Reviewers Note: The Pier One rebranded from Sebel to Marriott International’s Autograph Collection in February 2014 and text has been altered to reflect this.
It is a worldwide trend for the great metropolises of the world to convert older buildings into modern, functional spaces and Sydney is certainly no exception. In the CBD and especially around the OPT (Overseas Passenger Terminal) at Circular Quay (adjacent the Sydney Opera House), accommodation is at a premium.
The recent surge in cruising has put added pressure on the existing hotels and rooms can be darned hard to get when the big ships are in town. In order to create new inventory, architects and developers are looking to convert structures that might otherwise be demolished.
The original Pier One building was constructed on the waterfront at Dawes Point in 1912 as the city’s first overseas passenger terminal and used extensively by P&O until 1963. It later became part of the wharf infrastructure and prior to its conversion to a hotel in 1999 was a somewhat lack lustre conglomeration of cafes, retail and penny-arcade style amusements. See more history.
While in its first incarnation as a hotel, it may have been charitable to give it a 4-star rating, but recent innovations have lifted it to the point where it befits the much elevated status of surrounding properties like the Park Hyatt, Four Seasons and 1887-built Evans Store, now Harbour Rocks Hotel (Accor M Gallery).
The Pier One Hotel was managed by Mirvac until that company sold off its management business to French giant, Accor, in 2012. However, in February 2014 it was announced that Pier One would become the first Sydney property for Marriott International’s boutique Autograph Collection.
Dining: Many of the dining and function spaces within The Pier One are reserved for functions, in particular the superb Water @ Pier One, which has to be one of the hottest tickets for NYE at around $600 per person for 4-course dinner.
But if you are staying during regular times, the Front Restaurant is a delightful al fresco location serving favorites like carpaccio of kingfish or honey glazed pork belly with brilliant views over Walsh Bay at no extra charge. It is served by the Front Bar where there is also a comfortable, light and airy lounge area. Breakfast is also served here and it’s a great way to start your day.
Facilities: One of the features of The Pier One is its suitability as a function center. Of no consequence to cruise travellers, although it surprises me that the cruise lines don’t make use of these ideal facilities as a welcome center and pre- and post accommodation for transiting guests.
The hotel caters to dog owners with a special package. Just what you will do with your pooch when you board your cruise ship is another question, but it’s there. Children of all ages are welcome and there are also a few wheelchair accessible rooms.
The hotel does not have its own in-house spa or gym, but instead has an arrangement with the nearby Endota Day Spa. Packages are offered. Otherwise a brisk walk or jog around Sydney’s historic Rocks precinct or across the bridge is a great excuse for a self-guided calorie-consuming sight-seeing tour.
Rooms: Now, here’s where things liven up! In 2013, The Pier One introduced brand new suites which are, frankly, to die for. Expansive water views of the harbour, Opera House, Luna Park, Bridge (you can’t miss it!) and Walsh Bay make these rooms among the most sought after anywhere in Sydney.
The pick? Ask for 214, which has a massive balcony and huge bathtub from which you can luxuriate as the harbour traffic passes by. There are 189 rooms in total, of which 83 are ‘lead in’ Heritage rooms. Even these more modest rooms still have something of an outlook.
Live-it-Up Option: Yep, you guessed it, the 62-square-meter Harbour View Balcony Suite is the bomb! It has its own private deck jutting out over the pier, with a designer day bed and arm chair. The views are perhaps the best in Sydney this close to the water and it comes with a host of mod-cons including Bose sound system, Marble topped wet bar with Nespresso coffee machine and 2 LED flat screen TVs. Oh, did I mention the bath tub?
Killing Time: Have a few hours to spare? Climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with Bridgeclimb, walk the historic Rocks precinct or right around to the Opera House, ride a ferry to Manly or take the hop-on hop-off bus for a city tour. More ideas: www.sydney.com
Access: Downtown Sydney can be a bit hectic for private and taxi traffic, especially during peak times and The Sebel Pier One is not close to train or light rail. The bus access is fine for once you’re checked, but not for arriving or departing with all your cruise luggage.
A single traveller may be able to manage the public transport from the airport – you can catch a train (Fare: A$15pp) to Circular Quay station, then a cab the short distance (1000m/yards) to the hotel. A party of 2-4 arriving at offpeak times may find a single cab more convenient for little extra money. Average cab fares should be around A$40 with surcharge and a small tip in favourable traffic. Circular Quay and the OPT are only a short, flat walk of perhaps 800 metres/yards, but you may find cab easier if your luggage is a burden. Consult the doorman.
ADDRESS: 11 Hickson Road, Sydney, New South Wales 2000, Australia Google map link: http://goo.gl/maps/FcdS1
TELEPHONE: (61 2) 8298 9999
FACSIMILE: (61 2) 8298 9777
Roderick Eime is perhaps best known for his adventure and expedition cruise contributions, but is also an avid hotel and resort reviewer.