8 Unusual Places to Sleep in Sydney

Do you fancy sleeping somewhere a little different on your visit to Sydney? Are you a hotel person, a backpacker, perhaps you prefer self-catering in apartments? Sure Sydney has plenty of these, but I want to show you a couple of unique places you could sleep in Sydney.

Surprisingly finding somewhere interesting to stay in Sydney does not stretch the finances. This selection of unique places will suit a variety of budgets and tastes.

Cockatoo Island – Industrial history in the heart of the harbour

Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour, and you can stay the night! Historic Cockatoo Island offers a place to sleep smack bang in the middle of Sydney Harbour for less than $50 a night if you bring your own tent.

Cockatoo Island camp kitchen
Book a basic tent or a “glamping” version with a bed

If glamping is more your style, you can hire a site with a tent, mattresses, chairs and all the trimmings for under $100 for two adults and up to 3 kids! How’s that for bargain accommodation with a view.

There is lots to keep you busy here, especially if you are travelling with kids. You can play tennis, watch a movie under the stars, take a tour of the convict sites. The island was previously home to a prison, a reformatory school and most recently, a shipyard. 

You’re more likely to see art installations or music festivals these days than boat builders or prisoners. You can take guided tours as a day trip visitor or camp overnight and wake to a harbour sunrise.

Where: All this and it’s only 10 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay.
How: Visit Cockatoo Island website for more details or Check out reviews of camping and glamping at Cockatoo Island on Booking.com.

Pittwater YHA – Paradise at a bargain price

Spending some time in a Youth Hostel might not be at the top of your list of dream accommodation, but the Pittwater YHA is as extraordinary as the view above.

Aerial overlooking Pittwater on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Pittwater on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Credit: Destination NSW

Pittwater has it all: Aboriginal engravings, waterfalls, birds waiting to be hand feed, goannas, and wallabies looking for dinner in the surrounding bushland. The Youth Hostel or YHA is on the edge of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

There are no shops, cafes or bars, and you need to bring everything in that you want to eat and drink. That is part of the appeal. It’s only 90 minutes from Sydney, but you feel so much further away from the city while you are here.

The hostel was built in the 1930s and has double and dorm rooms. The kitchen has everything you need, and the verandas and hammocks are fantastic! Oh, and you can rent the whole hostel if you have a big group.

Where: It’s a 1-hour bus ride followed by 10 minutes on the ferry and a 15 min walk. Make sure you pack light; the walk is uphill!
How: Visit The Pittwater Youth Hostel website for detailed instructions on reaching the hostel or check out the reviews on Booking.com.

Taronga Zoo Roar and Snore- Spend a night with the animals.

Sleep overnight at one of the best animal parks in Australia, Taronga Zoo with their Roar & Snore program and experience a beautiful harbour sunrise and a personal zoo tour without the crowds. Meet animals up close, hear special keeper talks and get that perfect photo before the crowds arrive.

Roar and Snore tents at Taronga Zoo Sydney
Roar and Snore tents at Taronga Credit: Destination NSW

You spend the night in beautiful tents on a hill overlooking the harbour. The program includes two behind the scenes tours, some up close and personal photo opportunities and buffet dinner and breakfast.

Have a look at the Roar and Snore Itinerary on the Taronga Zoo website to see the fantastic views from the tents and details on the schedule if you stay.

Taronga Wilderness Retreat room
The Wilderness Retreat has amazing views Credit: Destination NSW

If you prefer a little more comfort the new Taronga Wildlife Retreat is perfect for a special occasion. Spacious well appointed rooms overlook bushland and some rooms have harbour views. Your stay includes guided wildlife tours, dinner and breakfast at Me-Gal restaurant and complimentary access to Taronga Zoo. Parking is included.

Where: Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman 

Q Station North Head – Stay the night and take a ghost tour

Q Station was the first stop for many arrivals to Australia. From 1840 till the mid-1980s, any ship arriving in Sydney with a suspected contagious illness was forced to stay here sometimes as long as 40 days.

Aerial overlooking Quarantine Beach and Quarantine Station Wharf, Manly.
Quarantine Beach and Quarantine Station Wharf, Manly. Credit: Destination NSW

Staying at Q Station, for a night or a weekend, allows you to combine beautiful views, historic venues, ghost tours and bushland walks. There are various tours, including terrifying night ghost tours.

Where: Q Station is located at North Head, a short taxi ride or free shuttle bus ride from Manly Wharf.
How: Visit the Q Station website for more information about the different tours and accommodation at North Head.  See the latest reviews and lots of photos on Booking.com.

Lord Nelson Hotel – Sleep in a pub with its own brewery

Located in the historic heart of Sydney’s Rocks, The Lord Nelson is the oldest pub brewery in Australia. It is a 10-minute walk to Circular Quay, a 3 minute walk to Barangaroo and a 10 minute walk to Darling Harbour.

Lord Nelson Hotel 2022
The Lord Nelson in the Rocks

This beautiful sandstone building has nine double guest rooms, some with en-suite and one triple room. The rooms are very comfortable, and the pub itself has a very friendly feel.

The only drawback is that the rooms are above the pub, and there is no elevator, so you will need to climb the stairs.

The pub has a nice restaurant for meals, and several beers are brewed on-site. We enjoyed our time here, and I highly recommend a stay.

The perfect location for exploring all the pubs in the Rocks on a self guided Rocks pub crawl.

Where: The Lord Nelson is a 5-10-minute walk from Circular Quay.
How: Visit the Lord Nelson Hotel website for more details

Spend the night in a yacht on the Harbour

A while back we were lucky enough to spend the night on a stunning yacht in Berry’s Bay just west of the Harbour Bridge. After a few hours sailing Sydney Harbour in the Elan Impression 45.1, we docked in Berry Bay for the night.

The Elan Impression is an impressive vessel with three double beds and two bathrooms. Plenty of room to bring your family or friends, or keep it to yourselves like we did!

Enjoying the morning sun on Sydney Harbour
We spent the night on this gorgeous yacht

Sydney By Sail have a number of experiences, we tried their Platinum Romance B&B package.

Read the full review of our overnight sailing experience and see why we think it’s an amazing way to spend a night in Sydney.

Where: Boarding is from the wharf new the Australian Maritime Museum
How: Find all the details on the Sydney By Sail website.

Soren Larsen – Sleep on a Tall Ship

A night on the Soren Larsen gives you the chance to experience Sydney as the early arrivals did.  Thankfully your bed for the night will be something a soldier rather than a convict slept in.  

Southern Swan tall ship with Sydney Opera House on the background
Spend the night in a tall ship

This experience includes sunset sailing, where you have the chance to climb the mast and learn more about sailing this magnificent ship, drinks, dinner, twin-berth cabins and a hearty breakfast with the captain when you wake.

The Soren Larsen is a large 19th-century wooden square-rigger 44 metres long with 30 metre high masts.

In the morning, you visit Goat Island to learn more about our convict past.

Where: Departs from Campbell’s Cove
How: Find out more on their website

The Nan Tien Temple – Sleep in a Buddhist Temple

Okay, it is an hour and a half from the CBD, but a night or two at the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple will not cost you very much and give you a great stress-free break.

Nan Tien Temple

The largest Buddhist Temple in the southern hemisphere, Nan Tien, offers double and triple rooms from A$88 a night. Add to the cost of a guided temple tour and lunch for $12 each.

On the way, drive through the Royal National Park, the 2nd oldest national park in the world and watch the hang gliders off Stanwell Tops. You can also drive the new Sea Cliff Bridge. It’s a nice weekend out of the city if your holiday allows time.

Where: The Nan Tien Temple is a 90min drive from Sydney city.
How: Visit the Nan Tien Temple website for more details

Some more interesting hostels in Australia

  • Magnetic Island YHA
    This hostel on Magnetic Island is made up of cute little A-frame cabins and located next to an animal sanctuary. Fantastic facilities for a hostel with a great pool and bar
  • Stay underground in a dugout
    Visit Coober Pedy in the remote outback of South Australia and stay underground in a dorm or motel room

Camping spots close to Sydney – Bush camping or luxury sites

Still not found what you are looking for?  Why not head over to the Sydney Expert community and ask a local for their opinion.

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6 thoughts on “8 Unusual Places to Sleep in Sydney”

  1. I really want to visit Sydney some say. It’s great to see that there is a lot of things to do around about zoo. I love the idea of sleeping at the zoo!

    Reply
  2. Interesting list… have you stayed in each? Which one is your fave? I would like to try Taronga Zoo Roar and Snore:) Thanks for sharing… Happy travels:)

    Reply
    • I have visited all but only actually slept in 3 of them. Would love to do the roar and snore and the tall ship sleep over one day. My favourite of the ones I have done is probably Pittwater YHA. It is fantastic for a real getaway and Cockatoo Island is camping without the fuss.

      Reply

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