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On a recent visit to Sydney, I had the opportunity to stay in a part of town I do not usually explore, Darling Harbour, and to check out one of the city’s newest hotels, the Hyatt Regency Sydney.
The hotel was formerly the Four Points by Sheraton Darling Harbour, but reopened in December 2016 after a $250 million renovation and expansion. The 892-room property is now the largest full-service hotel in Australia and a nice addition to the city’s hotel scene, especially considering the only other Hyatt in Sydney is the uber-expensive Park Hyatt Sydney. Despite its massive size, though, I felt like I had a personalized stay at this otherwise business-oriented hotel.
I found out I’d be staying two nights in Sydney just three weeks out from the start of my trip. By then, room rates across the city were soaring for some reason — perhaps it was a last-minute crush of pre-holiday business travel.
Whatever the reason, hotel rates seemed to be about double what they would normally be, including at the Hyatt Regency Sydney. Still, they were not unreasonable. I found a room in the standard Harbour View King category for $401 AUD ($315 USD). Room rates usually range from $250 AUD to $350 AUD ($196 to $275 USD) for these types of rooms. Even at the premium, though, I decided to book the Hyatt for my first night in the city.
The hotel was a World of Hyatt Category 5 property where award nights cost either 20,000 points or 10,000 points plus $165 AUD ($130 USD). Club rooms cost 27,000 points.
I had World of Hyatt Discoverist status, thanks to the Hyatt Visa from Chase, so I would earn 5.5x World of Hyatt points per dollar on my stay factoring in the Discoverist 10% points bonus. I could have earned an additional 3x points per dollar by using my Hyatt Visa to pay for my stay. I decided to use my Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, though, so I’d still earn 3x points per dollar on the travel category but also have the choice of transferring them to World of Hyatt or any of the Ultimate Rewards program’s other travel partners.
The Hyatt Regency Sydney was on the eastern side of Darling Harbour, near the city’s massive convention center and as tourist attractions like the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. While I might not suggest it for first-time visitors to Sydney, it suited my needs just fine. I had meetings while I was in town, and the hotel was a 10-minute walk from the central Town Hall railway station, where I could catch trains to the airport. It was close to the Central Business District and the pedestrianized Pitt Street Mall, and just a 20- or 30-minute walk to Circular Quay and the famous Sydney Opera House. I got to the hotel by taking the Sydney Airport Train to Town Hall for $18 AUD ($14 USD) then walking a few blocks.
I arrived at the hotel around 10:30am and found the lobby almost empty. I walked up to the first check-in agent available, taking a moment to look around at the two-story atrium beyond, decorated with a towering Christmas tree.
The reception agent pulled up my reservation, thanked me for my loyalty and Discoverist status, and informed me that my room was ready. That was great news, since I was just getting off a flight from Los Angeles.
Though I was not given an upgrade, my room was in the new 24-story tower rather than the old wing. It was up on the ninth floor, and a hike from the elevators at the very end of the hall, but that also meant it was very quiet for my stay. I was given Regency Club access as a courtesy so that I could have breakfast up there the next morning.
For a hotel of this size, and given how muted the hallways were, I was expecting the rooms to be drab, but I was pleasantly surprised. That’s not to say my room as bright or exotic. It was a good size, though, at 30 square meters (323 square feet), and had lots of light, thanks to the big windows.
The door opened directly into the room. To the left was the door to the bathroom, and to the right was the tiny closet, which had a single drawer holding the room safe.
The bedroom was simply furnished but comfortable, dressed in white linens with a headboard of tufted, rough-weave cotton.
The wall behind it was interesting, almost like gray concrete embedded with shiny flecks of silver and gold, giving the whole room more light and texture. There was, however, no art on the walls, which imparted a starker feeling.
There was a nightstand to either side of the bed, and both sconce-style and smaller reading lights.
The headboard had two power outlets on either side, and the one closest to the window also had a USB power port. Next to the bed were a low-slung chair, shelves and a round table that doubled as a workspace. On the wall was a flat-screen television.
Adjacent to closet was cupboard containing the minibar and a refrigerator with soft drinks, beer and wine. There was a kettle and instant coffee. The floor-to-ceiling window let in a lot of light, though the view was mainly of the freeway and the southern end of Darling Harbour.
The bathroom was small but immaculate, with a white-tiled floor and walls and a sink countertop done in sophisticated gray marble.
I appreciated that there was a little box containing toiletries. including a shaving kit and a dental kit. The citrus-scented bath products were by Pharmacopia, which is a Hyatt Regency brand standard (or, at least, it’s been at the ones I’ve stayed at recently, including the Hyatt Regency Amsterdam).
The shower was not fully enclosed, but rather had a glass divider on the side near the shower head. I didn’t mind this setup, though I know sometimes it leads to a soaked floor.
I thought my room was nice, if not too remarkable. It felt like a standardized room at a business hotel, but that also meant I could count on a nice bed and work area plus Wi-Fi that operated at a decent speed.
Food and Beverage
My trip was a whirlwind, and Sydney is a fun food city, so I did not end up spending much time eating at the hotel, though it had a cozy lobby bar. It was open from 7:00am to midnight. In the morning, they served espresso drinks and dishes like chia-seed pudding with fresh figs and a salmon eggs Benedict.
In the afternoon and evening, you could get specialty cocktails, like a nettle-gin gimlet or a cold-drip-coffee Negroni, and all-day food items like a club sandwich, Sydney rock oysters and crispy vegetable spring rolls.
On the other side of the wall was the hotel’s main restaurant, Sailmaker, with seating for nearly 300 people. The menu there was more your upscale business-hotel fare, like Caesar salad, prawn cocktail, a classic burger, fish and chips, a selection of steaks, pasta and a variety of Asian dishes. The menu looked nice but not tempting enough to keep me in the hotel.
In any case, the Hyatt Regency Sydney’s true drinking attraction was the rooftop bar Zephyr on the 12th floor. It was open from 4:00pm Monday through Thursday, and 12:00pm till late Friday through Sunday, with Sunday brunch from 11:30am to 2:00pm.
I met friends there for pre-dinner drinks just before sunset, and it was beautiful, despite the cloudy weather. We had a great view of Sydney Airport’s (SYD) flight path, so we got some plane spotting in. It looked out over the entire Darling Harbour area, setting a nice tone for the evening watching the lights come on.
They served small plates like a trio of dips — spicy eggplant, sweet potato and cashew — with flatbread; kingfish sashimi with avocado, chili, lime and pomegranate; and five-spice calamari with lime aioli.
The cocktail menu focused on enormous gin and tonics and spritzes, with specialties like a strawberry spritz made with vodka, sweet sherry, strawberry and champagne; and barrel-aged libations like a tequila Manhattan aged for three months in French oak. I opted for a whiskey-based cocktail that went down strong and smooth.
Though the lounge was not too busy while I was there — probably because it was early and the weather was not great — I heard it’s popular with the after-work crowd and on weekends, so if you want to check it out, call ahead.
Back on the ground level, there was a historic pub by the entrance called the Dundee Arms, which dates to 1860 and serves classic cocktails and high-end bar food like smoked-salmon cakes with dill yogurt.
As I mentioned, I’d been given access to the Regency Club up on the 11th floor. Folks with access could check in and out there, have documents printed, and use the services of a dedicated concierge. The lounge served breakfast from 6:30am to 10:30am on weekdays and 6:30am to 11:00am on weekends; complimentary refreshments from 11:00am to 10:00pm; and cocktails and canapés from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Guests with access got one complimentary hour’s use of the boardroom in the lounge.
I went there for breakfast and found the buffet to be well-stocked for its size. It had sections with fresh fruit and pastries, cold cuts and vegetables, and an egg station where a chef prepared dishes to order.
The hotel’s gym, which I hope was temporary, was two separate suites that had been turned into a cardio room and a weight room.
There were only a few machines, but they included the ones I tend to use, so I was satisfied, though surprised that a business hotel like this did not have a more extensive fitness facility.
One of the more interesting amenities at the hotel was an art space on the lobby level in a historic building that had an exhibition of New Zealand photographer Hugh Stewart’s work while I was there.
To the Point
While it might not be the top choice for first-time visitors who would rather stay closer to Sydney Harbour and its sights, the Hyatt Regency Sydney suited my needs, as it was central and an easy spot to meet for business. Though a behemoth with nearly 900 rooms, it never felt crowded or overrun, and I found the service to be friendly and personable.
My room was not large, but it was laid out well, and included welcome amenities. Best of all, the Wi-Fi was fast. The hotel’s dining outlets featured an array of choices: The Dundee Arms provided a touch of history and heritage, while the rooftop Zephyr Bar was a true standout among Sydney hotels. I would definitely stay here again, since room rates are usually moderate and its size means that points redemptions are likely to be available most nights.
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