Vibe Hotel Sydney Darling Harbour – the charismatic alternative continues

It seems like only yesterday when the funky new hotel brand, Vibe Hotel Sydney Darling Harbour, burst onto the Sydney hotel scene. In fact it was more than 15 years ago when Vibe launched at Rushcutters Bay as “the charismatic alternative to traditional hotels”.

Since that momentous occasion, Vibe has become part of the burgeoning TFE (Toga Far East) Hotels family that includes such now-prominent hospitality brands as Adina Apartment Hotels, Travelodge Hotels, Rendezvous and the boutique TFE Hotels Collection. 

Our team has enjoyed countless nights at TFE Hotels all around the world and it’s been an interesting experience to see the various brands evolve and mature into class-leading, award-winning properties.

Location, Location

Unlike some of TFE’s other hotels like the original Vibe at Rushcutter’s Bay, the Vibe Hotel Sydney Darling Harbour was a brand new build in 2019, allowing architects and designers the greatest latitude in creating a ‘clean sheet’ property.

Vibe Hotel Darling Harbour slots neatly into Sussex Street

The location on Sussex Street is right on the south-western perimeter of the Sydney CBD and south-eastern fringe of Darling Harbour, a fact confirmed by the view from the western facing rooms and the hip rooftop bar, Above 319 – but more on that shortly. 

As such, everything in both precincts is within an easy walk, making it ideal for both weekday business and weekend leisure guests. Paddy’s Markets, the Sydney Aquarium, ICC and the Maritime Museum are all just a few minutes on foot.

Roof with a view

Street access is surprisingly inauspicious, denoted by a simple shop-like facade with a pronounced archway that doesn’t impinge on Sussex Street’s pedestrian access. Signage is flush with the wall, so if you’re driving, keep an eye out. It’s opposite the historic 1875 public school building.

The Sussex Store, ground floor eatery 

Most of the ground floor space is devoted to The Sussex Store, a casual dining space that is both comfortable and contemporary, serving great coffee, light meals and classy snacks to a fussy office crowd. Techy trestles and WiFi benches are powered-up and ready for laptops and USB devices – or you can be seated in conventional comfort at a table.

As part of our hotel test drive, we held a business lunch for a dozen guests and were impressed with the relaxed atmosphere and uncomplicated yet satisfying fare we enjoyed. We spent most of the afternoon up on ‘Above 319’,  enjoying the intimate rooftop space that felt like our own private party. 

Rooftop bar, Above 319 

The rooftop space also manages to squeeze in a slender lap pool, ideal for a dunk on a hot summer’s eve. A line of Caribbean cabanas faces seductively toward sunset so you can transport yourself to some faraway atoll while you gaze out across the skyline.

Studio for Two 

Our guest room was the entry-level offering and at 22sqm, was compact. The smaller space was offset by the extra-large, double-glazed window which effectively muted any street noise and created a bright, airy atmosphere. While the studio space was small by current standards, the bathroom was surprisingly large comparatively. Balcony and Deluxe rooms are slightly larger (25sqm) while the Executive Suites are 27sqm and allow an extra bed. All rooms feature a big 49-inch TV, USB points, WiFi and a Nespresso coffee machine. If booking again, I would definitely favour the balcony room for its extra space.

Standard guest room

Sydney has traditionally been the toughest accommodation market in the country with premium pricing and high occupancy all week. TFE’s Vibe model is well thought out, offering lively surroundings albeit in a pared-down facility. That said, those CBD hotels with massive function spaces, glittering, cavernous lobbies and retail arcades are superfluous to many travellers’ needs. Why pay for all that glamour, when all you need is form and function? This is Vibe’s ‘charismatic alternative’ and guests are loving it.   

STOP PRESS: TFE has just opened a new property in Perth, the Vibe Hotel Subiaco, and announced a new brand, with Quincy Hotel Melbourne opening shortly.

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