Action! Central

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Central Sydney around Broadway, the Haymarket and Chinatown has quietly undergone a renaissance in recent years, much due to its proximity to and improvements at Central Railway Station, a revamped Darling Harbour and extended dining and entertainment precincts within walking distance, and smash hit musicals staged at the majestic Capitol Theatre.

The theatre, restored in magnificent classic style, is not only a historical landmark but rated Sydney’s top concert experience behind only the Sydney Opera House and Opera Australia, and rated best of all venues for excellence. Its front-of-house staff are exceptional, its curtain-up atmosphere thrilling and its unbroken program of musicals an absolute must-see, ideal for families and drawing visitors from throughout the State.

The acclaimed My Fair Lady, directed by Julie Andrews, ends its run mid-month to be followed by Madama Butterfly, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, ballet (Dec 5-22), The Wizard of Oz (Dec 30-Jan 21) and, later in 2018, Mamma Mia, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Jersey Boys.

Mid-last century, Broadway was the thriving hub of Sydney’s CBD, the expansive intersection and square where the city’s trains, buses and trams converged and home to imposing sandstone buildings, Grace Bros’ huge head department store (“three and a half acres of furniture”), Anthony Hordern’s massive retail edifice and mail order giant on Goulburn, George and Pitt streets, breweries headquarters, and the Glaciarium Ice Rink.

In part due to a desire to escape the disruptive years-long light rail expansion works at the Circular Quay end of town and to the stimulus of students at newcomer university UTS, the spread of small bars around Surry Hills, and eclectic restaurants such as those that line the quaint, trendy alleyway on Kensington Street Chippendale, “Central” is thriving and new hotels opening up around the area are ideally located to take advantage of the revitalised precinct at the terminus of rail services from the country.

Leader of the pack is Mercure Sydney, on Railway Square right next to the station (see the views over the square from its interior on its home page at www.mercuresydney.com.au). A mid-range hotel with accommodation and facilities ideal for families, its concierge service nevertheless belongs to a five-star property: faultless essential service, ever ready to help during my stay – fetching Uber contact details for me, caring for luggage, smiling and efficient. Management too is top notch: welcoming, genuinely caring about the guest experience. Rooms are immaculate and functional with comfy beds and a good strong shower in the bathroom, bathtub, TV, coffee/TV/mini fridge, internet. Dining-room breakfast service, all the standard fare, is substantial in its range of hot and cold selections and generous all-you-can-eat servings including fresh fruit, yoghurt and drinks to set guests up for the day. Other facilities include a rooftop indoor heated pool, sauna and gym and Eve’s cocktail bar with share plates, delicious burgers and takeaway options.

The Mercure is perfectly situated for country visitors to travel by rail to the city and by light rail around all the leisure precincts – Capitol Theatre, Paddy’s Markets, Pyrmont (and on to the pedestrian areas of King Street Wharf and Barangaroo) and Sydney Fish Markets so there’s no need for a car, although car parking is available.

Until the end of December there’s a Sweet Spring Sale: stay two nights and save 20 per cent – call or book online. Stays excluding Saturday nights appear to be more economical.

QANTASLINK ceases non-stop Port Macquarie-Lord Howe Island flights this month just as local operator ETS, www.easterntourservices.com.au, has begun offering direct alternative packages including – top option! – day trips.

SPINNER WINNER: American Tourister luggage is popular: readers from Port Macquarie, Wauchope, Taree, Old Bar, Forster and Black Head entered our competition to win a 71cm Applite 3.0S lightweight spinner. Thanks to all who entered.
The winner is Lorelle Thurston of Port Macquarie.

Travel Editor, Susie Boswell.

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