Out are outdated red brick exteriors, plastic-wrapped soaps, boxy air conditioners and polyester bedspreads. In are gelato-coloured doors, Palm Springs-inspired décor, magnesium pools, eco amenities and mini bars stocked with locally produced treats – enticing a whole new generation of road trippers to pull in for the night.

Thankfully, many of the nostalgic features that made motels so appealing in the first place have been retained or reimagined: think classic neon signs, the ability to park directly outside your room, refurbished kidney-shaped pools and in rare cases, even the much-loved breakfast hatch.

Those who stayed at motels as kids in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, myself included, will fondly remember breakfast trays delivered through a little hatch to your room containing packets of toast and small boxes of cereal. 

And let’s not forget begging Dad to pull into a motel that advertised a pool, breaking up a monotonous 12-hour drive (even if the chlorine turned our hair green). You didn’t need to book ahead or phone for a price as vivid neon signs lining the highway advertised a motel’s offerings and the price per night. 

Fuelled by the uptick in Aussies taking road trips during the pandemic when travel overseas and interstate was largely curtailed, the motel was ripe for a renaissance, says Eliza Raine of the Gold Coast’s Instagram magnet The Mysa Motel

Inside the Mysa.

The seven-room Mysa (pronounced mee-sa) brings a ’60s southern Californian vibe to Palm Beach, complete with eye catching pink neon sign. 

And while the Instagram set flock to this restored ’80s classic motel for its pink fibreglass sun lounges, breeze blocks and magnesium-infused pool, its strong sustainability ethos delivers on the feel-good eco factor too. 

“The humble motel has been neglected for the last decade or so and we attribute that largely to the allure of international travel,” says Ms Raine. “The pandemic has obviously reinvented the way we travel and without the option of air travel, people are jumping back into their cars and taking off on the open road.” 

Raine relishes being but one of a new breed of operators supporting the motel trend and offering travellers the chance to reminisce on the days when motels were king. “It’s nice to be back.”

Another reimagined motel wowing travellers is the Kyah Boutique Hotel found in the bohemian village of Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. Formerly the popular Redleaf Resort, today the family-owned hotel is a swish pastel-hued retreat offering 46 rooms in three separate accommodation buildings, each named after one of Katoomba’s famed Three Sisters.

There’s also a produce garden, heated indoor pool, cactus-fronted lobby and onsite restaurant and bar Blaq underpinned by a local-produce-driven menu where you can dine overlooking a century old cherry blossom tree.

General manager and Blaq’s executive chef Mate Herceg said it was important the Kyah’s design and architecture complemented Blackheath’s rich character, so the building’s original bones still feel fresh and enticing. “The motel footprint remains but we have totally transformed the property into a hotel, dining and drinking destination that feels sophisticated without losing the warmth or approachability you want from a regular haunt.”

On the NSW South Coast, the new owners of the Berry View Hotel have also given a formerly rundown ’50s motor inn an eye-popping makeover. It’s not uncommon to see cars pull over just to photograph the reimagined motel’s crisp white exterior, vivid burnt-orange doors and on-trend mother-in-law’s tongue greenery. 

Berry View.

Thirteen individually styled rooms offer ochre tones with crisp white linen, O&M amenities and all of today’s luxuries in stage one of the property’s reincarnation. Stage two will see a further 18 luxurious rooms opened along with firepit, infinity pool with communal deck and sun loungers elevating the Berry View from motel to hotel status. 

Mid-century fans meanwhile will love the transformation of the vegan-run Warburton Motel in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. All 12 rooms at “The Warby”, built in 1966, sport an understated fresh look while guests can now enjoy hammocks, firepit, breeze block wine bar and macrame wall hangings just like those found on Grandma’s walls.

Simone and Richard Stanwix have worked tirelessly to connect guests to both the motel’s vintage roots and its surrounds since purchasing the property in 2017. “The trees, home to prolific birdlife, tower majestically over the landscape and offer beautiful shade in summer. That setting combined with the stunning mountain vistas make this motel somewhat of an enigma,” Mr Stanwix explains. “You’ll not see a bitumen car park in sight. And the motel is also cruelty free – there are no animal products in any beds, bedding, furnishings or decor, mini-bar items are vegan and the eco-friendly toiletries are not tested on animals.”

Last but by no means least, if you’re travelling to the Apple Isle, why not revel in a dose of retro nostalgia with a stay at the River View Motel and Villas. Fronting the Derwent River near MONA, this classic ’50s motel offers a new bistro, outdoor heated lap pool, coin-operated laundry, tennis court and choice of comfy rooms – many with river vistas.


Explore more: riverfronthobart.com; theberryview.com.au; themysamotel.com; thekyah.com.au; warburtonmotel.com.au

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