Sydney Harbour YHA is not your ordinary YHA. It’s a new purpose-built hostel with state of the art facilities that’s located within the historic Rocks precinct of Sydney. It boasts incredible views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge and has won more than 30 awards, but the real feature of this hostel is that it is built on top of the archaeological remains of colonial Sydney.
When Sydney was first established, most of the convicts were sent to the Rocks to live. Houses were built on actual rocks (hence the name), and the suburb earned itself the reputation of being a rough neighbourhood. The bubonic plague hit Sydney in the early 1900s, and because the Rocks was densely populated, it was assumed that it would suffer the most casualties. Despite the deaths of only three people, most of the buildings were demolished and those who survived the plague were moved to other suburbs.
The current YHA site was not used much between 1901 and 1994, it was mainly an empty lot for car parking. In 1994, excavations of the current YHA site began and the foundations of over 30 colonial homes were found, as well as thousands of artefacts. The insight that these discoveries have provided show that perhaps the Rocks wasn’t such a scummy place after all, with some of the artefacts quite fine and expensive, and evidence of a healthy diet.
The area was in limbo because of its archaeological significance so the public was invited to make suggestions on how to utilise the land. YHA submitted a tender which was approved, and in 2008, construction of the hostel began. The hostel was built around the archaeological dig, and officially opened in April 2010 with only 2% of the site being affected due to construction. Over a million dollars were spent to make the hostel environmentally friendly and sustainable, and many of the archaeological remnants are displayed in cases within the hostel.
The adjacent The Big Dig Archaeology Educational Centre also opened at this time and accommodates large educational groups from primary school students through to uni groups. About 30% of the guests at the hostel are educational groups and there’s a separate dining room for large groups. A great part of The Big Dig is the façades around the building that simulate a glimpse back to colonial times.
There are 354 beds in the Sydney Harbour YHA, and a percentage of your accommodation fee goes to the archaeological upkeep and development of The Big Dig Centre. Accommodation options include air conditioned multishare dorms and double/twin accommodation, and all rooms have ensuites – some with separate toilet and bathroom. Many rooms also have views of the Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House.
The common areas are colourful, modern and spacious. There’s a large fully-equipped kitchen with plenty of storage space and a huge lounge and dining area. The rooftop has a BBQ area and sun chairs, as well as unobstructed views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and CBD. The hostel has accessibility access, free Wi-Fi hotspots for guests and a coffee bar at reception.
- BridgeClimb – one of the most unique Sydney experiences is only 300m down the street.
- The Fine Food Store –located on the corner of Mill and Kendall Lane, this café makes great coffee and a tasty croque le grill.
- Supermarket – there is a major supermarket in the Metcentre on George Street, about 700m south of the hostel.
- Circular Quay – one of the major terminals of the Harbour City Ferries is only 750m away. Catch the ferry to Manly! It is also a busy bus terminal serviced by the free city bus.
- Martin Place – 1.2km away in the heart of Sydney, Martin Place is a pedestrian mall with an entrance to the underground railway station.
- Sydney Opera House – while you can see the Opera House from the rooftop of the hostel, there’s no harm walking 1.6km to see it up close. While you’re there, why not have a beer at the Opera Bar.
- Sydney’s Luna Park – the 2.2km walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge will warm you up for a day of fun.
- Market City – south of the city, 2.5km away is Market City. While there are stalls that sell stuff, the best thing is the food court upstairs that dishes out great value Asian meals.
Sydney Harbour YHA is located at 110 Cumberland Street in The Rocks. Reception is open 24 hours. For more information about accommodation and availability, phone 02 8272 0900, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website.