Ovolo Wooloomooloo: an eco-luxe Stay In Sydney
Sydney is, happily, home to a few hotels that have the contemporary city aesthetic down – with Paramount House Hotel (read review here) The Old Clare and Ace Hotel Sydney being prime examples – but there’s something special about waking up on the water. Ovolo Woolloomooloo is housed in the heritage-listed wharf building that juts out into Sydney’s harbour – close enough to the beaches to make it there by bike, a short walk through the botanical gardens to the city and conveniently located above some of Sydney’s best restaurants. The energy and aesthetic of Ovolo is playful to the nth degree, but behind the pops of colour and fairy-light adorned trees is a surprisingly considered approach to sustainability. If you’re looking for a planet-forward stay in Australia’s harbour city, Ovolo Woolloomooloo has got you covered – particularly the plant-based among us.
Unless you live in Australia, getting to Sydney is rarely an environmentally friendly endeavour. Named 2022’s Environmental Airline Of The Year, Etihad is your best bet for an environmentally conscious arrival – unless you plan on arriving by boat. With a commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Etihad uses innovative fuel-efficient aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels. For every economy flight purchased, the airline plants a mangrove tree in their forest in Abu Dhabi, with plans to begin planting forests overseas in the next few years. If you’re looking for ecoluxe though, you’ll want to book a seat in the business class cabin – an impossibly indulgent haven complete with Acqua di Parma products, French champagne on tap and an a la carte menu served by the most kind-hearted humans you’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering in the sky.
Once you’ve landed, a taxi can take you straight to the door of Ovolo Woolloomooloo – the creative eco-luxe hotel that occupies the western end of the heritage-listed Finger Wharf building. Inside, you’ll be instantly met with the energy of the hotel: playful and unashamedly indulgent. The team members are delightfully down to earth, the music is loud, and a pastel pink candy cart sits beneath a wide, underlit staircase – ready to be raided.
The award-winning architecture firm Hassell Studio is responsible for the striking design of the space, which manages to infuse Ovolo’s signature sense of play throughout while honouring the heritage of the building. The result is an industrial shell – dramatic soaring ceilings and exposed metal beams – housing eclectic art (largely from local artists) and a healthy dose of colour. Despite the overwhelmingly playful vibe, Ovolo is serious about sustainability – with ethical sourcing (everything from their minibar treats to their toilet paper is carefully considered), plant-based menus and regular charity events all playing important roles in their approach.
Once you reach your room, you’ll be met with more pops of colour, and a playlist of 80s and 90s classics. Spacious tiled bathrooms are stocked with paraben-free toiletries designed specifically for Ovolo, packaged in colourfully designed reusable pumps. Beneath tall ceilings and heritage beams, wide wooden windows look out onto the water from both sides of the hotel – another happy perk of the wharf location. On the topic of perks, these are something the Ovolo team takes incredibly seriously. Breakfast, high-speed WiFi, self-service laundry and 24-hour gym access are all included, and in your room, you’ll find a well-stocked minibar which you’re encouraged to devour at no extra cost. The perks also include free social hour, which was our first port of call after checking in.
The social hour takes place in Ovolo’s award-winning bar, where you’ll receive your first round of drinks on the house, along with unlimited olives and chilli-salted nuts. As part of Ovolo’s commitment to sustainability, their wine list focuses on small Australian producers, and many cocktails are made using seasonal ingredients and local botanicals.
After drinks, you can head out to dinner at one of the excellent restaurants that are housed within the wharf – China Doll and Otto being notable mentions. Or, you can stay put beneath the fairy lights and order from the in-house restaurant, which offers a contemporary Australian menu that’s 100% plant-based. With Executive Chef Tom Liang at the helm, Alibi is a standard setter when it comes to vegan dining. After martinis spiked with Australian gin, we shared a seemingly endless series of masterfully presented dishes: smoky eggplant crowned with crispy golden curls of parsnip skin, beetroot tartare with macadamia ricotta, grilled okra in a perfect umami XO sauce and spinach dumplings that came swimming in Sichuan chilli and jewels of goji berries. In keeping with the overall vibe, the service is professional but authentically warm, and we made fast friends with a waiter named Felix who recommended us a tequila and eucalyptus spiked cocktail and a raspberry and pistachio semifreddo that would have been too beautiful to eat, were it not so delicious. After dinner, we ordered two large pots of loose-leaf peppermint tea from the organic tea bar and made our way to bed.
The blackout blinds shielded our room from the sunshine that would otherwise have flooded in through the wood-panelled windows that lined two sides of our room. Since the sun was shining, I decided to take a walk and followed the path to the west of the building that wraps around the harbour. Past the swimming pool that’s suspended on wooden stilts above the water (Andrew Boy Charlton Pool) and up a set of stone steps past Mrs Maquaries Chair, I turned a corner and was greeted by Sydney harbour in all its glory. The Harbour Bridge arched above the water and the curves of the Opera House cut their iconic silhouette into the sky beside the far-reaching towers of the city. Despite having lived in Sydney for almost five years, the view still stopped me in my tracks – postcard perfect and sparkling.
By eight, we were both still full from dinner, but the breakfast was too good to turn down. The buffet – which sits beneath hanging brass lights and curation of antiques that give off an Italian trattoria energy – includes everything from pastries to passionfruit to fried rice to stir-fried greens. The menu is still plant-forward, but scrambled eggs are available on request, and arrive piping hot and silky.
With its convenient (but not-too-central) waterfront location and indulgently unpretentious (but environmentally conscious) offering, Ovolo Woolloomooloo makes the perfect base for overseas travellers arriving in Sydney. But as a Sydneysider, it’s even better – because that impossibly pretty dessert is too divine to only try once.