Sydney has it all: skyscrapers, beaches, parks, design districts and so much more. But the city is sprawling; You could easily spend two hours taking public transport from Sydney airport up to Manly Beach! Because of Sydney’s sheer size, it’s important that you base yourself in an area that’s convenient to the things you want to do. There is no single area that’s close to everything (unfortunately!), but with a mix of ferries and rideshares, getting around isn’t tough if you’ve made a good lodging selection. Check out the neighborhood guide below to discover the best area to stay in Sydney for each particular type of trip you might have in mind!
THE BEST AREA TO STAY IN SYDNEY
In my personal opinion, you really can’t beat the neighborhood of The Rocks if you’re looking for somewhere to post up in Sydney. I may be biased (I had one of my favorite hotel stays ever at the Park Hyatt Sydney, thanks to its amazing location and rooftop pool), but I think its tough to top its combination of convenience and views.
First off, The Rocks sits on the water’s edge below Sydney Harbour Bridge. It also afford stunning views of the Sydney Opera House, and it’s hard to get more iconic than that! Along the water you’ll find a path that makes it really easy (and pretty!) to walk to nearby attractions including the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
But The Rocks’ charms and conveniences don’t end there. For one, the Circular Quay ferry terminal is right on the promenade, and from there you can grab a scenic ride to Sydney’s less central points of interest, including Manly Beach, Watsons Bay and Taronga Zoo. The ferry is so much cheaper than sitting in a taxi in traffic, so it’s nice to be within walking distance from the Circular Quay hub!
The Rocks is also home to historic architecture, cobblestone streets and classic pubs, which you’ll discover as you wander back away from the water. They contrast nicely with the much newer, upscale restaurants with harbor views. And the area also transforms to hold the open-air Rocks Markets, where you can buy street food and crafts.
Is The Rocks a little touristy? Yes, for sure. It can get crowded with tourists milling around and buskers performing. You’ll also find your fair share of bad food aimed at clueless out-of-towners. But overall, I loved staying so close to the action. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in there again on my next trip to Sydney.
CBD stands for “Central Business District,” and they don’t call it central for nothing. Located next to The Rocks, this is probably the most centrally located area in Sydney. So, it’s no surprise that it’s home to plenty of hotels.
But there are reasons to stay in the CBD outside of its abundance of lodging options. It’s a bustling area that’s full of bars, restaurants, shopping and more—and it’s close to its fair share of big tourist attractions. Speaking of shopping, the CBD houses the Queen Victoria Building (one of Sydney’s many historical buildings, this one taking up an entire city block to house a shopping arcade). From the CBD, you’ll have quick access to green space in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Additionally, an easy trek to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Museums such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Australian Museum won’t be far off, either, nor will Darling Harbour, where you’ll find the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and an array of dinner cruise options.
And since the CBD is home to a high concentration of office buildings, you’ll have plenty of good coffee options for starting your day. My picks include Single O (careful – there are two locations!), Gumption by Coffee Alchemy and The Grounds of the City.
Surry Hills is a creative hub in the city, and it shows in the area’s food, shops and more. Foodies and espresso-lovers will definitely find themselves heading to this neighborhood more than once!
If you’re looking for a calmer and less-touristy alternative to something downtown, Surry Hills is also a great bet. It’s got lots of foliage and is much more residential, and and admiring its historic, colorful architecture is a treat.
Bondi Beach is absolutely gorgeous; I was awestruck when I saw it, and that’s AFTER seeing countless photos of it on Instagram. With a huge swath of sand and the ocean’s vibrant blues, it really even more beautiful in real life than it looks online.
But there’s much more to Bondi than the beach itself. First of all, the Bondi to Coogee walk offers some of the most amazing ocean views you’ll ever see. And it’s a great, laid-back way to get a little exercise on your vacation.
And walking around town in Bondi, you’ll find upscale boutiques and an unbeatable array of ultra-hip, healthy and Instagrammable cafes and restaurants. Take it from someone who didn’t stay in Bondi: I made the 20-minute trek from the city center multiple times just to go eat out at places like Shuk and Bondi Hardware.
But especially if it’s actual beach time you’re after for your trip to Sydney, you can’t beat staying just nearby. I mistakenly imagined myself coming to the area for the day, doing some work at a cafe and then heading over to the beach, but without a place to store my laptop, that wasn’t really possible. Booking a cute Airbnb nearby would have definitely solved that problem!
Hope this post helps you pick the best area to stay in Sydney, Australia! Do you have any other favorite areas to stay in while visiting the city? Let me know in the comments! >>
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