Sydney: Living the high life

By Tim Roxborogh

The Intercontinental Hotel, Sydney. Photo / Supplied
The Intercontinental Hotel, Sydney. Photo / Supplied

Sydney: The InterContinental

As an Aucklander, you can sometimes fall victim to suffering a bit of Sydney envy. The weather is just a bit better, the city beaches just a bit better, the skyline quite a bit better and the Harbour Bridge quite a lot better. And let's not even get to comparing the architectural merits of venues suitable for opera.

But accepting that both cities are beautiful and remarkable makes it easier to just enjoy the holiday and appreciate which of the two cities you happen to call home. As it stands, my latest trip to Sydney coincided with a wedding of friends on New South Wales' underrated Central Coast and I thought, why not extend this jaunt and use it to explore Sydney's central city properly? Not only that, let's find a suitably amazing place to stay and do it in style.

Having loved the history and the architecture and luxury of Melbourne's 130-year old Hotel Windsor a few months earlier, I thought I'd try to find the equivalent hotel in Sydney, but with points of difference.

Sydney doesn't lack fancy inner-city hotels, but it didn't take too much research to find that the stars seem to prefer a certain property close to Circular Quay and immediately across the road from the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Maybe the stars were not that interested in the garden proximity or the history of the InterContinental - the 32-level skyscaper, built in the 1980s, rises from its lobby inside the stately old Treasury buildings, built in 1851, resplendent with Greek-style columns.

They might be more enamoured with the secret, paparazzi-proof entrance. Who knows?

But there has to be a reason people like talkshow queens Oprah and Ellen both chose the InterContinental as opposed to some of the newer properties.

To that guest list you can add the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Russell Brand, Pink and Barry Gibb. While I didn't get to see the secret entrance, I did get a tour of the suite provided for those A-listers.

Staying in a perfectly luxurious room of my own on the 22nd floor, complete with Harbour Bridge and Opera House views, we were treated to a tour of the Australia Suite on level 29 - the InterContinental's only room with a balcony.

"Room" is misleading because the 250sq m suite also has a lobby with a grand piano, a full-sized kitchen with attendant butler, a living room, a master bedroom with enough pillows for a midsized marae, not to mention a bathroom the size of most hotel rooms.

The bathtub is perched next to a window with views over one of my favourite big city suburbs in the world, the leafy and deco-apartment-filled Elizabeth Bay.

Luckily, the Australia Suite isn't the only place in the hotel to sit on a balcony and admire the views. On the 32nd floor is the Club Lounge, another point of difference because plenty of 5-star hotels have club lounges with grand views, but I've never stayed at a hotel where the lounge includes a wraparound balcony more than 30 storeys up. If you're a Club member you get complimentary food and drinks daily between 5pm and 7pm, all speedily served by friendly hotel staff.

And just as you're thinking, "Golly this this autumn evening's getting a little brisk," the staff bring you blankets with your next beverage. As a place to plan your inner-city exploration, the InterContinental Club Lounge is hard to beat. The usual suspects of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House are in plain sight, but as mentioned so too the Royal Botanic Gardens as well as the refurbished Luna Park, the bushy suburb of Kirribilli, lush Bradley's Head, Manly in the distance and the glorious harbour hugging neighbourhoods like Woolloomooloo, Elizabeth Bay and Point Piper.

Writing this at the keyboard back home, Sydney-envy starts to hit again when I look out the window at my own city. Maybe it is more modest, but comparing arguably the most beautiful harbour city in the world with arguably the second isn't too bad, whichever one you live in.

TimRoxborogh stayed as a guest of the InterContinental.

You can hear him on Newstalk ZB's The Two (with Pam Corkery) Friday and Sunday evenings from 8pm and solo Wednesday and Thursday mornings midnight-6am. You can also read his music and travel blog.

- Herald on Sunday

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