I recently had a fair bit of luggage and needed to catch an early flight from Sydney, so I stopped for a couple of nights at the Holiday Inn Sydney Airport.
It's a staple of the business traveller's hotel repertoire, but it -- and all Sydney airport hotels -- have a reputation for being remarkably hard to get to or from, either by infrequent and poorly signed shuttle bus or angry taxi drivers expecting a city fare and getting a shorter distance instead.
So I was determined to check it out and see whether the access issues were as tricky as they were reputed to be.
Location & Impressions
The Holiday Inn sits on the corner of Bourke and O'Riordan Streets, less than a kilometre from the domestic side of Sydney airport.
That proximity to the airport makes it so frustrating that it's a pain to get to. Your choices are the infrequent Sydney Super Shuttle ($6), which makes you stand out in the open waiting for 45 minutes before making a run around all the half-dozen airport hotels, or fighting with a taxi driver to take you on the short drive to the hotel (the drivers hate these short fares, since they have to wait in the airport rank for hours).
In fairness, the same problem occurs at all Sydney airport hotels, and isn't unique to the Holiday Inn. But it's a problem for the otherwise useful location of the hotel.
The hotel is also just under 500 metres from the Mascot train station, which is useful for getting into Sydney, and isn't subject to the extra airport station charge either.
On arrival, I was checked in swiftly by friendly staff at the bright and airy lobby and headed up to my room on the 8th floor.
My King Superior room was L-shaped and surprisingly large, with loads of light from full-length windows along the longest wall, although the layout had some quirks.
Opening the door, the bathroom was immediately to the right, with the wardrobe, minibar and luggage rack to the left in a relatively long corridor.
To the far left of the room was a comfortable two-seater sofa and a bucket chair, with a small glass coffee-table between them.
A reasonably-sized desk with a comfortable chair, lamp and three desktop power points sat in the middle of the room, with the large flatscreen TV unit facing it.
The bed -- surrounded by some rather 70s-feeling bedside units with knobs and switches on -- was the 2009-onwards Holiday Inn standard with mattress pad and choice of firm or soft pillows.
On top of the bedside units were the room's phone and an iPod dock, but the dock wasn't of the newer, iPhone-compatible generation.
Inside the bathroom, it was very much substance over style or swank, with an uninspiring beige-grey decor and shower-over-bath layout.
I'm no fan of the generic Holiday Inn toiletries (they're pretty harsh and have an uninspiringly mass-produced scent), but at least you can expect to find them in a Holiday Inn and make plans to bring your own.
The desk and chair combo are above average, with the chair comfortable for a good day's work. Three power points on the desk go a way towards making up for a lack elsewhere in the room.
Internet access is a problem, though, with incredibly poor value from the Reivernet network the hotel has installed. For an already expensive $27.50, you get a paltry 200MB of data at regular speed (7 Mbps down, 3 up) after which you're disconnected.
You then have the choice of paying a frankly insane $.10 per MB up to 1GB (after which you're cut off again and have to drop another $27.50 to start off with) or throttled back to an unusably slow connection.
All that works out at nearly a jawdropping $100 per GB, which is just unacceptable, especially when other airport hotels charge at more reasonable levels.
You're better off figuring out tethering your laptop to your phone or bringing a 3G stick/portable wifi router with you.
I had two great meals in the hotel: a tasty burger and salad from the all-day menu, and a well-cooked piece of steak in Amelia's restaurant downstairs.
For its hotel class, the food punches well above its weight.
Breakfast was also above average, with an egg station and a well-stocked hot and cold buffet.
Chilling out with a book on the sofa was very comfortable, although an extra cushion or two would have been useful -- I ended up ringing down to housekeeping for an extra couple of pillows.
In this room the TV is at an odd angle for watching from anywhere that isn't the desk, though, so big TV fans should pick one of the regular or corner rooms instead.
There's a plunge pool and sparsely equipped gym in the basement, and the machines in the gym hearken back to the 1980s era of red-dot displays.
They were also in fairly poor shape compared with similar hotels (and other Holiday Inns), with hand-grips missing and the plastic/metal covered with tape instead.
As a hotel, the Holiday inn is fantastic, with staff who really deserve praise for going the extra mile, comfortable beds and an above-average restaurant.
But it's hamstrung by the awful Internet system and the frustrations of trying to get there any way that isn't driving. You can stand out in the open for nearly an hour waiting for the shuttle, or get into a fight with a Sydney taxi driver who's angry that you're not spending more in his cab.
That's the airport's fault more than the hotel's, and it applies across the board to all the Sydney airport hotels.
But at the end of the day, a hotel near the airport rail line is likely to be less of a hassle.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.