Remarkable. A hotel in the heart of Sydney that somehow lets you wrap yourself in solitude. AT stopped by the Pier One to see how that particular trick is managed. Words and images by Kim Richards.



The Pier One Sydney has a strong presence about her. Not only is she the city’s first hotel built perched above the water, she owns the most ideal location and her structure dates back to the early 1900s, granting her that much-vaunted heritage listing. With a private pontoon and waterfront bar, you’ve no sooner checked in before you’re enjoying a sparkling Chandon as dusk sweeps over the Harbour city, the envy of all.


The room experience

Despite sleeping on what I consider to be lousy pillows, the attractions and exquisite setting of Pier One easily sway visitors to return. The property’s original structure, built to house inbound freight, remains unchanged – today’s rooms were once storage chambers for international goods. The aura of the Walsh Bay precinct transports guests to a yesteryear where tents, cargo ships and pioneers created the lifestyle that Sydneysiders now lap up.

The hotel rooms are modern and what you’d expect from a 4.5 star hotel. The King Harbour room is hard to beat with its crisp white finish and generous sliding doors perfectly positioned for guests to survey a streaky sunset.


The view is unlike any other


Walking into the lobby must surely have an impact on even the most smug Sydneysiders. The views are far-reaching and the glass floor in the lounge mesmerises; the Harbour waters swirl below. Peering out towards the Harbour Bridge literally toppling over your back and the grin of Luna Park’s gateway staring back at you is remarkable, especially when North Sydney glows in a sallow shade of late afternoon light. You can’t spend enough time on the piers of Walsh Bay.


The right start to any day


Days at Pier One start with a coffee and your paper of choice at the breakfast buffet. The variety is wide and the fruit flawless. Don’t panic if you’re caught waiting for the tiresomely slow lifts, the food keeps pouring out. In fact the delectable display tempts more than a few guests to sneakily wrap up the odd take-away snack to munch on mid-morning.


And the surrounds?

Street culture in The Rocks is alive early and meandering through the shops, stopping for a hot chocolate and admiring the arty antiques is pure pleasure. But finding new haunts and comparing the known and unknown gems of the city is how I’d rather spend my time. Back to Hickson Street for coffee sampling at Di Lorenzo, a boutique Italian roaster. Stroll into what looks like a showroom but smells of barristers’ brew and try or buy – this family business won’t disappoint. Uphill towards Millers Point, Kent Street and Argyle Place, with rooftop bars and inner-city tennis courts, is another little hub worth exploring.


A good spot for a pint

The Lord Nelson, Sydney’s oldest licensed hotel, organises small brewery tours to sample the unique flavours of its beers. Don’t leave until you’ve tasted the renowned Three Sheets, with its delicate spicy hop character. Creep over to the Palisade Hotel for views across the city: the five storey stack (est. 1916) sits on the highest point of The Rocks, the prices are reasonable and the restaurant popular – and as the Palisade states, “our well-cooked food puts many fancy-pants newer places to shame.”

Walking past Pier One along the docks and towards the Harbour Bridge is great exercise and if you’re really lucky you’ll catch your breath sitting at the open-air “bay window” seats at The Harbour Kitchen and Bar, a great spot to wave goodbye to the Manly commuters en route to the heads. The imposing Opera House stands before you, inviting you to look at it as though for the first time.


And great restaurants close by

If you find yourselves at Fish at the Rocks for dinner you’ve done well; this intimate eatery offers excellent seafood, the service is swish and if you haven’t yet tried the Atlantic Salmon Fillet with king prawn and scallop pate, make tracks there immediately.

Crawling into bed with your sliding door open to a wafting breeze is an ideal way to wrap up a busy day. Just don’t sleep through tomorrow morning’s breakfast buffet.


The Pier One Sydney, Autograph Collection
Where // 11 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, Sydney
Phone // (02) 8298 9999
Website //


Ask for a room with a view. The water-facing rooms are more expansive but appear larger, more airy and somewhat tranquil with the water before you. You’ll probably find it difficult to leave; there aren’t many views that better these.
When booking, there’s a room that remains a part of the building’s original structure, with a massive extending balcony. It hovers just above the water and is without doubt a one of a kind. You won’t pay more for it (its rates are standard) and guests in the know may request it, but it won’t necessarily be granted. Try your luck, though; it’s possibly the nicest hotel room in the city. Sit on your large balcony beneath the shade of your umbrella and watch life unfold below you.

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