For short visits, you’ll want to stay in the city centre or the immediate vicinity: The Rocks, the CBD and Darling Harbour have the greatest concentration of expensive hotels, while Haymarket is well endowed with backpackers’ hostels, a couple of fine YHAs and a few mid-range hotels. Kings Cross makes an excellent base, as it’s only a ten-minute walk from the city, has its own train station and is always lively. In recent years, it has shaken the worst of its red-light and drug-abuse sleaze and is once again popular with backpackers who frequent the dense cluster of hostels and cheap hotels in The Cross and along leafy Victoria Street. Fashionable new restaurants and bars are opening up all the time in adjacent Potts Point, Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst, and the buzz has attracted a cluster of chic boutique hotels and refined B&Bs to the area.
There’s far less choice in southern Darlinghurst, Paddington and Surry Hills, though the vibrant gay scene along Oxford Street ensures there are gay-friendly places to stay. Few are exclusively gay, though Governors on Fitzroy comes close, and there are several welcoming places that we’ve included in our general listings: try BIG, the Kirketon and Arts Hotel.
To the west, verdant and peaceful Glebe is another slice of prime travellers’ territory, featuring several backpackers’ and a number of small, luxurious guesthouses. For longer stays, consider somewhere further out, on the North Shore, where you’ll get more of a feel for Sydney as a city. Kirribilli, Neutral Bay or Cremorne Point, only a short ferry ride from Circular Quay, offer serenity and affordable water views. Large old private hotels out this way are increasingly being converted into hostels, particularly on Carabella Street in Kirribilli.
This being Sydney, the beaches are a huge draw, and thanks to the good ferry and train system it’s quite possible to stay at the beach and still sightsee quite comfortably. The closest ocean beach to the city is Bondi, which weighs in with a couple of great hostels and a boutique hotel, while there’s a more casual feel to Coogee, a couple of headlands to the south. A frequent and fast ferry service makes Manly, the first of the northern beaches, a good base. This seaside suburb with ocean and harbour beaches, just thirty minutes from Circular Quay, has a concentration of hostels and a limited supply of more upmarket accommodation. Lastly, the beaches to the north of Manly offer a couple of hostels and B&Bs that are inconvenient for visiting the city but make good spots for a short break.