When Woolloomooloo’s historic finger wharf celebrated its 100th birthday last year it was hard to believe that there was a time when the state government wanted to tear it down.
But it’s true. Back in the ‘90s when it was all run down the NSW government decided it was too expensive to restore and that it would be easier to just get rid of it.
Thankfully some passionate people didn’t let that happen. Locals blocked demolition crews from moving in, the unions imposed a green ban, Clover Moore went to Canberra to appeal to then treasurer Paul Keating, he went to the National Trust and this beautiful building was saved.
Today the finger wharf is a mix of apartments, top restaurants and a rather special hotel.
I remember the first time I went to this hotel space back when it was the W and being blown away by the architecture and how it felt to stay there.
Then it was Blue Sydney, and today it’s one of the first Ovolo’s in Australia and has become the Ovolo Woolloomooloo.
Ovolo Woolloomooloo Style
I’ve always loved the dramatic heart of the finger wharf with its high ceilings and unique architecture, so when I heard a new hotel was taking over I’ll admit I had a slightly protective moment. What if they didn’t respect the space and somehow messed it up?
Turns out I was well and truly off base with that one. To me it feels more magical than ever.
There’s still that incredible space above you but where it used to feel a bit cold and empty in the spaces around the bar now there’s colour and life.
Potted trees with LED lights shine, cosy booths for two beckon or you can mingle in one of the larger lounge areas or play a game of pool.
I became hypnotised by the huge clock in the lobby. The 86kg creation by Swedish design studio Humans Since 1982 creates beautiful sweeping patterns as it changes from minute to minute, and I immediately started wondering how I could have one of my own (and a home big enough to put it in for that matter).
Actually there were a few pieces of art throughout the hotel that I wanted to keep for myself, including a little purse terrarium in one of the booths. Super cute.
When it comes to the rooms themselves even the bedheads are a work of art, with a range of scenes in different rooms.
I had the fish on my bed, and there are also swinging ladies, hunting scenes (with ceramic ducks on the wall flying away from the men with guns on the bedheads) and my personal favourite, lady’s day out at the races.
I did a little video tour of my Cityvoo Loft room which you’ll find below, and I also had a sneak look inside one of their top Rock n Roll themed suites, the INXS Ultraroo and have to say a big wow to that one. Between the bar in the centre of the room and the hammocks with mirrors on the ceiling that’s definitely one to have a party in.
The (Free) Bar is Open in the Lo Lounge
If you’ve already read my piece on the first Ovolo in Sydney, Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour (which opened mere weeks before this one) then you’ll know one of the great things about the Ovolos is they treat you to so much free stuff.
Whereas hotel mini bars are usually rather scary when it comes to prices, here the entire mini bar is free. Not only that, if you want more you can get a free mini bar refill so that’s really two mini bars worth of drinks to a room.
They also give you a bag full of snacks that you can either eat in your room or take out with you, in the free tote bag they provided of course.
Not only is the WiFi free, it’s fast and there’s no limit on how much you download or how many devices you can use. There’s a self-service laundry and 24 hour gym included along with a rather generous Continental breakfast complete with pots of Bircher muesli, salmon and yummy cheese.
I also liked the way Ovolo Woolloomooloo had household style toasters on some of the tables so you could sit while your bread browned if you didn’t want to hang around the big industrial toaster.
Then there’s the Lo Lounge, where hotel guests can help themselves to snacks and teas and coffees throughout the day, and where from 5pm to 7pm every evening they can enjoy free drinks and more snacks at the bar.
The drinks on offer for guests in the open bar included Smirnoff Vodka, Gordons Gin, J&B Rare Whiskey, Dickel No 8 Bourbon, Pure Blonde and Cascade beer, and red, white and sparkling regional NSW wines.
Friends can come and join you in the bar, though those not staying in the hotel do have to pay for their drinks.
After enjoying a few drinks and some yummy sweet potato fries I didn’t really need any dinner but in the name of research I decided I should have some room service when I switched on the Apple TV back in my room.
A short while later I having dinner in bed and eating oysters and seared waka tuna with kimchi, enoki, ponzu gel, tograshi glass and puffed rice. This is more the sort of dish you’d find on a night out rather than on room service, but if you’re after more comfort food they also have other fare and can even bring a Harry’s Café De Wheels pie to your room if you don’t want to pop to the cart outside.
As for room service breakfast the next morning I couldn’t resist treating myself to the orange buttermilk pancakes with roasted pear, coconut yoghurt, cinnamon crunch and rosemary honey. Oh man, I can taste it again now. Yum! Though when I saw how good the continental breakfast was downstairs I realised I was facing a two breakfasts kind of morning.
But don’t worry if you end up doing the same. Just pop on your walking shoes, head out the door and soon you’ll be walking around Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, taking in picture perfect views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first visit or if you’ve lived in Sydney for years, that’s a sight that never disappoints. Then you can walk through the Botanic Gardens to the city, have a big day out and return to spend the night in a piece of Sydney history.
Amanda Woods stayed as a guest of the Ovolo Woolloomooloo but all opinions remain her own.
You can also check out what it’s like at Sydney’s other Ovolo, the Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour here.