Welcome to Sydney: a review of Sydney Harbour YHA

February 21, 2011 in Australia,New South Wales,Places

The Sydney Harbour YHA is the perfect introduction to this sprawling city. I only stayed for a night, but I would have happily stayed for many more if I didn’t have a friend who offered up her room for free while she’s vacationing in Thailand for a few weeks. Here’s my round-up on one of Sydney’s newest and greenest—and in my opinion, loveliest—hostels:

View from the rooftop terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA

The positives:

  • It’s got a rooftop terrace. With unparalleled views of Sydney’s most iconic structures, like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. So much cooler than just a common room.
  • It’s loaded with helpful information. There are boards on every level with posters and brochures for other YHAs in Australia: self-promotion, yes, but also a great way to get you thinking about your next stop. There’s also a board with 101 free things to do in Sydney: perfect for not only the budget traveler, but also someone who’s interested in doing more than the guidebook’s top 10.
  • It’s green. I noticed the recycling bin in the room, excellent natural lighting and the keycard-activated lighting and air conditioning. I also learned that the Sydney Harbour YHA has solar hot water, energy-efficient lighting and recycled rubber flooring. What’s not to love about a cheap stay with a minimal carbon footprint?Bunk beds, lockers, open space
  • It’s very, very clean. I stayed in a four-bed dorm with a private bathroom, and it was spotless. The common room, kitchen and rooftop lounger were all immaculate as well.
  • All the bathrooms are en-suite. That means you don’t have to go traipsing through the halls in your towel and shower flip-flops. I was also really impressed by the quality of the water and showerheads: nothing beats a nice hot shower after a long flight!
  • It’s right in the heart of the Rocks, Sydney’s oldest development: literally, it was built on the ruins. That means it still looks like an unfinished construction site at the entrance, but it’s awesome to have a bit of a history lesson as soon as you arrive. There’s also a Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre on site if you’re interested in learning more.View from the rooftop terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA
  • For a quick trip to Sydney, the location is unbeatable. You’re within walking distance to the major sites, such as the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Sydney. It’s also super close to key transportation, like the ferries to Manly Beach and Taronga Zoo.

Reception at Sydney Harbour YHA

  • The people are awesome. Staff is really helpful and friendly. There’s also a wide cross-section of people staying here: Australians, foreigners, backpackers, families, couples. The wide variety of rooms offered at every price range makes the Sydney Harbour YHA much more than a backpackers’ hostel.
  • It’s got the winning amenities. Shared kitchen, common lounge, in-room lockers: the Sydney Harbour YHA has my must-haves.

The negatives:

  • The internet isn’t free. It’s available, but at $1 for every 15 minutes. On the plus side, they offer PCs if you don’t have your own computer. If you do, the Wifi is pretty quick and available anywhere in the hostel. Seriously, add in free Wifi and I might move in.
  • There are a heck of a lot of stairs if you’re coming from the train station or nearest bus stop. If you’ve got a rolling suitcase or you’re not up for the climb, I’d definitely recommend a taxi to the hostel’s doorstep.

Note: Sydney Harbour YHA graciously offered me a free night of accommodation and use of the last two photos in this post, but all opinions are my own.

Further, I received the following note from the marketing director at YHA regarding the Wifi charges and found it very helpful in understanding why most hostels in Australia charge for Wifi:

“Just a quick note about the wifi. Here in Australia, we pay a lot to our telecommunications companies for data download – it’s a rip off but they have it all sewn up. (For instance, I pay $60 a month for a very modest download allowance at home). Therefore offering free wifi would be prohibitively expensive – especially as travellers have been known to download the odd movie or two! Where you will see free wifi around town, it’s usually either very slow, provided by cafes to get you to spend more on coffee, or by government bodies like libraries.

YHA decided early on that we would have the best and fastest wifi available but we would charge for it. No old dodgy machines with broken headphones, nothing to sit on and slow download. We do offer free access to a number of sites – yha.com.au, yha.co.nz andwhitepages.com.au It was a decision in keeping with our philosophy of offering the best quality backpacker hostels and services.”

  • Eliza

    I’m an Aussie expat living in the US, so we’ve effectively swapped places.

    If you want a nice day trip, take the mountains train from Central to Katoomba and visit Echo Point and the Three Sisters. Katoomba is my hometown; very eclectic, sort of hippy vibe, which is in stark contrast to the touristy ScenicWorld (featuring the world’s steepest railway).

    Another of my favourite places is Port Macquarie. It’s several hours train ride north of Sydney (maybe about six hours?), but it’s a beautiful beach town with a relaxing atmosphere.

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  • It’s not cheap there, though, and Internet is going to be expensive everywhere (not just here), so prepare yourself! I do love the view from the roof.

  • Yay! You’re there. This is your first post from Australia, yes?

  • Love the view of the harbor from there!! Plan to visit myself in late August, will have to keep this place in mind 🙂

  • Great info. I’d like to visit Sydney next year and this place might be a good place to stay. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rntllady

    Wow! never thought about going to Australia – maybe I should reconsider! Look forward to more about Sydney! Heidi

  • The hostel looks absolutely fabulous! Wi-fi is hard to come by anywhere in Australia, it’s about time they got around to fixing that!

    I love the rooftop area, it looks so relaxing and what amazing views!

  • The view from the roof is great, the perfect place to relax for a day! Didnt stay in the YHA last time I was in Sydney, but should check it out next time 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I just read about Katoomba in Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country.” It’s definitely on my list to check out! Will have to check out Port Macquarie as well, thanks for the tips.
    Where are you based in the States?!

  • Anonymous

    I’m quickly learning how expensive the internet is here! Such a bummer.

  • Anonymous

    Actually the last three have all been posted in Australia, but this is my first post ABOUT Australia, yes. Plenty more to come!

  • Anonymous

    It’s definitely a great place to stay–super central, super clean. Feels very luxe for a hostel!

  • Anonymous

    Definitely recommend it! It’s a great location for a few touristy days in Sydney 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I definitely think you should–you would LOVE the shopping!

  • Anonymous

    The hostel was amazing–I’m quickly learning that the wifi issue is more Australia, less YHA. Oh well!

  • Anonymous

    This YHA is super new, so it’s got some great amenities–definitely worth checking out!

  • It is a really nice hostel and the view is amazing so worth the money. That said, I think it’s a bit out of the average backpacker’s price range and wasn’t the easiest hostel to meet people.

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was a nice change from the “backpacker’s hostel”–there was such a wide range of groups, families, young people there! There are a lot of other hostel options in Sydney, and this is certainly on the higher end of the options, but if you’re only in Sydney for a few days, I think it’s worth the splurge!

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was a nice change from the “backpacker’s hostel”–there was such a wide range of groups, families, young people there! There are a lot of other hostel options in Sydney, and this is certainly on the higher end of the options, but if you’re only in Sydney for a few days, I think it’s worth the splurge!

  • Anonymous

    youre bit on the internet was very informative, i had no idea that was why there is NO free wi fi anywhere. great post, and hope youre having a blast. there is a pancake place there in the ‘rocks’ area….i think its called pancakes on the rocks actually. YUM!

  • Anonymous

    Ooooh I’ll have to check the pancake place out! It seems like everyone here has those little USB ports for free internet–supposed to work fairly well, but I haven’t tried them out yet.

  • what you remind me now…..with this post….i have been there in 2006 with 2 people i loved as much in my life…..but now not still with me….

    thank you

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