Eight Retro-Inspired Motels to Book if You're After a Nostalgia-Laden Holiday

These are the classic retro motels in Australia for when you're searching for your next nostalgic holiday spot.
Grace MacKenzie
Published on March 21, 2023

Eight Retro-Inspired Motels to Book if You're After a Nostalgia-Laden Holiday

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These are the classic retro motels in Australia for when you're searching for your next nostalgic holiday spot.

Memories of family holidays up and down Australia's coastlines are treasured by most of us. Stopping at roadside lookouts, lemonades in country pubs, wallabies hopping around campsites and kookaburras laughing us awake. The brief: classic charm meets no-frills fun.

A staple in these trips is a classic motel. A clean and comfortable spot to rest your head, a warm welcome, a folder stuffed full of brochures from local businesses and a minibar complete with snacks and libations. You might have noticed a resurgence in these often family-owned establishments, but with one new element sticking out like a sore thumb: standout styling. Fresh paint, linen bedding, social-driven marketing and artful umbrellas offering shade by figure-eight shaped pools — it's a formulaic trend, and it works.

What better way to add that dreamy nostalgic charm to your holidays this year than a night or two in a revamped motel? Together with The Bottle-O, the store slinging your favourite boozy sips all over Australia, we've curated a list of our favourites. Book in, grab your drinks and soak up the serenity of days gone by.

  • 8

    The sleepy town of Brunswick Heads is a true Aussie gem, and nostalgia for summers gone by is heavy on every corner. There’s a river to paddleboard along, spotting fish, birdlife and baby stingrays as you go, and more than a few beaches and sandy coves to surf, swim or while away warm arvos under the shade of screw pine palm trees.

    It also has some truly exceptional places to eat, drink and stay. One such place is The Sails, a classic Aussie motel with a tried-and-tested pizza joint slinging truly delicious pies. With 22 renovated rooms — without that too-scared-to-touch-it shag carpet often underfoot in retro digs — and a pool with neighbouring bar, you’ll have to decide between sitting under a striped umbrella or wandering down to Main Beach and rolling out your towel.

    Rooms start at $175 per night for a midweek stay — a true bargain when you’re in the Rainbow Region.

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  • 7

    Sitting pretty in pink in Blackheath — on Ngurra Country, the place of the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples — is The Kyah, a two-storey lodge that welcomes holidaymakers with a neon turquoise sign and country hospitality. There’s a classic 70s, pared-back Palm Springs feel to the place. You’ll find arched doorways at every turn, considered textural details throughout and Blaq, the onsite restaurant that showcases produce from a bountiful kitchen garden and pairs plates with spectacular cocktails.

    There are 46 rooms spread across three wings, plus a tennis court, hot tub (an ideal posi for winter soaking), sauna and spa. Your stay also includes a continental brekkie of locally made muesli and oven-fresh pastries.

    Rooms start at $240 per night for a midweek stay — where you’ll be perfectly placed to explore the picturesque region.

    Image: Steven Woodburn

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  • 6
    Loea Boutique Hotel

    More easy-breezy coastal chic than retro, the Sunshine Coast’s Loea Boutique Hotel will check you in via a refurbed vintage food truck. In the 10 rooms, expect crisp whites and more than a few touches of beige, and for the ocean and the best of the locale to only be a quick spin on a (free-to-hire) bike away.

    You’ll want to pack a book to devour by the salty pool, plus your surf board, cossie and towel for the world-class beaches — and not much else, really. This is the spot for you if you’re after a quintessentially Australian holiday. You’re spoilt for choice food-wise, can flex your shopping muscles in curated local boutiques and if you’re there for a weekender, can sample the produce of the near-tropics at Sunday-morning markets.

    Rooms start at $218 per night for a midweek stay — the feel of the ocean and sun on your skin within reach.

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  • 5
    Pine Tree Motel

    Katherine is the Northern Territory gem pitched as where “the outback meets the tropics”, and offers more awe-inspiring natural wonders for you to take a geez at than you’ll have time for. Impossibly clear water holes, hikes through UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites not far and the rich hues of our desert, it’s got it all. A side of nostalgia by way of your stay a happy accompaniment.

    Pine Tree Motel is a no-frills spot offering you immersion in the local scene. Meet friends by the pool (and splash off the sweat), sip something cold from the bar and feel looked after by the warm and knowledgeable staff. This part of the country should be a bucket-list destination for all.

    Rooms start at $125 per night for a midweek stay — it’ll be hot, it’ll be humid and you’ll be happy.

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  • 4

    This is it: the place where you live out your Palm Springs stay without reaching for your passport. This regional Victorian stay comes complete with 20 rooms all lined up in a row behind pastel pink doors and aqua blue railing. Behind each door is a one-of-a-kind styled room clothed in a bold wallpaper, polished concrete floor and pops of orange. Brass fixtures and retro phones (to call down for brekkie in the morning) add style to the comforts of a luxe mattress and a microwave, toaster and kettle — everything you could need in a country stay.

    What to do once you’ve checked in and dropped your bags? Freshen up with an umbrella-topped soda from Cathie’s Kiosk, which is the onsite al fresco spot giving centreplace to bright cocktails and foam-topped spiders. Then, explore your new suburb. You’re in the Macedon Ranges, where there’s wineries, walks and waterfalls to keep you occupied.

    Rooms start at $150 per night for a midweek stay — come for the classic neon sign out front, stay for the hospitality.

    Image: Lee Sandwith

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  • 3

    In the Yarra Valley? Looking for a homey place to sleep? Warburton Motel is for you, dear traveller. Penned as the spot for “the adventurers, the readers, the tree huggers, the romantics and the fireside talkers”, it’s set to offer something delightful for all. There’s a room with mountain views and a suite with a spa, plus a fire pit perched above a valley for late-night chats and star gazing.

    These family-run digs have warm wooden accents welcoming you throughout, and the feel of being immersed in nature even when you’re tucked up in bed (courtesy of the lush greenery out every window). The mini bar is stocked with beers from local microbreweries, and you’re only a minute’s drive from dining spots and provisions stores in the small town nearby. If holidaying immersed in nature doesn’t deliver a dose of nostalgia, book in here so you’re sorted in 20 years.

    Rooms start at $128 per night for a midweek stay — book then get ready to breathe in the country air.

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  • 2
    Alabama Hotel

    Once you’ve made your way to Tassie, head straight for The Bam. First housing travellers in 1867, the historic hotel is now run by Tasmanian locals who pride sustainability, community and a heavenly night’s sleep above all else. The styling is quirky: cushions adorned with loud pop art and Bowie’s face, striped chairs straight from the 70s and an eclectic array of art on the walls.

    Don’t expect luxurious — you’re here for something retro, after all — but do expect many considered details making your stay fun. Free from bottled water and individual sachets of anything, Alabama Hotel instead brings filtered water stations to each floor, keep cups for your morning brew, libations courtesy of locals and more than a few cosy spots to sit and sip. Be warned: bathrooms are communal (but always clean) and there’s no elevator or kettle in your room. But, Hobart is a treasure trove of terrific dining, so you won’t even notice.

    Rooms start at $100 per night for a midweek stay — as big a bargain as any on the Apple Isle.

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  • 1
    European Hotel

    Smack bang in the middle of Perth sits this boutique heritage hotel with old-world class and spectacular hospitality. Not so retro-motel as classic Euro styling and comfortable indulgence, the European Hotel’s 52 rooms have been welcoming guests since 1911 — these are walls that could tell century-old tales.

    You’re close to the snaking Swan River, some of Western Australia’s finest dining and city sights aplenty. Fun fact: the first al fresco liquor license in Perth was granted here, and you are cordially invited to sit beneath the canopy lapping the corner spot and freshen up with your pick from the cafe.

    Rooms start at $182 per night for a midweek stay — head here for history, hospitality and the best of the west.

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For good value booze once you’ve checked in to your room, head to your local The Bottle-O. To find your nearest store, head to the website.

Top image: Steven Woodburn (third).

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