Like the grand old lady, she is, The Carrington Hotel sits majestically, a crowning figure, high above every other structure in the famous Blue Mountains town, Katoomba. In 2023, she turns 140 years, NSW’s oldest surviving resort hotel, continuing to turn heads as she has for much of her lengthy life.
Built to attract tourists to what was previously a mining town, the hotel – initially the Great Western Hotel – is a four-storey architectural conglomeration with several additions and upgrades undertaken over the decades. Most of the early guests – dressed in their splendour – would arrive by rail from Sydney. Today, it takes as little as 90 minutes to reach by car.
The iconic Carrington Hotel is one of the finest resort-style hotels to be built in Australia. Its facade is richly decorated, and its undulating Italianate balcony is set on columns over a paved piazza. A wall of stained glass – an excellent example of Art Nouveau glazing – encases the former veranda while the curved steps leading to the front door are more than 110 years old, as are many of the other design features added after the hotel’s opening in 1883. There are eight fascinating reasons to visit.
The Carrington Hotel (Katoomba)
- Check the latest prices at The Carrington Hotel for a stay that will sweep you back into the romance of the past.
- The Carrington Hotel is a perfect weekend getaway and a beautiful historic hotel to base yourself at while ticking off these things to do in the Blue Mountains.
- Looking for a rental car? Compare prices of car rental at Discover Cars.
- From Katoomba, the Lyrebird Hop-On Hop-Off and Scenic World Pass allows you to visit five attractions at your own pace.
Why Stay At The Carrington Hotel Now
The Carrington Hotel’s Royal Connections
Such is The Carrington Hotel’s appeal that, in 1927 – after undergoing major additions – the resort hosted royalty, the Duke and Duchess of York (later to be crowned King George VI and Elizabeth), the parents of Queen Elizabeth II.
About 20 years before their much-publicised luncheon visit, Edward, Prince of Wales, received the red-carpet treatment as a guest.
That was in 1908.
In 1946, further members of the British monarchy – the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, uncle, and auntie of a young Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), paid a visit for the official opening of extensions to the Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital.
It’s fitting that while the late Queen was proclaimed the longest-serving monarch, The Carrington Hotel has remained the only 19th-century grand resort hotel to be in use in NSW.
In August 2023, the historic heritage-protected site will celebrate her 140th birthday, retaining much of its original charm – understandably with a few contemporary upgrades.
Rooms At The Carrington Hotel
From the moment guests walk into the hotel, they know they are in for something special as if they had stepped back in time to the bygone days of horse-drawn carriages and steam-driven train journeys from the coast.
The hotel boasts 65 attractive guestrooms and suites, no two rooms configured the same.
However, despite retaining much of its original fabric, The Carrington Hotel has moved with the times in some areas, reflected in the amenities, the upgraded bathrooms, and various other mod cons such as TVs and the internet connection.
At the top end are three suites – The Joynton Smith, The Tomah and The Lord Carrington – with their distinctive characteristics, comfortable lounges, and access to the main balcony to view the scarred distant cliffs.
On the first floor are the Premier Rooms, elegantly furnished, heated and spacious in design, some with French doors onto the shared balcony.
In the 1927-built colonial wing are the fully air-conditioned Colonial Rooms that reflect the hotel’s historic charm and include a renovated Art Deco-style ensuite, with most rooms featuring stained glass.
Attractively decorated family or small group rooms are a feature of the wing.
Book one of the hotel’s Traditional Rooms on the first-floor wing, guests will experience The Carrington Hotel floorplan as it was in the bygone era, complete with shared bathroom facilities, albeit renovated and upgraded two years ago.
Fortunately, in winter, when snow is known at times to blanket the region, the hotel is heated throughout while guestrooms in the “new” area, the Colonial Wing (“new” in the fact it opened later than the original building but still dates to the 1920s), are air-conditioned.
Food, Wine, and Local Brew
Fed up with the thought guests had no electricity, the owner of the time, Sir James Joynton Smith built his own coal power station within the hotel grounds.
Not only did the guests benefit.
So, too, the people of the neighbouring Blue Mountains villages from Wentworth Falls in the east to Mount Victoria in the west.
That was 110 years ago, the construction coinciding with hotel upgrades such as lavatories and baths on each floor.
After decades of sitting idle, the heritage-listed brick building with its landmark octagonal chimney has been re-energised – brought back to life as home to a well-stocked cellar door, an equally enticing delicatessen, and a micro-brewery, notably the Katoomba Brewing Co.
Many of the wines hail from wineries in regions west of the Great Dividing Range such as Orange, Bathurst, Mudgee, and nearby Megalong Valley.
There’s also an interesting stock of local and international spirits.
For curious wine lovers, it’s not unusual to spend an hour or two exploring the cellar, in the small basement, several of the older vintage reds and whites are for sale.
The Carrington Cellar also doubles as a food providore where a selection of cheese, meats are for sale along with an array of condiments, a perfect fit for a picnic hamper that can be organised.
Where to Dine and Wine
The Carrington may retain cosmetic features from bygone days, but the dining and drink menus have changed with the times – so, too, the options.
A popular area is Champagne Charlie’s Bar, reportedly Katoomba’s oldest bar.
Word has it that it was named after the famous Champagne merchant Charles Heidsieck in the 1850s, a moniker still used for anyone living the high life.
However, historical accounts note that one of the hotel’s past owners “Lord” Carrington was a notorious Champagne Charlie, with a penchant for a glass or two of the finest bubbly every morning with breakfast.
Here, guests order from the bar dishes that are so generously portioned that they can be shared, from the soup of the day to a cheeseburger and fries and a highly popular ploughman’s plate, to be washed down with a cocktail, glass of wine or perhaps one of the Katoomba brews on tap.
Cheese plates and Devonshire Teas are also served around an open fire in a lounge that features life-sized models of past comedians Laurel and Hardy.
A highlight of the bar is the Art Nouveau-stained glass dome which was unveiled for the Duke and Duchess of York’s 1927 visit.
Beyond the dome is the Grand Dining Room, restored to its former grandeur, open daily for breakfast and dinner from Wednesdays to Saturdays.
The dining room is one of the hotel’s most attractive, the red carpet a replica of the original linoleum floor design and the menus equally appealing.
With its high vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers, the elegant dining room is one of Australia’s remaining Victorian dining rooms.
In 1912, two years after he unveiled the onsite power station, Sir Joynton Smith also opened a bank, a branch of the City Bank of Sydney, the upper floor the residential quarters for the bank manager.
Those quarters and the ground floor are now home to the Old City Bank Bar and Brasserie, with a pub-style menu.
Downstairs is the Old City Bank Bar, a pub and beer garden where a range of brews, including the Katoomba Brewing Co’s IPA, are on tap, and live – and free – music entertains patrons on Friday or Saturday evenings. Upstairs is the brasserie.
Rooms To Meet And Relax
The Billiards Room and adjoining double lounge area are furnished and decorated in such a way, you could be forgiven for thinking you were visiting a private club.
With its arched brick fireplaces and stained-glass windows, the room has a full-sized billiards and snooker table along with a smaller table, the leather upholstered lounges.
The former library is panelled and beamed in Edwardian taste and is complete with wide shelves for display of China and lead-glazed bookshelves.
Tucked away up a short set of carpeted stairs within the hotel is Serenita Hair and Beauty and Lumiere Natural Therapies, where guests are pampered with spa and beauty treatments.
With more than 30 years of experience under her belt, onsite therapist Ashleen offers a full hair service menu as well as day spa treatments.
Founder and mother of three, Rachael, is a remedial massage therapist specialising in Swedish, remedial, myofascial release and Reiki and reflexology.
The hotel has had a chequered career and survived.
In more recent years – between 1986 and 1991 – it was closed for non-compliance with fire regulations and remained boarded until new owners were found to inject much-needed cash and tender restoration to bring it back to life.
It was a purchase that brought the hotel back to its former glory.
Opened in 1883 during the Victorian era, The Carrington was originally named the Great Western Hotel and was noted for its wrought-iron lacework frontage.
It was built by English immigrant Harry George Rowell (1827–1885), whose father, James Rowell, was an innkeeper in Hertford.
The Carrington was owned by a series of prominent families for the next century and was added to the NSW State Heritage Register on April 2, 1999.
Since 2003 when a consortium of businesspeople took over the hotel’s ownership, a commitment to heritage preservation was a key objective.
They went about preserving heritage with improved energy efficiency, adopting sustainable practices where feasible within conservation constraints.
Seen throughout the hotel are salvaged historical materials, historic fixtures retained, repaired, or upgraded rather than replaced.
To minimise waste and energy consumption, the hotel recycles more than 8000 litres of waste each week, reducing landfill waste by 40 per cent.
The Carrington Hotel also offers biodegradable food service ware and packaging at major events and festivals.
Solar panels are discreetly installed to minimise visual interruption to the building’s heritage façade.
Large rainwater tanks capture water for irrigation to the precinct’s gardens.
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