Motels have been a quintessential part of Australian culture for generations. But what was once the accommodation choice for budget-savvy travellers has had a revamp, with establishments around the country being given sleek and stylish fit-outs.
It's hard to beat a road trip to the Blue Mountains, that World Heritage-listed expanse of wilderness to Sydney's west. If you made the sojourn in the 1970s, chances are you'd spend a night in the motel that is today known as The Kyah. Following an extensive and playful renovation, the Blackheath property today evokes the nostalgia of family holidays of yesteryear - although with design-driven attention to detail. Character-filled rooms are set across wings named after the region's famed Three Sisters rock formations, and are part art deco and part Palm Springs in design - think pastel hues, cacti arranged just-so, archways and curves, and velvet flourishes. We love: The indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and award-winning farm-to-table restaurant, Blaq. thekyah.com.au
Sun-kissed and surf-spirited, the South Coast town of Mollymook is the epitome of classic Australian beach getaways. Motel Molly fits right in, capturing the laidback vibe of a seaside retreat (you're just steps from the sand, after all) while delivering a fun Mediterranean twist. Design is all dusty pink and eggshell blue, with Moroccan-inspired decor including tiled walls and sunken baths. All rooms come with a balcony - some overlooking bougainvillaea-filled gardens and others offering scene-stealing views to the ocean, where whales play during migration (May through November). We love: If you can tear yourself away from your room, lounge by the pool, cook up your freshly caught fish on the barbie or borrow a surfboard to tackle the waves. motelmolly.com.au
Located in the South Coast town of Batemans Bay, this revamped retro motel oozes personality and old-timey glamour. Design firm Those Architects retained the 1980s features of the original property, but spruced things up with lashings of sunset orange, brushed brass, bespoke oak furnishings and terrazzo features. If you book Grande, the largest suite, you can cool off in your own private pool; other guests can make the most of the palm-shaded communal pool, or stroll to the beach. Take note: these waters are home to some of Australia's tastiest oysters. We love: There's no on-site restaurant or in-room minibar, but you can make the most of the bespoke vending machine, stocked with craft beers and pre-mixed cocktails. theisla.com.au
Despite being just 15 minutes north of Byron Bay on the far North Coast of NSW, Brunswick Heads enjoys a sleepy, time-forgot vibe that fits perfectly with The Sails, occupying a low-slung 1960s building. There's a great mishmash of style, including hacienda archways, Mediterranean colours and plenty of nods to classic American roadside motels. Chill out under pink-and-white poolside umbrellas while ordering cocktails from the Pool Club, then dine at the on-site restaurant and wine bar, specialising in pizza and tapas. We love: Brunswick Heads is where the river meets the sea, and you're within easy reach of watery experiences including SUPing, cruising, kayaking and fishing. thesailsmotel.com.au
Pastel perfection in the heart of Palm Beach, this Gold Coast beauty offers serious aesthetic appeal, from its kidney-shaped magnesium mineral pool to its mint-and-lavender rooms - there are only seven, and some come with private courtyards. Sustainability was front of mind when converting the former Palm Trees Motel, with the owners upcycling, salvaging, and reclaiming building materials and furnishings wherever possible, while installing energy-efficient appliances throughout. And when it's time to step out? You're just a block from the sand at the southern end of the GC. We love: Each room comes decorated with images of the surrounding area by acclaimed photographer Trent Mitchell. themysamotel.com
Coastal cool is the name of the game at this made-over Maroochydore motel, where you check in to your room at a vintage milk van reimagined as a reception-cum-food-truck. Rooms are all designed in the same earthy palette - whitewashed walls, rattan furniture, brushed brass. One comes with a private courtyard, and another is pet-friendly, if you can't bear to leave pooch behind while holidaying on the Sunshine Coast. While there are plenty of attractions nearby, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to soak in the magnesium pool while ordering wine and gourmet hampers from that food truck. We love: Free bike hire means that you can easily explore the Maroochy River or drop in on the Sunday fisherman's market. loea.com.au
This is a reimagining of a 1980s roadside motel, with Nomad's suites, studios and apartments the perfect perch from which to explore Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. You're on the cusp of two World Heritage Sites - the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef - so life naturally revolves around the outdoors here, whether you're reclining on the motel's wrap-around veranda or taking a dip in the pool, laced with palms. While there are plenty of restaurants in the neighbourhood, you can opt to order breakfast to your room or enjoy a feast on the poolside patio; come dusk, the motel's cocktail bar begins mixing and shaking beverages befitting of your steamy locale. We love: The generous space offered in the one- to three-bedroom apartments, which come replete with kitchens, dining and lounge areas. motelnomad.com.au
From its custom, retro-look signage out front to its nostalgic interiors, this motel is a strong contender for Victoria's funkiest lodgings. While no two spaces are the same, you can look forward to a design aesthetic that heroes groovy patterns, luxe finishes and kitsch wall art. It all adds up to vintage fun in the Macedon Ranges, around one hour northwest of Melbourne. The owner is a former restaurateur, so food and drink is a major focus - have eggs delivered to your breakfast hatch when you wake, order a paper-bag lunch to go or hit up the cocktail bar for a Pink Elephant, uniting bourbon, lemon juice, grenadine and egg whites. We love: If you're inspired by your motel's aesthetics, you'll love the vintage and antiques stores that dot the town of Kyneton. kynetonspringsmotel.com
Enjoy shut eye and a stylish stay at South Gippsland's newest lodgings, tucked alongside the Tarwin River around two hours southeast of Melbourne. While past room incarnations were daggy and worn, accommodations today are all polished chrome, Victorian plantation hardwood furniture and vintage objets, whether you're checking in to a riverfront room or a spacious two-bedroom apartment. All five accommodations have a kitchenette, so you can self-cater, as well as a minibar stocked with local goodies. But you're minutes from the pub, if you want to meet the locals. We love: Guests have access to The Shed, where you'll find lawn games, books, eskies, extra fridge space for all your fishing needs and an ice machine. riverdrivemotel.com.au
Sprawling over three hectares of waterside real estate just north of Hobart, the Riverfront's 65 rooms cater to everyone from couples to large groups - the on-site houses can accommodate 15 people. There's plenty to keep you busy on-site, including a kids playground, lap pool, tennis court and barbecue facilities; if you'd prefer someone else to do the cooking, there's also a restaurant where you can refuel on chicken parmis, burgers, fish-and-chips and schnitzels. We love: You're less than a kilometre from Mona - hire a bike for $15 a day and cycle along the Derwent to this world-class gallery for eye-popping art. riverfronthobart.com
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America's classic motor court motels - a staple of 1950s American life, when the Interstate Highway System was still freshly paved - have been renovated and retrofitted for the Instagram age. And there's one for every road trip, including those meandering through Napa Valley wine country. It's here that you'll find Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa, occupying a 1947 building refitted with whimsical design flourishes like wraparound campervan benches, graphic tiles and a colour palette of mustard yellows and dusty greens - the natural mineral pools are a bonus. In Savannah, Georgia, the Thunderbird Inn preserves plenty of Jetsons-esque decor, with kitschy details including vintage popcorn machines, neon signs and fresh lemonade in the lobby. If you're driving historic Route 66, check in to New Mexico's Motel Safari. This mid-century marvel features a variety of rooms plus two specialty suites: the Rockabilly Suite honours Wanda Jackson, the room's inaugural guest, and is decorated with memorabilia from musicians who've hunkered down here; and the Rawhide Suite, which pays tribute to the classic western TV series by the same name. In Texas, the 1930s white stucco Austin Motel has been transformed into a modern motor inn, with playful decor that includes custom wallpaper, old-school push-button phones and a kidney-shaped pool (don't miss the neon night swims).