Travel Without Limits Winter/Autumn 2024 Issue OUT NOW! Subscribe Here →


I’m a 5-star loving girl so no-one was more surprised than me when I loved staying at the Sydney Harbour YHA. I’ve never stayed in a youth hostel before but I can now see great benefits.

When I told a friend we’d stayed at the hostel she stepped gingerly around the elephant in the room and said, “Isn’t it for……………. young people?” Despite being young at heart I clearly don’t fit the age demographic she imagined at a hostel. I have to admit to having preconceived ideas too. When I arrived and found families in the dining area and seniors wandering around I was surprised. Now that I’ve stayed I can see that it is suitable for all ages and it adds to the experience meeting a variety of people.

Terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA
The kids enjoying the terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA

The Sydney Harbour YHA is no ordinary hostel. It’s built amongst the archaeological remnants of early Sydney in the heart of the historic Rocks area, one of Sydney’s most popular tourist attractions. The majority of the hostel is on raised pillars above the archaeological remnants to minimise the impact of the development and to ensure that people can still see the historic items.

Items on display give an insight into life in Sydney dating back to 1795

The displays around the hostel give an insight into early life in Sydney with archaeological remains dating back to 1795. I love the way they have been integrated around the hostel with displays of items under glass coffee tables in the lounge. Despite being such a modern facility the past is acknowledged and highlighted.


I’ve mentioned that the hostel is built on a historic site, it is also on absolute prime real estate. A few doors down is the Shangri-La Hotel so it’s definitely an A-list neighbourhood. The views from the terrace take in the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and the Sydney skyline.

Sydney Harbour YHA
The Terrace at the Sydney Harbour YHA

We spoke to another guest who was visiting from Chile. We met up on the terrace and we struck up a conversation while admiring the view. He said, “I was looking for accommodation online and I saw the view from this place and I booked it immediately.” He laughed and said, “I didn’t even look at what the rooms were like. I just wanted to stay for the view.” He wasn’t disappointed and was spending the morning enjoying Sydney with breakfast on the terrace.


It’s great to have a good location and interesting history onsite but clearly we also look for good accessible accommodation. The YHA delivers on that front too.

Accessible room2

The accessible room we looked at has a double bed with a single bunk bed over it.

Accessible room

Transferring to the bed can only be done on one side as the other is against the wall. BJ found there was plenty of room to wheel around the room.

Accessible room at Sydney Harbour YHA
Accessible room

There is a desk, kettle with tea and coffee making facilities and wardrobe. I love that recycling bins are in the room. When we travel we always look to recycle maps and other leaflets once we are finished with them. The Sydney Harbour YHA is actually the first purpose built environmentally sustainable YHA in a central city location.

I watched guests in the communal kitchen and I was pleased to see them separating their rubbish into recycling, organic waste and garbage. I think it’s a wonderful initiative and hope to see other places follow suit.


Accessible bathroom Sydney Harbour YHA
Accessible bathroom Sydney Harbour YHA

The bathroom in the accessible room has grab rails throughout, lever taps, lowered fixtures and an accessible wash basin.

Accessible bathroom
Accessible bathroom

The shower is a roll-in shower with a flip-down shower bench.

The accessible accommodation is suitable for up to three people.

Family accommodation is available but it does not have an accessible bathroom.

Despite being so close to the Harbour Bridge we didn’t hear any road noise and the heavy curtains ensure a good sleep can be had no matter what time of the day you arrive.


If you are looking to save money and don’t mind sharing a room with other travellers then the dormitory accommodation may be for you.

Shared accommodation at Sydney Harbour YHA
Shared accommodation at Sydney Harbour YHA

The shared accommodation is surprisingly spacious.

Shared accommodation at Sydney Harbour YHA
Shared accommodation at Sydney Harbour YHA

Each guest staying in the shared room has their own locker with a power point.


We were impressed by the spacious common areas and found all the facilities wheelchair accessible.

kitchen and lounge at Sydney Harbour YHA
Kitchen and lounge at Sydney Harbour YHA

Cooking in a communal kitchen was a novelty for AJ and we all had a sticky beak at the shelving where people keep their food. It’s always interesting seeing what other’s eat. I love the idea of the shelves with a sign “free food” where people can leave left-overs. It always kills me to waste food when we check out of an apartment but here it is being used and appreciated by others rather than be thrown out.

Cooking pancakes at Sydney Harbour YHA
AJ cooking pancakes at the hostel

The majority of people seemed to respect the rules of washing and drying up your plates once you’ve finished and even this had AJ helping out. Maybe we should move to a youth hostel.

Wheelchair Accessible cooking facilities
Wheelchair accessible cooking facilities

We were impressed to see that access extended to wheelchair accessible cook tops and kitchen facilities.

TV room at Sydney Harbour YHA
TV room at Sydney Harbour YHA

There is a TV room with a selection of DVDs to hire or you can do what we did and BYO DVDS.


For me the terrace is the place to be. The best show in Sydney happens right out front of the hostel on Sydney Harbour. The terrace is wide with a mixture of lounge chairs, sun lounges and tables and chairs. Being so wide it was great for BJ with his wheelchair.

The terrace at the Sydney Harbour YHA
The terrace at the Sydney Harbour YHA

It is certainly a great spot to watch sunrise. I threw on a jacket over the top of my PJ’s and along with a few other early birds, enjoyed mother nature’s display. By the way, I wasn’t the only guest there in my PJ’s.

Sunrise on Sydney Harbour.
Sunrise on Sydney Harbour from the Sydney Harbour YHA

The terrace at the YHA is also a wonderful position to watch the city lights come on during the Vivid Festival.

Sydney Opera House illuminated for Vivid
Sydney Opera House projection for Vivid

If crowds are not your thing, then this is ideal for you. We sat and watched the projections on the Sydney Opera House with only a few other YHA guests to keep us company. The skyline and Harbour Bridge were also illuminated making the terrace a magical place to be at this time of year.

The view from the terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA
The view from the terrace


The Sydney Harbour YHA has spectacular views and as many of you will know, views usually are a result of an elevated position. The hostel is on a hill. It is just below the Harbour Bridge in The Rocks. If you are using a car there is street parking which is 4P making it free for people with a disability parking permit. If you are travelling by public transport the nearest station is Wynard which is only about a 10-15 minute walk. Getting out at Wynard Station you need to take the York Street exit which gives you an almost level walk or wheel to the hostel. If you are accessing the hostel from the lower areas of The Rocks it’s an uphill push. No problem for power chairs though.


At the YHA there is a great vibe of sharing and helping. All around the hostel there are boards with suggestions of what to do, where to dine and an important one for budget travellers “Top free activities in Sydney”.

Info boards with suggestions on what to do and see in Sydney


  • If arriving by train, get out at the York Street exit at Wynard Station
  • The YHA has breakfast supplies available at reasonable prices. Eggs, bacon, toast, condiments, fruit and individual cereal packets are available.
  • There is a small mini-mart under the YHA but it is expensive and many items don’t have a price on them. Shop at the Coles at Wynard (a lift is just being completed for wheelchair access). If you are in the Town Hall area there is a Woolworths Supermarket there.
  • Have a barbecue on the terrace or take up wine and cheese to watch sunset.
  • Chatting to other travellers is always one of the best parts of travel and the YHA has an eclectic mix of guests.
  • There is free WiFi in the lounge area.

Whether you are single, a couple or a family the YHA is a great place to stay. The hostel and rooms are spotless and the location can’t be beat. You can find out more about Sydney Harbour YHA here.

We’d like to thank the YHA for hosting us for our stay. As always my opinions are my own and although I won’t be giving up my 5-star weekends with my Mum, I’m a convert to hostel accommodation.

If you’d like to keep up with our travels and reviews we’d love you to subscribe to our blog.

We share lots of fun tips over on Facebook so why not follow along there too?

Terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA
AJ on top of the world on the terrace at Sydney Harbour YHA





  1. I am a senior paraplegic. We recently stayed in Sydney for a disability expo & had trouble finding a suitable room that didn’t break the bank. thank you for telling us about YHA! I always thought travel too hard with chair but after getting up the nerve I am now hard to stop. Thanks for your blog.

    • Thanks for sharing Margaret. It is often difficult to find accessible and affordable accommodation. We have found that recently while booking a trip to the Northern Territory. I’m so glad you’ve got the travel bug. It is a wonderful feeling when you travel and see new things and meet new people. Keep up the travel and fun. Julie


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.