Can an Insta-worthy Airstream caravan on a rooftop match Melbourne’s cool? Lara Picone checks in to Notel.
It didn’t start so well. A pre-stay email requesting I not be ‘boring’ or ‘break’ stuff, and suggesting I cancel my booking and check into the Hilton if I dare expect anything ‘normal’ from my accommodation, had my brow furrowing.
Okaaay. I get they’re giving irreverence a go and the name Notel is meant to indicate something different to a hotel; something cool and edgy.
But for someone paying $395 per night, the tone might be just a little off. I decided to put the mild irritation behind me; this stay is meant to be fun after all: cool, vintage ’70s Airstream caravans that have been deposited on an inner-city rooftop.
It’s urban glamping and it’s a bit underground (albeit one-storey above). Plus, there’s an 11am checkout, and free wi-fi and Netflix, so I’m confident these guys understand hospitality.
We check in at 3pm. Which isn’t really check-in because that’s all done on an app on your required smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can’t stay here, which seems fine because even my luddite parents have a smartphone between them, and I’m sure anyone older isn’t hunting in Melbourne’s back alleys for a rooftop trailer park.
Even though the entrance to the fire stairs is right next to the office and open, we’re directed to drag our luggage outside and into a cafe next door to access the fire stairs from a different door. It’s nonsensical.
We then have to lug our luggage up three flights of stairs to access the rooftop. I wonder if guaranteed weight loss is part of the rate.
The interiors of our shiny, silver-bullet caravan are elegant in sleek pastel pink and grey tones. The bathroom is impressive with a decent rain shower and plenty of room.
At the head of the bed there’s a tiny window; I pull back the curtain to let the cool city views beam in, but only see an office worker at his desk in the building across the street.
The Ash Keating pink mural that takes up the entire wall of the adjacent building is certainly on the hipster spectrum and gives colour to an otherwise unrelenting grey setting, as does the red Astroturf between caravans.
We explore the Notel app, which seems to be hustling us back down the fire stairs to explore the city, but we’ve paid to be here so feel obliged to stick around and absorb some vibes.
It’s cold outside and there’s no one else here but the neighbouring office workers, making us feel like lost extras on the wrong film set. We eventually give up and head out.
We return after dinner to get cosy, but the sounds of the city and cars driving into the carpark beneath us means that taking advantage of the 11am check-out isn’t as sweet as we’d like. All up, I calculate that for our $395 we spent two-and-a-half waking hours here.
Notel would be an awesome place to stay with mates for a shindig, but it’s not right for a lonesome pair. In Melbourne, you can find better bang for your buck at an establishment with breakfast and elevators, which, in the end, we did.
Details: Notel, Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Where: Corner of Harper Lane and Flinders Lane (above Frys Fast Park), Vic; notelmelbourne.com.au
Verdict: Notel falls short of its cool, edgy promise, but would be a great place to book for a party (though you can’t bring your own alcohol so this would have to be an organised event).
We rated: The inner-city convenience, all-inclusive mini bar and 11am check-out.
We’d change: The price for what you get is pretty steep. It feels like a slightly classier hostel for the price of a full-service hotel. It’s a lot to pay for novelty and a few Instagram posts and we couldn’t shake the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ feeling.