach scenes in Sydney. Hands down, the best place to stay is the QT Bondi. If Bondi seems too flash, the Crowne Plaza Sydney Coogee Beach was nice when we stayed there in 2019.

In Australia, a "hotel" also often refers to a pub, so if you're looking at a map and see a "hotel" and wonder why you can't stay, that's why.
posted by rednikki at 8:08 AM on April 26, 2023

I have recently stayed at both the Urban Newtown and the Rydges near the University of Sydney. The former is slightly funky in a way I like but ymmv, the latter is a pretty traditional high rise. Newtown and Enmore are both fun neighborhoods with lots of bookstores and bars and cafes.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:37 PM on April 26, 2023

Oh, and just get a regular cab from the airport and no, you don't want to stay at the airport. I am personally not a big fan of the CBD but if I only had one night in Sydney I might stay there to do tourist shit.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:41 PM on April 26, 2023

Definitely don't stay near the airport. There's so much to see in Sydney and none of it is near the airport. I would find somewhere in the CBD area or near The Rocks and use public transport from there. As well as the great train and bus network, you can get a ferry ticket for the whole day and just hop on and off wherever you want - it's a great way to explore the area on the cheap.

I always catch the train to and from the airport. Not only is it cheaper, but it's far more reliable and less scary than a taxi driver with ambitions on the F1 circuit. If you do decide to catch a taxi back to the airport, add 45 minutes to allow for traffic delays. If you're staying in the CBD or anywhere near the harbour around the CBD, you can connect at Central Station to the City Circle train.
posted by dg at 4:46 PM on April 26, 2023

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