What is it Like To Stay at YHA Sydney Harbour?

We recently spent two nights at YHA Sydney Harbour to see for ourselves what it’s like as a base for a weekend getaway. How would two fifty-year-olds fit in? Does age matter? Read on and see how it went.

A weekend stay at Sydney Harbour YHA

The verdict is in. YHA Sydney Harbour is often rated by budget travellers as a fantastic place to stay. We recently checked in for two nights to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about. We have not been hostel people for quite some time, so we were unsure what to expect. I am pleased to say we felt right at home at this clean and tidy hostel in the heart of Sydney.

YHA Sydney Harbour exterior

Sitting high on the ridge of the Rocks, Sydney’s most historic precinct, Sydney Harbour YHA overlooks all the action on Sydney Harbour and is less than a 10-minute walk from public transport. The hostel is built atop an archaeological site. There is evidence of the dig throughout the property; this helps you connect with the history of The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest quarter.

YHA Sydney Harbour dig
three floors of accommodation and facilities sit above an archaeological dig

Purpose-built to provide budget accommodation to visitors, the hostel combines state-of-the-art facilities with all the amenities travellers need right in the city’s heart.

The hostel’s standout feature is the rooftop terrace – this has to be the best-located city hostel in Australia. Guests are treated to the sort of view you expect from a five-star harbour hotel.

YHA Sydney roof terrace
The rooftop is spacious – this is only half of it!

From here, you can watch the sunrise over the harbour, enjoy a bbq dinner or share drinks with friends while the lights of the city sparkle.

The view never gets old – we picked up some wine and cheese from the supermarket at Manly on our afternoon ferry ride and enjoyed them while the sun set.

Sydney YHA at golden hour
At golden hour
YHA Sydney by night
and after dark!

You also get a fabulous view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour YHA View
The Glenmore Hotel’s rooftop bar is a 3-minute walk away and also have great views

Our Room at Sydney Harbour YHA

We spent the weekend in a double ensuite room that offered a great view of the Sydney Opera House. The rooms are basic, very much like a budget 3 star you might find near an airport, but they were clean and comfortable. We had a view of the Opera House from our 2nd-floor window.

We were surprised by the bathroom, it was spacious, and the shower had great water pressure. There was also a hairdryer. Ensuite rooms include towels and soap, but if you book a standard room, you will need to provide your own or rent one from reception for $2.

Sydney Harbour YHA Double Ensuite 2018 1
Basic and spacious enough for two

Our room also had a TV, a couple of chairs and a kettle and everything you need for coffee and tea before you venture out.

The hostel takes recycling seriously; there are two bins in your room and an explanation of how to use them. This message is carried across the property and is really great to see!

All rooms have air conditioning, and it worked great on a scorching afternoon when we visited. In private rooms, it was self-controlled. You can also open the windows, something that is pretty rare. The aircon in dorm rooms is controlled via reception. One neat feature is that it automatically switches off when the windows are open.

We had a peek at the dorms; each communal room has a locker with a power outlet. The lockers are not huge, but they are large enough to store your valuables. If you have a big suitcase, you can remove the important things and store the rest under your bed.

There are larger lockers at reception – there is a charge for these, but they are a good option if you need more space.

The Hostels Facilities

Hostel common areas

The hostel has spacious communal areas along with being clean and very comfortable; they are a good spot to meet other travellers if you are alone. In our case, it was a spot I escaped to while my partner slept in!

Sydney Harbour YHA Lounge
There are several glass coffee tables displaying treasures found on the dig site.

The main lounge has several display cases that show some of the artefacts found on the dig site below. There is a small book exchange, some board games and even a second-hand clothing rack. This is the spot to head to if you want to do some work.

To the side of the kitchen is a smaller terrace that we used for our morning coffee when we were too lazy to walk back upstairs. If the roof terrace is busy and you want a quiet spot, this is a good option. The sofas here were looking well-loved and could probably do with some TLC, but it was still very comfy.

YHA Sydney Outdoor terrace
Level 1 outdoor area

The Hostel kitchen

The Kitchen area has four zones; each has two sinks and hotplates, meaning there is plenty of room for at least eight groups to cook at once. There is also plenty of fridge space and shelves to store your food.

YHA Sydney Kitchen
Kitchen 2

If you don’t feel like cooking, there is a small cafe on-site with basic snacks, fruit and an all-important espresso machine. You can buy a continental breakfast or the makings of a cook your own to save you hitting the supermarket on a short visit.

Upstairs common room

Located just off the terrace this space comes complete with a pool table and large screen TV perfect for catching up on the latest game.

Sydney Harbour YHA common room
The rooftop common room also features a foosball and a big screen tv

Laundry

We didn’t need it, but a laundry in Sydney is essential for budget travellers as laundromats in Sydney are very hard to come by. The laundry costs $4 for a wash and $4 for a dry, and powder is available for $2 from reception.

No there is not a pool

A few friends asked if there was a pool at the hostel, sadly no rooftop pool at YHA Sydney Harbour, but you can head to an indoor pool opposite Hyde Park or a lovely outdoor pool at Prince Alfred Park near Central Station.

The reception team can help you book tours – get advice about things to do in Sydney.

How to get to the hostel

While you can walk from either Circular Quay or Wynyard Stations, the Sydney Airport train stops at both stations; we recommend the latter as it’s an easy flat walk instead of lots of stairs from the Quay. Take the exit to York Street and be sure to check out the old wooden escalators that have been repurposed into a cool artwork, Interloop by Chris Fox.

Wynyard Escalator Sculpture 750
Take the escalator to York Street, cross the road and it’s a flat walk to the hostel.

Check out this guide to using Public transport in Sydney to help you master getting around the city.

Frequently Asked Questions about staying at YHA Sydney Harbour

How easy is it to find parking?

If you have a car, I suggest you hunt down parking elsewhere as much of the local street parking in the Rocks and nearby city streets is metered. If you don’t mind moving your car a bit, you can park for free at night.

Between 10pm and 8am each night, you can park for free on the streets near the hostel.

At other times you will need to feed the meter. It’s approximately $2.20 per hour on weekends and weekday evenings after 6pm and $4.40 on weekdays. There are deals on offer with some of the nearby parking stations but overall they were pretty pricy and we chose to park one night at the Goulburn St parking station for $24 flat rate and take the light rail back down to the Quay.

What are the check-in and check-out times at Sydney Harbour YHA?

Reception opens at 7am, but the official check-in time is 2pm. You can leave your bags in one of the (paid) lockers here if you arrive early and want to head out to explore. Late-night check-ins can be accommodated too. Check out is at 10am.

What type of people stay at the hostel?

During our visit, we met a good mix of people in different age groups. There were families with young kids, retirees on holiday from rural NSW, backpackers who were heading home after spending the last year exploring Oz and domestic travellers in their 30-40s enjoying a weekend in the city.

Obviously, being lockdown, there were not as many international visitors as usual, but there was a smattering. The vibe was friendly and relaxed.

How far is Sydney Harbour YHA from the Sydney city centre?

Well as a Sydneysider I usually think of the city centre at the area between Pitt Street Mall and Town Hall. The hostel is just a couple of minutes from Circular Quay and all forms of public transport. Jump on the light rail to reach Town Hall and Chinatown in a few minutes.

How much does it cost to stay at Sydney Harbour YHA?

Prices vary depending on the room you choose and start at approx. $34 for a dorm up to $155 for a family room sleeping 5 guests. There are 4 and 6 share dorms, twin share rooms, family rooms and private and premium double rooms. Some of the double rooms have ensuites and views.

Is the YHA Sydney Harbour Accessible?

It sure is! Check out Have Wheelchair will travel’s detailed review.

What is there to do at Sydney Harbour YHA?

Join a tour of the archaeological remnants of colonial sydney with the hostel’s resident education officer. On our one hour tour, we learnt about the families whose homes and businesses occupied this site in the 1800 and 1900s

YHA dig site remains
You can learn so much from what is left behind and our guide really bought it all to life!

I loved our tour and think that it’s an excellent way to learn more about the Rocks before you head out to explore the nearby streets. You can also see many artifacts uncovered from the dig site in display cases in the common areas. Tours are not running to a regular schedule at the moment but ask at reception, and they let you know.

What is there to do near the hostel?

I highly recommend you take some time to pop into one of the local pubs and try some local brews. The Australian Heritage Hotel, almost next door to the hostel, has a huge range of Australian craft brews on tap. You can collect your “beer passport” and make your way through the list!

You should also hit up a couple of happy hours.

  • Maybe Sammy a few minutes walk away in Harrington street – came in at number 11 on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2020 and has a happy hour from 4.30-5.30 Wed to Sat. Mini cocktails will only set you back $5.50 – the perfect size to taste a couple.
  • Cruise Bar at the Overseas Passinger Terminal
  • The Argyle in Argyle Street is only a few minutes away and has an epic happy hour from 4-7pm Wed to Saturday where there is a huge range of cocktails on offer for just $5 including Aperol Spritz, beer, wine and house spirits.
  • Another gem is The Rocks Discovery Museum. It’s a small but interesting collection that is a great introduction to the history of The Rocks.
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to walk across the Harbour Bridge – it’s one of the best places to take photos of the Sydney and the Opera House. While you are up here, check out the Pylon Museum (currently closed for renovation). Along with telling the story of the Bridge itself, it offers 360-degree views.

Local tip: There is a free walking tour of the Rocks every night at 6pm with I’m Free Tours.

Check out our 10 Tips for a perfect weekend in Sydney for more ideas

Where can you get cheap eats near the Sydney Harbour YHA?

  • If you’re an oyster lover, the Morrison is less than 10 minutes walk away, and every Wednesday from 6-7pm, they offer $1.50 oysters at the terrace’s Oyster Bar.
  • The Argyle offers wood-fired pizzas for just $10 between 4-5pm Wed-Saturday.
  • Dutch Smuggler – Single O coffee and the epic Indo Mie-Goreng Toasties – which is the best $9.90 you can spend when you have a hang-over! Breakfast and lunch only.
  • Small Bar – $1 wings on Wednesday and $10 Cheeseburgers on Thursdays
  • Hunter Connection food court – Hidden away on level 1 of the Hunter Connection between Pitt Street and George St. About a 15-minute walk tops from the hostel, dining at one of the stalls at Hunter Connection is like taking a mini trip to Asia. Prices are excellent ($7-10), but if you arrive at about 1.30pm you can often pick up a half-price deal! Lunch will set you back $5 or so, and you can buy a couple of boxes to take back to the hostel for dinner.
  • Also in Hunter Street is Malay-Chinese an institution with nearby office workers this place sells arguably Sydney’s best Laksa. Only open 11-3pm it’s perfect for an affordable $12 laksa or fried noodle lunch

So would we stay again?

Absolutely! We loved our stay here; the mix of guests and we enjoyed chatting to others over rooftop drinks. The location is perfect for exploring and the rooms are just what you need for a comfortable night’s sleep. For a weekend getaway, a week-long break, or just avoiding the long drive home after a night in the city, Sydney Harbour YHA is a great choice!

So in the words of the hostel….

YHA Sydney Harbour its time for another adventure
Painted on the wall above our bed!

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