The new W Hotel Sydney makes a splash on the waterfront

The new W Hotel Sydney makes a splash on the waterfront

As Marriot Bonvoy’s largest ever W hotel lands in Sydney, Jonathan Samuels discovers that it stands for both Wow... and Wacky


You can’t miss the architectural marvel that is the W Hotel towering over one end of Sydney’s Darling Harbour. While its location doesn’t have the cachet that comes from views of the Opera House or Harbour Bridge, it is still close enough to Sydney’s heart to make you feel you are part of the action.

The hotel opened last October and is housed in an imposing glass building called The Ribbon which has wave-like curves that reflect the harbour via floor to ceiling windows day and night. Just a short walk to the city centre, moments away from Sydney’s International Convention Centre and a stroll to Darling Harbour’s attractions and restaurants, the W is a good choice whether you’re away for a holiday or business.

Developed as a pedestrian and tourist district in the 1980s, Darling Harbour has felt a little tired of late but the W, a new IMAX cinema and a multi-million-dollar regeneration plan mean this harbour-side precinct is back on the map.


London-based interior design consultancy Bowler James Brindley have embraced Sydney’s history, spirit and coastal location in every aspect of the hotel. It is bold, energetic and — dare I say it — a little wacky.

Larrikin moments can be found around every corner at the W
W Hotel Sydney

The very first image to greet you as you walk through the main door is a huge W sign covered in red petals, inspired by the vibrant red Australian Waratah flower — New South Wales’ floral emblem. The quirky hotel design is based around the Australian ‘larrikin’, a term used to describe a cheeky, maverick character. Larrikin moments can be found around every corner, from neon emus loitering in corridors to huge stuffed fabric shark toys found on every bed.

The vibe is, without a doubt, luxury but with an unconventional twist. Head up from the entrance and the theme, according to the hotel, is Future Noir. It makes sense given the hotel rises up between two of Sydney’s motorways. On the escalator to the third floor, electric blue lighting means you can pretend you are an extra in Blade Runner.

The main lobby is more of a hang out space, a bright blue circular bar has views of the harbour and nest-like seating which references the native Satin Bowerbird — known for stealing blue items to decorate its nest, making it the larrikin of the bird world.

Which room?

Marine chic is the vibe in the 588 rooms, 162 of which are suites. Corridors with twinkly ceiling star lights, are purposefully kept dark so when you enter your room and open the curtains onto the bright glare of the harbour there’s a sense of theatre. Given the hotel’s curve, no two rooms are the same, although they do all feature shades of white and blue to fit in with the nautical aesthetic.

There are ocean views from the suites
Marriott International

Walk-in wardrobes are covered in wallpaper featuring the Waratah (the Australian professional rugby union team). Baths are circular rather than the traditional oval shape, and a W Mix bar means you can make your own cocktails as you take in the stunning views. The Penthouse Extreme Wow Suite takes the ocean theme to another level, based on the retired HMAS Onslow submarine which is now part of the National Maritime Museum in the harbour.


The Wet Deck is surely one of Sydney’s best hotel pools
Marriott International

Right at the top of the hotel and partially open to the elements is the Wet Deck, surely one of Sydney’s best hotel pools, complete with giant mosaic jellyfish. The 30 metre infinity pool-with-a-view is surrounded by cabanas and loungers. There is a second indoor pool to dip into when the Wet Deck closes in the early evening. The AWAY Spa features funky pedi-pods and geometric art by Bradley Eastman. Unusually for a spa — but a welcome addition — is the bar, where you can combine socialising with rejuvenating. There’s also a well kitted out gym.

Food & Drink

BTWN restaurant is so called because it is literally between the two expressways. At first, seeing cars and trucks zoom by is a bit disconcerting, but thick glass keeps them out of earshot.

The designers have embraced the gritty urban theme — red and white strip lights in the ceiling reflect those long exposure photos of car lights at nighttime. The menu is contemporary Australian with an emphasise on local produce. Many of the main dishes are designed for two, the steak was a big hit, and the wine advice was right up there. Don’t skip the Kangaroo cheeseburger.

A daytime coffee station turns into the 2am Dessert Bar (confusingly at around 6pm). Sweet treats are created by Singaporean pudding pro Janice Wong and can even be served with a cocktail pairing.


Sydney’s Darling Harbour by night

Darling Harbour is home to, among other attractions, the National Maritime Museum, Madame Tussauds Sydney and the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. There are plenty of boat trips which leave from the harbour and it is a great area to stroll around in the sunshine and find somewhere to stop for a bite to eat. Further afield, Taronga is one of the world’s best regarded zoos, where Sydney’s sparkling skyline gives the giraffes and elephants something to gaze at. Circular Quay and the Opera House are also a walk or short cab ride away.

Best for...

Those looking for luxury without the formality will enjoy the W. It is an Instagrammers paradise, but also works for those focused in great service while also having the opportunity to take snaps.


Rates for an overnight stay at W Sydney start from $399 (£210) per night, for a Wonderful King Room with City Views. For a Spectacular King Room, Darling Harbour View rates start from $419 (£220).