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Short stay: Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

This week I travelled to Sydney for just four nights to attend the seventh edition of Luxperience, a three and a half day luxury travel trade forum connecting many of the world’s most exclusive travel providers in the southern hemisphere. It was therefore an opportunity to network with a number of people within the industry that I might not normally get to meet. I stayed at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour – Darling Harbour’s tallest building – which opened its doors just last year, making it the first new-build, international luxury hotel to open in Sydney’s CBD this millennium. The welcome Check-in was swift, polite and efficient – just as it should be and just what you want after a long journey. The room I stayed in room 2217, on the 22nd floor of this 35-storey building. It is a spacious room with a king size bed and classified as a ‘Superior room with Darling Harbour view’. Behind the blind was the most amazing view of Darling Harbour… …which was just as majestic at sunrise, too! In addition to the trademark Sofitel MyBed™ – which I have to say was supremely comfortable – was a sofa, table, chair, minibar, safe, Nespresso machine and various other useful items – even an iron and ironing board. Separating the bedroom from the bathroom were screened sliding doors. The bathroom The bathroom had a stand-alone bath and cubicles with frosted glass doors for a separate shower and WC. Toiletries are from Paris-based atelier de parfums, Lanvin, in keeping with Sofitel’s French roots. Towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided. The facilities The hotel has two restaurants (plus a Champagne bar and pool bar). I didn’t dine at either but enjoyed the buffet breakfast which is served daily at the restaurant on the third floor of the building. This included all the usuals – fruit, cereals, bread, hams, cheeses, juices and more. There was also a hot buffet with sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, etc. and some Oriental options, plus you could order eggs or omelettes to your liking. WiFi is free for staying guests throughout the hotel and I found it to be very reliable; in fact, so reliable that I was even picking up signal when I was several hundred metres away from the hotel building. You see the bridge in the photographs of the view just above? That’s Pyrmont Bridge and I was extremely surprised to find that I was still getting signal even from there – and if you don’t believe me, here’s the proof! I thought this was very impressive given that it’s probably around 400 metres away as the crow flies. The hotel also has its own gymnasium and small outdoor infinity pool overlooking Darling Harbour, both on the fourth floor – some renovation work was going on in this area at the time of my visit. Other nice touches As a new hotel, I feel a great deal of thought had gone into planning the room from a guest’s perspective. I found the lighting and sockets in my room to be very user-friendly – plenty of USB sockets, ample sockets either side of the bed (something you don’t always get), and lighting and ‘do not disturb’/’make up my room’ switches that could be easily controlled from bed, from the bathroom or on your way out. There were even a few welcome treats in the room on arrival. I always like to look for the extra little touches, though, when staying at a luxury hotel – where the service goes that extra mile that you might not expect. On my last day, there was one such instance of this; I went for a very early morning run before catching a flight to Hong Kong and was pleasantly surprised to find the doorman handing out bottles of water to myself and other runners who were guests of the hotel. What a star he was! Cost Superior rooms typically start from approximately 300 AUD per night. The best bit For me, the best bit about this hotel (other than the great view of Darling Harbour) was the proximity to the International Convention Centre (next door) where the majority of Luxperience 2018 was held. When you’ve travelled half way around the world just for a few days, it makes a big difference to have what you need on your doorstep. Here is a picture of the ICC, with the hotel towering just behind, to give you an idea of the proximity. The final verdict The Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour is a fitting addition to what has become a really bustling and lively waterfront on the western outskirts of Sydney’s CBD and an area that has been completely transformed in recent years. The hotel is airy and modern, and provides an alternative location to a number of Sydney’s other luxury hotels (many of which happen to be clustered around a historic area of Sydney’s city centre known as The Rocks). More about Luxperience As already mentioned, I was staying at the hotel in order to attend Luxperience, an annual luxury travel industry exchange event. Here are a few photographs to give you an insight into the set-up for this boutique forum. As well as being very well set up for meetings and networking, there were a few activities to enjoy on the sidelines, including an amazing Australian VR experience. I had a quick go with this and admired the white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, off the coast of north Queensland. You can see it in the video below (note that you can move around the video once it starts) but, for the best immersive experience, download the app and place your phone in a VR headset (or a homemade Google Cardboard device) to see this and more.
YouTube video
There was also a guy doing some beautiful aboriginal artwork on surfboards… …and a rescue centre that had brought in some beautiful animals for us to admire and learn about, including this 7-month-old quokka and a very fine tawny frogmouth. Immediately outside the ICC is the fresh air of Tumbalong Park, a relaxed area of parkland with fountains and a casual atmosphere, for those needing a little headspace. Although I had lots of productive meetings, the highlight of Luxperience for me was the sunset cruise that a handful of us were lucky enough to go on at the end of the third and final day. If you ever get the chance, this is something I would heartily recommend – it was such a wonderful way to take in the city. We were aboard a beautifully-designed, 80-foot NISI yacht, capable of speeds in excess of 20 knots (although we took things at a rather more leisurely pace) and sleeping up to 8 people. It was such a memorable cruise and a fitting way to end a very intimate conference. Disclosure: This trip was made in partnership with Luxperience, with our hotel accommodation provided by Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour and the sunset cruise organised by The Superyacht People.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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    1. Hi Jakey… yes, I hadn’t been before but, as I understand it, this area has changed a lot in recent years (and is continuing to change with more construction going on)…. Paul

  1. Wow, that breakfast buffet table and harbour views look divine! And a strong Wi-Fi connection even outside the hotel? That’s amazing. Definitely worth considering when in Sydney, especially since you seem to have easy access to most of the major city destinations.

    1. Thank you, Angelica. Yes, lovely views and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced being able to connect to a hotel’s WiFi from so far away. Admittedly there were no buildings to get in the way, but even so… it was some distance!

  2. Wow! What a beautiful, well-appointed hotel! I love all the amenities you showed and that breakfast buffet looks divine. The hotel’s location looks to be in the perfect area of Sydney. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Shirley… for me, the location was perfect as it was just a stone’s throw from the conference venue, but even for leisure stays I would imagine you’d be well positioned for a number of sites, as well as plenty of dining options just a short walk away.

  3. Wow, I want your life! Gorgeous and delicious all rolled into one… did you say business trip? The whole trip looks divine and I think I would have stayed right in that gorgeous hotel! What a wonderful experience you had.

    1. Ha… thanks, Kim! :-) Yes, this was very much a work trip, with the sole purpose of attending Luxperience. It was a long way to go for just 4 nights, but definitely worthwhile as it meant I could meet a lot of people I probably wouldn’t normally get to see. It would be nice to stop longer and see more of Australia – and there was the opportunity to do that – but commitments back home meant I really needed to get back.

  4. Hi Paul, thanks for posting such beautiful pics and information about darling harbor. Sydney is indeed a beautiful place. We are planning to travel to Sydney in Dec. Will definitely go to this place.

  5. Those views really are sublime. The room looks really comfortable and a great place to unwind. Can you see the views from the bath? I love a bath with a view. I am due to visit Sydney next year and feel like I need to see that night view. I bet as a new build they are booking fast.

    1. You can’t really (unless you were to stand up) but that’s maybe not a bad thing, because that means people can’t see you either!

      They do have some rooms where this is possible, though:

  6. This is really a great staycation for tourist; the place is comfortable, and the visitor will surely be happy with this kind of hotel.

    1. Thank you, Faye… yes, I don’t think people would have many complaints. I think the location is also good – the whole harbour area seems very inviting, safe and friendly.

  7. Hi there Paul, great write up, have not been inside the Sofitel yet but pick up many guests there. I was not able to be at Luxperience this year, would have been great to meet you.

    1. Thank you for stopping by here, Scott. Sorry to miss you also – I’ll drop you an email and, if you wish, we can ‘meet’ over Skype some time… kind regards, Paul

  8. I’m planning a trip to Sydney and I decided to start looking at where I might stay.

    I know that there are loads of hotel reviews on the internet but I’ve got used to the format of these Short Stay reports. They take things slowly and logically, so I’ve come to rely on them for my travels.

    It’s not that I don’t like reading but the old saying of “a picture tells a story of a thousands words” is so true when it comes to hotels”. There are some very helpful pictures on here which help me to get a feel for the place.

    I haven’t down Darling Harbour before but I think I’ll go with your endorsement of the Sofitel.

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