Unique Sydney stays for a weekend in the harbour city

While away a weekend in Sydney.
While away a weekend in Sydney.

We've told you to head to the bush. Now, our capital cities also need a bit of love. Bernadette Chua gives the lowdown on the harbour city.

Twenty years ago, the Olympics set Sydney abuzz, but the hustle and bustle of the city has hit a lull. Usually at this time of the year Australia's largest city would be filled with tourists, workers and locals enjoying the spring sunshine.

The dreaded c-word is keeping visitors at bay. But Sydney's pubs, restaurants, hotels and spas are following strict hygiene rules, and a glamorous citybreak without the city crowds should not be overlooked.

From October until Christmas, the beaches of the eastern seaboard are usually packed with glistening tanned bodies, the bars of Bondi and Newtown are slinging cocktails and the energetic are pounding the coastal paths. The harbour city and its spectacular skyline of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House oozes glitz and glamour. Even for the kids.

If you're spending a weekend in Sydney, you might even spot a few NRL stars and their wags sipping champagne and spooning caviar at Mimi's dining room in Coogee Pavilion or drinking aperol spritzes at Bondi Icebergs. Here are some unique boutique stays in Sydney for your next weekend in the big smoke.

The city stay

QT Sydney

Nestle in at QT Sydney. Picture: Supplied

Nestle in at QT Sydney. Picture: Supplied

The Director of Chaos is the first person you'll meet before entering QT Sydney, the former Gowings store turned kooky hotel. You'll spot the director by her tight leather corset and fiery red bob, as she hails taxis, armed with a whistle and long legs.

You could spend a whole day browsing the nearby stores in the major shopping districts of Pitt Street Mall, the Queen Victoria Building as well as Sydney's luxurious Westfield. There are high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior and Cartier if you're looking to splurge, but the department stores have fantastic mid-season sales on.

Note the glass cabinets filled with costumes that line the bar when you walk through the QT foyer. Much of the old department store is intact - from the tiling to the Gothic cornices. The hotel also has a fantastic spa, equipped with an old-fashioned men's barber. A further plus: you can even bring the dog for a vacation.

Offer: The QT has special deals for members (and it's easy to sign up). Stays start from $185 per night.

Visit: qthotels.com

The boutique

Hotel Challis

The Hotel Challis is a beautiful boutique stay. Picture: Supplied

The Hotel Challis is a beautiful boutique stay. Picture: Supplied

In Sydney's illustrious Potts Point, the Instagrammers are busy at the local restaurants. The glittering suburb is just down the road from the once seedy Kings Cross, where John Ibrahim's nightclubs ruled as the ladies of the night catcalled.

The area has changed drastically since the lockout laws with many restaurants, hole-in-the-wall cafes and chic small bars popping up, changing the nightlife vibe.

Boutique Hotel Challis is set over two beautifully restored 1893 heritage-listed terraces. The budget rooms are no fuss, modern and spacious. But it's the dining outside the hotel that will make your stay.

Delicious offerings. Picture: Supplied

Delicious offerings. Picture: Supplied

Dine at hatted Japanese restaurant Cho Cho San, feast on honey-glazed saganaki at The Apollo, or visit historic Macleay Street Bistro. Just down the road, you'll find more glitzy restaurants at Woolloomooloo Finger Wharf.

Offer: The Stay Local Package - Sip & Savour Local on Us offers guests a $50 rebate per day on their spending at participating local bars, cafes and restaurants. Bookings with Stay Local package start from $144 per night.

The kids' getaway

Roar n Snore Taronga Zoo

Wildlife wonders with a water view. Picture: Supplied

Wildlife wonders with a water view. Picture: Supplied

On Sydney's North Shore the world's most beautiful zoo has one of the best views in the city. Opening in 1916, Taronga Zoo is now home to much exotic wildlife amongst its over 4000 animals across 350 species.

Notably, last year we saw the birth of three rare Sumatran tiger cubs. There are fewer than 350 individuals alive in the wild and there have been 21 Sumatran tiger cubs born at Taronga Zoo since 1980.

Now, you can extend your visit and stay the night with the kids in the zoo's safari-style accommodation. You'll feel as if you're in the middle of the plains of the Serengeti.

You'll be hosted by the zoo's guides and keepers as you meet some of the animals, and head off on a night safari around Taronga. In the morning, your hosts will show you behind the scenes of some of the animal enclosures.

Offer: Taronga's Roar and Snore has mid-week specials priced from $648 for two people which includes a pass into the zoo, dinner, breakfast and snacks, a night-time safari and accommodation.

Visit: taronga.org.au

The waterfront winner

Pier One Sebel

You're right on the water. Picture: Supplied

You're right on the water. Picture: Supplied

With one of the best views in Sydney, Pier One Sebel sits under the coat hanger, as we fondly know it, close to the Wharf Theatres. While productions are limited at the moment, the wharves also boast some lovely cafes and restaurants.

Pier One Sebel is a stone's throw away from The Rocks, a historic site where Sydney's first settlers arrived. Here you'll find the oldest pub, The Fortune of War, which dates to 1828. There are also some kitsch gift shops and it's also where you'll find Ken Done's gallery.

For afternoon cocktails, take a walk to Opera Bar which has just recently reopened. The lovely bar has one of the best views of the Harbour Bridge, but your burger and fries might come under attack from the seagulls.

Take a walk around to Mrs Macquarie's Chair and enjoy the horticultural delights of the Royal Botanic Garden.

Offer: Pier One Sebel has several specials including a Harbour Getaway for two from $299. The package includes cocktails, room snacks, breakfast and valet parking.

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