Retro motels are making a comeback into road trip itineraries – and these charming motel stays are far from old-fashioned.
Motels were once a popular choice in Australia for road trip stopovers with their neon signs, bold colours and budget prices, but a shift in tastes saw these icons disappearing, making way for beachside high-rise developments. Fast forward a few decades and motels are enjoying a resurgence, with a collection of classic motels reviving the quintessential Aussie beach holiday.
From the modest to the ultra-glamorous, these reimagined motels offer nostalgia, style and charm in spades.
It’s a trend we don’t see waning, with Australian travellers looking to holiday here this year and support local businesses with a focus on sustainable travel, up-cycling and vintage, a retro motel stay makes the perfect vacay.
With that in mind, here are 10 retro motel stays to check out for your next coastal road trip.
1. Blue Water Motel, Kingscliff NSW
Just down the road from the iconic Halcyon House you’ll find newcomer Blue Water Motel in Kingscliff. This modest motel has had a modern makeover by renowned designer Jason Grant, sporting fresh peach/lemon tones of the 60’s that will have you craving gelato to complete the coastal vibe.
“From the very start it was clear what the Blue Water Motel should be, relaxed and a bit retro, we didn’t want to lose any of the original charm or nostalgia to the Aussie surf coast motel” Grant said.
“Painting the exterior soft pale blue was a given. We kept the best elements and added details that felt like they belonged and also improved and streamlined the spaces. We stripped it back and opened it up, injecting colours and materials that made it feel relaxed but elevated, coastal but not too beachy and in the process created a little bit of modern retro coastal cool in Kingscliff.”
The result is luxe for less, an indulgent stay without the premium price tag.
2. Mysa Motel, Palm Beach Qld
The Mysa Motel (pronounced mee-sa) ethos is a modern twist on retro Gold Coast. Husband and wife team Eliza and Jason Raine rescued the Palm Trees Motel from demolition and lovingly transformed the motel with great consideration and sustainability in mind. Many design elements have been upcycled to reduce the environmental impact including the original hardwood ceiling trusses repurposed for the carport.
Dusty pink hues and dreamy tiles feature throughout, but the star of the show has to be the kidney shaped magnesium swimming pool and retro sun loungers for a truly relaxing GC vacay.
3. The Beach Rooms, Nambucca Heads NSW
Formerly The Blue Dolphin, locals Paul & Shannon Scott spotted potential in the old motel that had been lying dormant for years.
Perched on prime land overlooking Nambucca River and the ocean beyond, the intrepid couple have transformed the dilapidated digs into a welcoming oasis with central pool, communal spaces and a choice of rooms to accommodate couples and families.
4. The Sunseeker, Byron Bay NSW
Not just a hipster haven, Sunseeker offers family-friendly facilities with all the adult trimmings. Kids will love the nature inspired playground and scoot around the complex on complimentary skateboards.
Adults may sip cocktails by the mineral pool (heated in winter), browse the library featuring a carefully curated collection of books on art, culture and architecture and snack from locally sourced minibar items.
Don’t leave without some Sunseeker merch, from mugs to totes and classic t-shirts emblazoned with Sunseeker’s mantra ‘Holiday Often’.
5. Loea, Maroochydore Qld
The brainchild of Andrew and Lucy Pink, the couple revitalised a 1980’s brick motel into a modern marvel and while ownership may have changed, the legacy of the Florida-inspired beach motel continues, complete with vintage food truck café, magnesium swimming pool, communal garden and classic cruiser bikes for hire.
6. The Bower, Byron Bay NSW
With an unassuming façade, the true beauty of The Bower lies behind the palm tree fringed fence, where you’ll find an oasis of cool with a stunning circular pool at its heart.
Presented with a tired, old 1970’s style motel as their canvas, the Bower design team retained the original shell while repurposing and re-imagining it into a contemporary and sophisticated Australian beach motel. The result is a collection of luxe rooms and suites, thoughtfully provisioned with the latest must-haves, a moody cool-colour palette and signature freestanding bathtubs.
The ethos of The Bower is to seek out places with character and history that have a story to tell that can be acknowledged, honoured and enhanced. Escape to paradise and create your own story at The Bower.
7. The Brunswick, Brunswick Heads NSW
The sign as you enter Brunswick Heads, or “Bruns” as it’s known locally, says “Simple Pleasures” and what could be more pleasurable than a simple, classic retro motel vacay? Brunswick is the epicentre of retro cool motels, with your choice of The Brunswick, The Chalet Motel and The Sails Motel all located on the Old Pacific Hwy.
The Brunswick is all about pared back simplicity of calming natural tones and textures with laid-back style. Retaining the standard motel layout and convenience of being able to park directly outside your room, rooms also overlook the lagoon pool for resort style vibes. This laid-back haven for adults also offers weekend food truck and pop up events under the paperbark trees.
8. The Chalet Motel, Brunswick Heads NSW
The Chalet Motel is a boutique 60’s style motel revived by the owners Louisa Bligh and Ryan Bowman who were inspired by their travels in LA and wanted to recreate that simple cool motel style in Australia. With 12 comfortably stylish rooms, saltwater swimming pool and cabana The Chalet is surrounded by some of Bruns’ best eateries for the perfect endless summer holiday.
9. The Sails Motel & Pool Club, Brunswick Heads NSW
The Sails Motel & Pool Club features 22 classic style motel rooms plus a Palm Springs style pool and bar. Stocking a curated selection of local signature sips the pool club is the place to be as well relaxed nights at onsite restaurant Saint Maries pizzeria and wine bar.
10. The Isla, Batemans Bay, NSW
The trend toward motel makeovers (thanks to the Netflix series of the same name) shows no sign of slowing down. All eyes will be on the NSW South Coast with new arrival The Isla in the heart of Batemans Bay and, in nearby Narooma, Justin Hemmes has recently added the much-loved Whale Inn and Restaurant to his expanding property portfolio. A swathe of new openings ensures Australia’s love affair with Australian road trip worthy retro motels is here to stay.
11. The Hillcrest Merimbula
The modern two-storey Hillcrest Merimbula motel faces seaward and is everything you’d expect from a quintessential mid-century motel. Dating back to the late 1960s, the vibe in the rooms is coastal elegant with design flourishes that wink back to the sixties and seventies.
Stay for a long weekend and you’ll meet a cast of characters: hipsters from Sydney, architecture enthusiasts and high-end holidaymakers who simply want to soak up the sun poolside for the duration of their stay. Inside, the rooms are like shrines to the 70s with contemporary touches such as concrete tables, delicate linens, and funky feature mirrors.
12. Berry View Hotel
The lightness and brightness of the Berry View Hotel is one of the key elements that will make you feel contained and comfortable during your escape to the Shoalhaven. While white sets the tone at the refurbished motel, there are also pops of colour from the burnt orange doors that will brighten your day.
Enjoy the nostalgic experience of driving right up to that signature door, which pops of Palm Springs, and once inside, find flashes of charcoal and ochre that bring on more of the breezy vibes.
The boutique hotel has paid homage to the bones of the original 1950s’ motel with 13 individually styled rooms and a new pool, all of which have been given a vintage-style glow-up. The property is full of colourful and original décor and captures the essence of Mid-Century design. It’s a masterpiece.
13. Kyah Boutique Hotel
Hidden away in the Blue Mountains village of Blackheath less than two hours from Sydney you’ll find the luxe Kyah Boutique Hotel. The 1970s era motel has been reimagined with a Palm Springs-inspired design by Sydney-based design firm, MKD Architects.
The final result is a 46-room mountain retreat with art0 deco-inspired furnishings, on-trend archways, curves and cosy nooks tucked away throughout the communal areas of the hotel. There are three separate buildings, each named after one of Katoomba’s famed Three Sisters, that connect to the central lobby and Blaq restaurant and bar. Other hotel facilities include a pool, tennis court and vegetable garden to explore.
The brand new Blaq, overseen by Executive Chef Mate Herceg, brings an elegant touch to the Blue Mountain’s culinary scene. Perch on the bar to enjoy one of the signature cocktails, retreat to the outdoor deck when the weather is warm, or cosy up beside the multiple fireplaces during winter.
There are also stylish booths and more private dining spaces tucked away along the back of the restaurant wall. As for the food, Herceg prioritises hyper-local, seasonal and sustainable produce and producers over the cuisine and as a result, you’ll find a constantly evolving menu.
There are four types of guest rooms on offer starting with the king suite that sleeps two, twin queen rooms sleep up to four guests, two-bedroom suites sleep up to five guests, and the family rooms sleep up to six people. Each room features a luscious colour palette of blush and blue hues or more earthy tones of olive and rust.
This Blackheath beauty is bound to be a go-to accommodation option in the Blue Mountains for years to come.