Posted by Ric Garrido

Starwood W Hotels are one of the major success stories of hotel branding. Once a W Hotel, always a W hotel seems to be the story for this brand. One of my first experiences at a W Hotel was a stay in July 2003 at the W Sydney Woolloomooloo. This is one of the few W Hotel properties to rebrand out of the Starwood family in 2005. W Sydney is the W that got away – the lost W Hotel of Woolloomooloo.

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W Sydney at Woolloomooloo, July 2003

The W Sydney, now the Taj Blue Sydney, was a conversion of an old Sydney Harbour wharf into a hotel and luxury condo units. The end of the wharf seen in this photo were residences and the W hotel rooms were the units on the sides.

W Sydney, July 2003

Like most W Hotels, the interior was dim with loads of blue lighting. The lighting might be what inspired the replacement hotel brand name – Taj Hotels Blue Sydney.

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Glass elevator at W Sydney, July 2003.

The bar tends to be the focal spot for W Hotels and the W Sydney bar was rated one of the top 10 hotel bars in the world way back then.

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The bar was certainly a nightlight for the beautiful people of Sydney. The cavernous nature of the wharf building interior created a bit of noise as I recall.

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Interior public space of W Hotel Sydney, July 2003.

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Dining area in W Sydney, July 2003.

W Hotels create sensory impressions with sound, light, colors and space. W Sydney had this ambiance with music playing outside the hotel upon arrival. This was probably the first hotel we stayed where the doorman outside was wired up to reception to announce our arrival. Minimalist décor was one of the striking features of the W Sydney reception area.

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Reception area of W Sydney, July 2003.

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W Sydney reception area, July 2003.

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Indoor swimming pool at W Sydney, July 2003.

Inside the W Sydney skinny hotel room

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As a newly minted SPG Platinum in 2003 I was upgraded to a loft room. Many of the rooms at the W Sydney had balconies, but not this room.

The room was only about 8 feet wide, yet long and bi-level.

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W Hotel Sydney loft room, July 2003

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W Hotel Sydney, loft room July 2003

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Downstairs toilet and sink at W Sydney, July 2003.

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Stairway to loft, W Sydney, July 2003

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Bedroom and bathroom in loft, W Sydney, July 2003.

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W Sydney, July 2003

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Bathroom at W Sydney, July 2003

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Marina outside the W Sydney, July 2003

One of the highlights of this location was its proximity to the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens and great views of the Opera House. There was plenty of green space in the park outside the hotel.

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Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge

Another total surprise for us walking through the Royal Botanic Gardens was the wildlife. Kookaburra, cockatoo and the grey-headed flying fox bats provided a living zoo in Sydney city center.

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Cockatoos in the trees of Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens.

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My wife, the cockatoo whisperer, in Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, July 2003.

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Grey-headed flying fox bats in Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

Sydneybats.org.au states the numbers of these flying fox bats are declining around Sydney. There was an estimated 30% drop between 1990 and 2000 to about 450,000 bats remaining in the wild. At that rate the grey-headed flying fox bat may be extinct in the wild by the end of this century.

A June 2012 news article states the colony of 5,000 flying fox bats were removed from the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens this year by blasting industrial sounds music twice a day to disturb the grey-headed flying fox bats away from the park. Apparently they damaged the trees.

The sight of thousands of bats flying around the Sydney waterfront skies at dusk and evening may be a passing memory.

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Blurry dots in the sky above the Sydney lights are flying fox bats, July 2003.

30,000 Miles in First Class without traveling Round-the-World

I had originally planned to spend July 2003 in Scandinavia burning 300,000 Hilton HHonors points when Scandic Hotels were part of the Hilton family brands and any Scandic Hotel was only 10,000 points per night.

Our plans changed when it was announced around May 2003 that British Airways Executive Club was changing its loyalty program flight awards to charge double the economy award rate for Business Class and triple the economy award rate for First Class flights.

First Class tickets on British Airways from the USA to Australia via London and Singapore were 150,000 miles before the Executive Club loyalty program changes to premium travel awards.

I secured two First Class tickets from Denver-London-Singapore-Melbourne/Sydney-Singapore-London-Denver for 300,000 BA miles. We had one week stopovers in London each way and sub-$100 Qantas flights allowed us to travel from Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane and back to Sydney during our two weeks in Australia.

At the time I had Hilton HHonors Diamond status and SPG matched me to SPG Platinum status. There was a 2003 SPG Asia Pacific hotels promotion for earning 50,000 bonus points with hotel stays in 5 of the 6 Starwood brands.

  • St Regis
  • W Hotels
  • Luxury Collection
  • Westin
  • Sheraton
  • Four Points

Five of these brands were in Australia.

The opportunity to fly 30,000 miles in British Airways First Class and earn 100,000 bonus Starpoints while vacationing in Australia seemed like a plan to put all my loyalty traveler knowledge to use.

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Great Circle MapperDEN-LHR-SIN-MEL = 15,175 miles one way.

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British Airways First Class Lounge – Denver Airport.

The former W Sydney at Woolloomooloo was rebranded in 2005 and is now the Taj Hotels Blue Sydney. The photo gallery images indicate much of the hotel décor remains close to the photos in this post from 2003.

Loyalty Traveler post link: http://boardingarea.com/loyaltytraveler/2012/08/26/lost-w-hotel-of-woolloomooloo/

Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

7 Responses

  1. I think this is where Russell Crowe has a condo.

  2. Man that was a long time ago…

  3. Wow! Great post. Not only do I love W history, I literally walked through there yesterday and had no idea. The bar looks the same now as it did in your photos from 2003. Very interesting structure.

  4. This was less than a decade ago… My how points lose value fast!

    Comment by Carberrie on August 27th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
  5. @Carberrie – Four Points Darling Harbour Sydney was a category 2 hotel in 2003 for 3,000/4,000 points. That hotel is now a category 5 for 12,000/16,000 points.

    W Sydney was a category 4 hotel in 2003.

  6. [...] in the skyline overlooking the Opera House like the Four Seasons, Shangri-La or maybe even the Lost W of Woolloomooloo but these simply do not match the signature view from the Park [...]

  7. [...] Lost W Hotel of Woolloomooloo (8-26-2012). [...]

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