Australia Travel Guide
Almost two years after Sydney's iconic Observatory Hotel changed owners to become The Langham Sydney, the property will close its door to undergo a massive renovation to make the space a lot more, well, Langham.
The first day of renovations is scheduled for July 24. Over the next four months, all 96 guest rooms, the lobby, dining areas and the residential-style ballroom will see a bit more than a few new coats of paint. Spending around $30 million AUD, the hotel will install a new design element, to bring it more in-line with their other properties around the globe.
Each of the rooms will trade their stuffy, dated interior for a more modern, white-washed decor with herringbone hardwood-floors, modern furnishings and gold and teal accents marrying high-end luxe with colonial charm. Being one of the only hotels in Sydney to offer balconies in each room, guests will be able to enjoy the near perfect Sydney weather from the comfort of their own room.
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Who would have thought that a hotel located in one of Sydney's most stunning spots on The Rocks would need to embark beautification process? Well, the folks over at Pier One Sydney Harbour decided to pretty things up a bit after the ownership of the hotel changed hands.
Earlier this year, Pier One became part of Marriott's Autograph Collection and thus they decided to really wow their
Marriott Rewards members guests.
For the next 17 weeks, the hotel will be overhauling their lobby, dining and bar facilities to better fit in with their new brand. One thing that won't be changing is the 100-year old character of the building and the stunning views across Sydney Harbour. Originally built as a working cargo wharf and passenger transit facility, the hotel now offers a modern and contemporary stay steeped in history with some rooms offering the closest thing you can get to an overwater bungalow in an urban setting.
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As promised back in January, Hayman Island – the northernmost of Australia’s Whitsunday Islands – reopened last week fresh off of $80 million dollars’ worth of revamp, officially becoming “One&Only Hayman Island” in the process.
A lot has changed, as you would expect for that kind of cash, from updated rooms to a new spa and restaurants, but the basics are still there: a remote private island, a yacht transfer (or seaplane or helicopter, if you prefer) away from Hamilton Island, and the expanse of the Great Barrier Reef around you.
Australia's third-largest city was at one time considered a "big-country town", but that nickname might be ancient history with Brisbane welcoming three new hotels over the next few months. And the transformation couldn't come at a more perfect time with the G20 Summit taking place in the city this November.
Previously, Brisbane was rather barren when it came to edgy hotels. But soon the city will have a lot to show when it comes to cool destination hotels.
Already welcoming guests, Gambaro Hotel will attract those who want a slice of design within Brisbane's liveliest entertainment districts. Located on Caxton Street, Gambaro offers up sleek decor and luxury amenities like APPELLES Apothecary amenities and Sealy signature beds. Best of all, it has a rooftop with extraordinary views.
Once we had had a sunset cocktail at qualia, it was time to have a closer look at what you can expect inside one of its 60 individual Pavilions, consisting of Leeward and Windward Pavilions and the signature Beach House.
Scattered around the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island, all Pavilions look out to the Coral Sea: turndown service can draw the blinds for you at night, or you can leave them up and wake up with the sun streaming in in the morning. We liked the simplicity of the design, mixing polished woods with predominant white, and every part of the pavilion focused on the floor-to-ceiling windows and what’s outside.
At night, you’ll find an activity sheet in your Pavilion with an overview of what’s on – or can be arranged – the next day. From early morning yoga classes to those sunset cocktails and trips out to the Reef, there are lots of options.
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Once you’ve made it past the gates at Hamilton Island’s qualia, there is lots to explore, but one of the first things we did was head down to the helipad. While we arrived at the hotel through more traditional means (i.e. a transfer from the island’s cute airport), you’ll find this more high-flying option at the water’s edge, also used for helicopter trips to nearby sights like stunning Whitehaven Beach.
Its vantage point means the grassy circle lends itself perfectly for sunset cocktails: chilled glass in hand, you can watch the sun paint the sky with color as it sinks rapidly into the horizon at the end of the afternoon (and sink rapidly it does, given the relative proximity to the Equator).
Having seen just how stylish the staff at QT Sydney looked (not to mention the hotel itself), we couldn’t leave the Australian capital Canberra without popping into the brand new QT Canberra, which opened mere weeks before we walked in on a sparkly sunny Southern Hemisphere autumn-in-April day.
Taking the canvas of the former Rydges Lakeside hotel, QT went to town and transformed the 15-story building on Canberra’s London Circuit into something completely different; our local friends told us it was unrecognizable - and much improved - in its new incarnation. Canberra being the heart of the Australian government, and the hotel having seen its fair share of high-profile guests and hush-hush dealings, political references are plenty – from the live Twitter wall at reception to the politicians’ portraits and wallpaper on the ground floor. Check out the new look of the guestrooms, restaurant, terrace, and speakeasy-style bar below.
1888 Shakes Things Up With a "Cozy Industrial Vibe"
Focusing on being Instagram-worthy as it does (and handing out free nights if you have 10,000 followers or more), Sydney’s 1888 Hotel better be bringing it in the looks department. We showed you how to get the lobby (or yourself) into the frame, and are following up today with a closer look at how the rest of the hotel measures up.
1888’s Pyrmont location puts you just on the "other" side of Darling Harbour, to the west of Sydney’s CBD. A stroll across the pedestrian bridge will take you into the city’s core in 15 minutes, or you can take the scenic ferry route and sail underneath the Harbour Bridge before you dock at Circular Quay.
Getting to the hotel from the airport is easy enough: hop on the express train to the city’s Central Station and change to the monorail, get off at Convention Centre (you buy the monorail ticket on the train), enter the parking garage and take the lift up to the fourth floor, exit on the other side, and 1888 is right in front of you. The red brick building (formerly a wool-storage facility) certainly looked pretty against the backdrop of bright blue Sydney skies when we arrived.
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Dramatic in a very Jurassic Park-esque manner, these gates guard the entrance to qualia, the luxury resort set on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island, part of the Whitsunday Islands off the northeast coast of Australia.
While the gates in the 1993 Spielberg classic provided a close up with some very large – and lethal – species, qualia gives you access to the biggest single structure made by living organisms: the Great Barrier Reef, as well as everything else that you make the (invariably lengthy) journey out here for: sun, sand, azure blue sea, and 60 luxurious pavilions, or as qualia translates from Latin, ‘a collection of deep sensory experiences’.
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Some like it hot. But more people like it free. We're talking about WiFi here.
In the wake of all of our WiFi news from last week, we've got some great news from the land Down Under, where getting free WiFi or even cheap WiFi is never easy. In fact, it's almost impossible. But not anymore.
Starting this week, Amalgamated Holdings Limited will be offering guests at all their hotels complimentary WiFi to browse the web, check email and Instagram the cool rooms (or so the hotel group hopes.)
Take it from us, WiFi doesn't come cheap at hotels in Oz. We've been offered up some connectivity if we forked over anywhere from $15 to $29.90 per day. Yes, we said per day! Now, you see why this is such a big deal for an entire portfolio of over 40 hotels to ante up some WiFi as part of the nightly rate.
Let this be a little message to other hotels, just do it already! Offering this service can't be that hard, can it?
We’ve come a long way from hotel staff wearing boxy, nondescript uniforms (hell, at some hotels you get to wear Lacroix Couture), but QT Sydney is taking things yet another step further: not only does staff have its stylish uniforms (by costume designer Janet Hine), an in-house stylist is on hand to get the look just so before starting work.
The result is – not surprisingly – some very well put together staff, like the blue-shirted Porters and red-wigged Directors of Chaos at the hotel’s entrance. Their job is getting you out of the hustle of Market Street, into the ornate downstairs gallery (the hotel combines the former Gowings Department Store and State Theatre), and up one floor to reception.
And you can get yourself easily in the picture: just step behind the frame (or ‘Selfie’ space as the hotel calls it) that hangs from one of the wooden beams in the lobby of this wool-storage facility turned hotel in Sydney's Pyrmont district, snap away, tag it #1888Hotel and it will appear on the screens near reception.
Since we know you’d much rather look at hotels than us, we’ll let the lobby itself have its close up, which has various seating areas (including a small restaurant section), a living tree, and a set of glass elevators that take you up through the four-story atrium to one of the 90 bedrooms.