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Home each year to one of the world's premier GLBT events, Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, the stunningly situated Australian city of Sydney is a pleasure to visit anytime. Dozens of the city's best hotels, from chic international properties to cozy B&Bs, enthusiastically welcome gay travelers. Neighborhoods worth considering include the City Centre, which is closer to major attractions, and Darlinghurst, close to the gay bars and restaurants of Oxford Street. But also consider nearby Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Double Bay, and Paddington. Here are some of the best hotel options:
Arts Hotel Sydney
The former Sullivans Hotel, the Arts Hotel is an attractive, contemporary five-story hotel on Oxford Street in Paddington, just a 10-minute walk east of the main gay-bar district. The 64 rooms have tiny but well-equipped private bathrooms and simple, blond-wood furniture with the usual comforts - safes, phones, cable TV, and a/c. Garden rooms cost a bit extra but have free Wi-Fi and open onto a lovely little landscaped courtyard (it has a small pool). The hotel is still owned by the Sullivan family, and the staff is gracious and friendly. For proximity to gay nightlife and reasonable rates, it's a solid choice.
Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar
Each of the studio- to four-bedroom units in this apartment-style hotel just steps from Hyde Park and a short walk from the gay bars in Oxford Street has a well-stocked kitchenette, a flat-screen TV, DVD/CD player, and high windows with double-glazing to keep out street noise. Given the reasonable rates and home-y amenities, the Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar an excellent choice if you're staying for several days or more, and it's also an ideal property for groups of friends traveling together.
Cambridge Hotel Sydney
A fairly basic, economical option, the Cambridge is on the edge of Surry Hills and but a few blocks from the many gay bars and clubs on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst. Many of the 173 rooms have impressive city and park views, and in-room features include flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and high-speed Internet. There's also a surprisingly decent restaurant on-site, Baccomatto Osteria, which serves first-rate modern Italian fare.
The ultra-chic, see-and-be-seen Establishment is just a few blocks south of The Rocks and Circular Quay, close to key attractions and some of the city's finest restaurants. The 31-room property is also run by the same team (the much-talked-about Merivale Group) that operates the nearby and very happening Est., Sushi E, and Mad Cow restaurants, and the trendy Ivy Bar and Ivy Lounge, which are hosts to a rocking pool party during Sydney Mardi Gay Mardi Gras. Merivale also operates other top-notch, gay-friendly hotels in the same neighborhood, the Grand Hotel and Wynyard Hotel. For Sydney socialites and hobnobbers, any of the Merivale properties are a great choice - the Establishment is particulary notable for its cushy digs.
Four Seasons Sydney
Although it looks like a rather prosaic modern high-rise from the outside, and as Four Seasons hotels go, it's not especially a standout aesthetically, this is nonetheless a stellar luxury hotel when it comes to location (steps from the Rocks neighborhood and Circular Quay - many rooms overlook the Inner Harbour), outstanding service, and overall comfort. Guests are treated like royalty at the Four Seasons, and the hotel also has one of the best spas in the city, the Spa at Four Seasons. And although rates are high, they're not quite as astronomical as some of the other high-end hotels in town, especially for a room facing the city center skyline (you pay a good bit more to look at the harbor or opera house).
Kirketon Hotel Sydney
The hip Kirketon is an intimate, upscale hotel just three blocks north of the gay-bar action and cool restaurants along Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, and it's a short walk from several other excellent neighborhood eateries. Rooms are sleek and spare, if a bit dark (especially some of the bathrooms), and the bar on the ground level is a fun spot to socialize (although also a source of noise that can carry into the rooms at times). The hotel is a good choice for its centrality and hip vibe.
Larmont Hotel Sydney by Lancemore
Formerly the Diamant, the Larmont Hotel Sydney by Lancemore has a terrific location in King's Cross, close to Potts Point, Rushcutters Bay, and Darlinghurst gay nightlife - it's about a 20- to 30-minute walk from the Inner Harbour. The Larmont is one of the brand's most upscale properties, with chic, contemporary furnishings. Guests receive free passes to a nearby gym, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff provides full concierge services.
Medusa Boutique Hotel
This three-story mansion in Kings Cross, a short walk north of Oxford Street's gay bars, contains 18 sleekly decorated rooms, each with soaring ceilings, striking colors, curvy modern furniture, and loads of personality. Most rooms at the Medusa have DVD players, and all have safes and individual climate control. Opt for one of the rooms overlooking the interior courtyard and reflecting pool if you're seeking quiet - exterior rooms, though noisier, overlook the neighborhood's vibrant bustle. Wi-Fi is affordable, and bathrooms feature Aveda toiletries. It's a lovely spot - chic, yet with more of a sense of humor than any sort of pretentiousness.
Oaks Hyde Park Plaza
Formerly a Marriott Hotel, this is one of the better large properties in terms of proximity ot Oxford Street gay nightlife - this modern high-rise also faces lovely Hyde Park and is a 15-minute walk from the Inner Harbour. The Oaks Hyde Park Plaza is upscale, but not over-the-top sumptuous, and with a good gym and pool.
Park Hyatt Sydney
With a storied location in the shadows of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and easy proximity to e many great restaurants, shops, and galleries in the bustling Rocks district, this discreet, posh hotel is one of the most romantic in Australia - for optimum views, book one of the huge Opera Deluxe Kings, with balconies looking across the harbor at the Sydney Opera House. There are just 158 rooms at this four-story luxury Park Hyatt Sydney, each with marble baths and butler service. The hotel's superb The Bar and Living Room restaurant have floor-to-ceiling views of the Inner Harbour and serve superb regional Australian cuisine. Take note: the hotel often sells out months in advance, so book as early as you can.
Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour
You can't get much closer to the Opera House, Circular Quay, or the Royal Botanic Gardens than this beautiful and luxurious all-suites property with one- and two-bedroom apartments. It's high-end, but friends traveling together and splitting the tab may find this more of a value than you might expect, especially as each unit has a full gourmet kitchen - deluxe rooms overlook the Inner Harbour. All accommodations at the Pullman Quay Grand have flat-screen TVs, gorgeous bathrooms, and private balconies, and the staff is highly attentive and knowledgeable. It's a 20-minute walk or short cab ride from gay nightlife on Oxford Street.
Quest Apartments Potts Point
Tucked down a narrow side street (and this slightly hard to find) but nevertheless well-located in the heart of Potts Point, this nicely maintained apartment hotel is an excellent choice if you're in Sydney for a longer stay - the 68 warmly decorated units have kitchenettes (in most units), plus high-speed Internet, flat-screen TVs, and MP3-clock radios, and rooms on the upper floors have knockout views toward the city center skyline. There's a restaurant serving breakfast and light dinners, on-site laundry facilities, a lovely rooftop terrace (with those same great views), and a helpful staff that can do anything from book tours to buy groceries. Oxford Street's gay scene is just a 10-minute walk south of the Quest Potts Point.
Simpsons of Potts Point
A small, exclusive 12-room gem in the quiet but central Potts Point neighborhood, Simpsons of Potts Point has long cultivated a following among discerning travelers in the know (and the owners graciously welcome GLBT guests). This meticulously restored 1890s mansion contains rooms and suites in several layouts, all of them individually appointed with understated elegance. The Dormer rooms are a good value, and nestled beneath pitched ceilings, they're particularly cozy. At the other end of the spectrum, if you're celebrating a special occasion you might opt for the swanky Cloud Suite, with its two-person Jacuzzi and stunning stained-glass windows. Continental breakfast is included, as is Wi-Fi (and the use of a computer in the drawing room).
Sofitel Sydney Wentworth
This 436-room luxury high-rise is a reliable option in the heart of the Central Business District - it's close to the attractions of the Inner Harbour and only about a 20-minute walk from Oxford Street gay nightlife. Although it caters mostly to a corporate crowd, the hotel is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), and it's rife with amenities, including a full spa and health club. Rooms have marble bathrooms and elegant furnishings. The main drawback of the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth is that it's very spendy, and lacking the service and charmed location of the Park Hyatt and Four Seasons.
Vibe Hotel Rushcutters
A short walk from Rushcutters Bay and also close to the hip shopping and dining of Double Bay and Surrey Hills, and the gay nightlife of Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, the Vibe Rushcutters is a GLBT-popular property (and a lodging partner with Sydney Gay Mardi Gras - it's also the sister property to the Hotel Vibe Sydney. The 243-room mid-rise property has a rooftop pool and fitness center, plus a restaurant overlooking Rushcutters Bay. Rooms are modern and pleasant, if unremarkable - it's worth springing the extra dough for a one with a view of the bay.
Vibe Hotel Sydney
Decorated in bright colors with whimsical, modern furniture, this 190-room hotel is upscale but not astronomically so - often good deals can be had on weekends. Popular with gay visitors since its early days as the Southern Cross Hotel, the Vibe is just a couple of blocks south of leafy Hyde Park and steps from the gay-nightlife buzz of Oxford Street. Amenities include a lovely rooftop pool with great city views and a gym on the same level. There's also a fun little bar and cafe off the lobby, Curve. Vibe Sydney and Vibe Hotel Rushcutters (see above) partner with the organizers of Sydney Gay Mardi Gras