7 of the swankiest roadhouse motels in NSW
Retro motels are having a moment in NSW. With luxurious rooms and designer touches, these refurbished roadhouses are on repeat for road trippers and in-the-know travellers alike.
New beginnings: A 1980s motel was given an on-trend rejuvenation by design entrepreneurs Jess and Dave Frid in Byron Bay. Retaining the red-brick exterior and iconic kidney-shaped pool, The Sunseeker was the only Australian hotel to be listed in Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List 2021 – Best New Hotels.
In the know: This tropical haven is a highly stylish but incredibly relaxed place to play and stay. Families love the freestanding Californian-style bungalows, while couples are drawn to the spacious motel rooms.
Best bits: At sunset, gather with other families by the lagoon-style pool at the tiki bar.
How much? From $145
New beginnings: In 1968, Val Currie and her late husband Reg bought a piece of land with spectacular ocean views in Merimbula and proceeded to construct a family motel. It’s since been lovingly brought back to life by new owner, Caspar Tresidder.
In the know: A 1970s vibe is well and truly alive in the guest rooms – red bricks, pine panelling and rattan – but it’s all been expertly elevated into the modern day with chic lighting, neutral hues, luxury linens and contemporary collectables.
Best bits: Bring your tennis whites – the original 1970s court has been uncovered and restored.
How much? From $126
New beginnings: This next-gen stay steeped in nostalgia on Berry’s historic Queen Street was once a tired Mid-Century roadhouse, now lovingly restored in 2022 with show-stopping Palm Springs style.
In the know: A minimalist’s dream, this petite motel with the eye-catching tangerine doors has glimpses of green meadows from picture windows and edgy interiors you’ll want to copy at home.
Best bits: Take advantage of the seamless car-to-door check-in — all 13 rooms have Smart-Lock technology.
How much? From $288
New beginnings: In the village of Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, the Redleaf Resort, circa 1970s, has been reimagined into a graceful boutique hotel with an Art Deco aesthetic.
In the know: The hotel is perched on one of the highest points in the region and the spacious pastel-hued rooms open onto native bushland. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a ramble in the mountains, with a tennis court and steam room.
Best bits: Book dinner at swanky on-site restaurant Blaq, which oozes personality and overlooks a century-old cherry blossom tree.
How much? From $225
New beginnings: In Batehaven on the NSW South Coast, The Isla is one of the latest throwback hotels having a moment. With a favourable 1980s construction ripe for renovation, the design was conceived by a group of friends from Canberra and created by award-winning architects.
In the know: If you can pull yourself away from the retro rooms with contemporary Aussie design fused with 1980s favourites like oak and terrazzo, saunter to the pool lounge to extract a high-end snack from one of the bespoke vending machines boasting local cocktails and tasty treats.
Best bits: The Isla puts you front and centre in the stunning South Coast: pristine beaches, coastal bushland and freshly shucked local oysters.
How much? From $200
New beginnings: Born in the 1960s on the old Hume Highway in the border town of Albury, the Astor Motel has long been a comfortable pit-stop on the drive between Sydney and Melbourne. Purchased by hotelier Peter Griffiths in 2019, its façades have been given a full-colour face-lift, with retro baby pinks and burnt orange, along with a multi-million dollar renovation of its bar, bistro, coffee cart and beer garden.
In the know: Melbourne architects Techne Architecture completed the mid-century-style revamp, taking inspiration from 60s-era motels in the Californian desert. Think palm trees, hanging vines, terrazzo flooring and lots of colour. While the 45 rooms are yet to receive a makeover, a renovation is in the works.
Best bits: The Astor bistro has a sparkling menu to match its new looks — including Southern fried chicken, a woodfire grill and cocktails on tap — with live music acts taking the stage for Sunday sessions.
How much? From $90
New beginnings: Located in the Central West’s gourmet hub of Orange, The Oriana was one of the first motels in the area when it opened in 1968. Spotting its potential, owners Ted Marr and Espen Harbitz undertook a major renovation in 2017 to transform it into a plush, Miami-inspired stay complete with fuchsia lounge chairs by the pool and a sumptuous restaurant with velvet finishings.
In the know: The Oriana Pool Club menu is no afterthought – sit back with a terrine and Waldorf salad; a char siu papaya salad; or seafood fritto misto while sipping an Aperol Spritz or Frozen Daiquiri. You can even enjoy the pool if you’re not a guest with a table booking – come for sunset while it’s adults only for an ideal date night.
Best bits: In winter, the retro Bella Vista bar is the place to be, with chandeliers, purple lighting and elegant snacks such as bolinhos de bachalao (salt cod fritters) and Macau prawn toasts to go with expertly made cocktails.
How much? From $170