A tub with a view: Pier One overlooks Sydney Harbour and its iconic Harbour Bridge.

Courtesy of Pier One Sydney Harbour

When it comes to hotels in Sydney, travelers are spoiled for choice: five-star harbor-front luxury, inner-city boutique stays with memorable restaurants. There’s a hotel that caters to every type of traveler. But what if you want to experience the city like a local?

Rather than defaulting to an overpriced Opera suite with cookie-cutter hospitality, more and more travelers are seeking a unique stay that offers a true sense of place. Think comfy rooms that show off Australian craftsmanship and artistry, in-house dining that celebrates local flavors, true-blue service that makes you feel like an old friend, and a killer flat white delivered right to your room. In short: a hotel that a local would actually choose for a staycation.

Below, we’ve handpicked 10 special hotels that will make you love the city like a Sydneysider.

Pier One Sydney Harbour

What to expect: Upscale yet unpretentious, with unparalleled harbor viewsNeighborhood: Dawes PointBook Now

Set over the water on a pier beneath the Harbour Bridge, Pier One—part of the Marriott Autograph Collection—offers show-stopping water views without the pomp and pretense of other harbor-front luxury hotels.

Built out of a converted warehouse, the hotel proudly marries its industrial bones (think wooden beams, steel pillars, and ironwork) with sleek maritime-inspired modern decor. It has 189 sun-drenched rooms and suites, the crown jewel being the Admiral Suite, with its floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows and stand-alone tub looking directly onto the Harbour Bridge.

Other hotel highlights include its in-house restaurant, the Gantry, loved by locals for its inventive contemporary Australian cuisine (like just-caught abalone seasoned with smoked chicken skin salt and mud crab dressed in warm egg yolk) and a handsome cocktail bar, Bar One, where you can enjoy delicious local gin-based spritzes with glittering views over Walsh Bay.

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Photo by Michelle Heimerman

The Old Clare Hotel

What to expect: Edgy luxe on the fringe of the cityNeighborhood: ChippendaleBook Now

Built inside a former pub and located in the old industrial Chippendale neighborhood, the Old Clare oozes cool right off the bat. On the first floor, there’s a vintage-inspired cocktail bar that pays homage to its boozy heritage; on the rooftop, a long, sleek pool plus 360-degree city views.

The hotel’s 62 rooms are minimalist yet warm, with exposed brick walls, midcentury-modern furniture, and luxurious soaking tubs, steps from your cloud-like king bed. Automata, the hotel restaurant, doubles as one of the best restaurants in Sydney, with chef Clayton Wells (formerly of Sydney’s Momofuku Seiobo) spinning gorgeous local ingredients into clever and surprising dishes, like razorfish served with a briny dollop of Sydney rock oyster emulsion. The service—both at Automata and the hotel at large—is impeccable.

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III Rooms Sydney

What to expect: Your dream Sydney pied-à-terreNeighborhood: Potts PointBook Now

Located on the upper floors of a pretty 19th-century Potts Point terrace house, III Rooms is one of those under-the-radar, “if you know, you know” establishments reserved for the most discerning travelers. As its name suggests, it has just three “rooms” (though they’re more like luxury apartments), each one individually decorated by an Australian furniture design house or interior designer. (The concept was inspired by designer Azzedine Alaïa’s Three Rooms in Paris, and the Apartment by the Line in New York and Los Angeles).

The options: a breezy, coastal-chic two-bedroom filled with bleached wood furniture and linen by MCM House; a moody, art-filled three-bedroom by Cult Design; and an eclectic, earth-toned three-bedroom by interior designer Sarah Ellison. Whichever one you choose, it’ll feel less like a hotel room and more like your own ultra-luxe Sydney pied-à-terre.

Hotel Ravesis

What to expect: The coolest boutique hotel—and bar—in BondiNeighborhood: Bondi BeachBook Now

Hotel Ravesis is an institution in Bondi. It sits at the heart of the main strip of Bondi Beach, on the two top floors of a 1914 art deco building. It is the only hotel in the area that offers uninterrupted ocean views.

Each of Ravesis’s 12 rooms are individually styled in calming coastal hues of turquoise, seaglass, and sunset pink; some come with private ocean-facing terraces, others with roomy split-level apartment-style configurations that make you feel like a Bondi local.

Other highlights: a minibar with a “first-beer-on-us” policy, baths stocked with essential oil–infused products from Aussie skincare brand Leif, and a classic beachfront bar downstairs with happy hour cocktails and live music.

Paramount House Hotel in Surry Hills exudes cool, from its interior design to its echoes of a past life as a movie studio.

Photo by Laura Dannen Redman

Paramount House

What to expect: Hip inner-city haven tucked in a heritage buildingNeighborhood: Surry HillsBook Now

You’ll know you’ve arrived at Paramount House when you see the droves of hip-looking locals lingering about the building at any given time: Paramount Coffee Project, one of Sydney’s best cafés, adjoins the hotel foyer, and the popular wine bar Poly is next door.

The hotel—a restoration of the former Paramount Pictures headquarters—is design-forward and cinematic, from its sunny atrium lobby to its industrial bones (patinaed brick, exposed timber beams, and raw metal finishes). The 29 rooms are a showcase of Australian good taste: bathrooms full of woodsy Aesop products, minibars stocked with LP’s Quality Meats and William Downie pinot, beds dressed with buttery Cultiver sheets and Seljak Brand wool blankets.

Added bonus: room service directly from Poly, saving you the hard-to-come-by reservation. Is there any greater luxury than enjoying Sydney rock oysters and bone marrow without setting foot outside your room? We think not.

Courtesy of Jonah’s


What to expect: An oceanfront local hauntNeighborhood: Whale BeachBook Now

Jonah’s has—shockingly—remained a bit of a local secret, located about 40 minutes up the coast from downtown Sydney, in the city’s Northern Beaches. The 93-year-old property is set on a cliff above Whale Beach and delivers some of the most spectacular ocean views of any hotel in Sydney.

Its 11 spacious rooms are elegant yet cozy, decorated with handcrafted furniture in a neutral palette and outfitted with ocean-facing balconies. Downstairs is an award-winning contemporary Australian restaurant and cocktail bar with a 1,600-strong wine list; outside, a clifftop infinity pool with sweeping views up and down the Northern Beaches. Trust us—you won’t miss Sydney Harbour for a second.

Crystalbrook Albion

What to expect: An (ultra-luxe) home away from homeNeighborhood: Surry HillsBook Now

Built in a former convent in trendy Surry Hills, the 35-room Crystalbrook Albion is a classic boutique hotel—and yet it doesn’t feel like a hotel at all. The interiors are ultra-plush yet homey, staff greet you by name and treat you like an old friend, and you can help yourself to a drink at the Honor Bar (which is exactly as trusting as it sounds).

Each of the individually furnished rooms feels like a luxurious apartment rather than a traditional hotel room: Some feature handmade Moroccan tiles or chevron oak, others have deep-soaking tubs and ornamental fireplaces. The hotel is also committed to sustainable practices, rewarding guests with free drinks and ice cream when they take actions to minimize their environmental footprint, like avoiding single-use plastics, opting out of daily room service, and recycling waste items.

Photos by Dan Gosse

Wildlife Retreat at Taronga Zoo

What to expect: Family-friendly ecolodge with unmatched harbor and wildlife viewsNeighborhood: MosmanBook Now

Yes, we know: The zoo is about the last place you’d expect to find a luxury hotel. But this harbor-front ecolodge, owned and operated by the not-for-profit Taronga Conservation Society, is home to the most unexpectedly plush and sustainable accommodations in Sydney.

The Wildlife Retreat at Taronga Zoo has 62 rooms across five lodges, connected by walkways suspended above the stunning native animal sanctuary. Don’t be fooled by the term “lodge,” either: Every room comes with sleek interiors by Chada Studio (designer of five-star hotels like Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley and Saffire Freycinet), soaking tubs, and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of the harbor or bring you eye-to-eye with koalas and kangaroos. Opened in 2019, this retreat remains something of a local secret, but we’re willing to share—especially since every stay helps support the work of the Taronga Conservation Society, which protects animals and their habitats in Australia and abroad.

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

What to expect: South of France meets Sydney HarbourNeighborhood: Watsons BayBook Now

If you’re torn between staying in the city or at the beach, why not choose both? The intimate and elegant Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel is right on Sydney Harbour, just a 15-minute ferry ride to Circular Quay—and you’re steps from the golden sand and crystalline water of Watsons Bay Beach.

Rooms—there are only 32—are sun filled and yacht club inspired, fresh off a 2019 face-lift by Australian interior designer Sibella Court, who filled each one with gorgeous Australian furniture, textiles, and artwork. The hotel’s Beach Club, with its striped umbrellas and palm trees, would have you thinking you were summering in the South of France, if it weren’t for the Sydney skyline views. Whether you’re staying here or not, it’s the ultimate spot for lazy summertime lunches lingering over freshly shucked oysters and crisp Aussie bubbles.

Spicers Potts Point

What to expect: Serene inner-city hideawayNeighborhood: Potts PointBook Now

Though Australian hotel group Spicers is best known for its rural mountain and wine country retreats, they absolutely nail their first city foray. A trio of 19th-century terrace houses, the peaceful property offers a respite from the city’s madness with its hidden courtyard gardens, cozy lounge (where you can enjoy complimentary cocktails and canapés every evening) and 20 plush rooms.

Although each room is well appointed—expect fireplaces, soaking tubs, and leafy views—the Victoria Terrace Suites are where you want to be, with private balconies overlooking the leafy streets below. They offer a relaxing (and rare) alfresco sanctuary in the heart of the city—and the perfect place to enjoy a morning cuppa.

Krisanne Fordham

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