Image courtesy of Blue Water Motel – Photography by Jessie Prince

One of the positive outcomes of the current popularity of Palm Springs mid-century architectural styling is the repurposing of many older buildings that previously may have been destined for demolition. 

Whilst this styling was also evident in many beach houses of the era, it was really the adoption of the American Motor Hotel (Motel) concept that saw this style flourish throughout Australia’s coastal villages as the post war affluence allowed many families to embark on road trips across the country for their beach holidays.

Nowhere was this more apparent than the Gold Coast which came of age during this period as Australia’s favourite sun soaked get-a-way destination. Gradually the small beachside settlements that had sprinkled the coastline between Southport and Coolangatta were linked by a highway lined with numerous modern Hotel / Motels catering to the large influx of tourists from around the country.

Offering novelties unaffordable in most homes of the time, swimming pools, coloured TVs, room service and air conditioning, Motels were considered the ultimate in luxurious decadence for that valuable 2 week escape from the normality of daily living in the suburbs. 

This exciting evolution of holiday accommodation on the Gold Coast is covered in a previous blog post.

Unfortunately, as time passed and the Hi-Rise became king, the heritage value of many of these Motels was not recognised, and they succumbed to demolition and redevelopment.

All we were left with were memories and grainy images of iconic establishments like the Eldorado or the Pink Poodle – which still evoke a sense of nostalgia for the excitement and optimism of that time, despite the fact they were demolished decades ago.

That is until now. As the children and grandchildren of those tourists from the 50’s and 60’s rediscover the joy of the simple architecture with pops of bold colour and neon signage used to express individuality, some of the surviving Motels and Hotels of this period are embracing this and being remodelled to reflect this retro styling. 

Following the lead of early adopters like Halcyon House at Cabarita which transformed an otherwise nondescript brick Motel into a very successful 6 star Hotel and restaurant, retro Hotel / Motels are once again becoming sought after destinations.

Images courtesy of Halcyon House

Competing for the tourism dollar against online booking companies like Air B and B, many older highway-side Motels have struggled to find a point of differentiation to attract guests, other than based purely on price. 

Drawing on the current trend embracing all things retro, elaborate neon signs and bright colours set against bright whitewashed walls once again are being used to capture the attention of the passing motorist, or online searcher. 

Image courtesy of The Mysa Motel – Photography Trent Mitchell

Fuelled by the rise of Influencers and the seemingly insatiable desire of “zillennials” to take selfies with a cool backdrop to post on social media, savvy operators have capitalised on this golden opportunity to gain valuable marketing exposure for their businesses. 

Instagram has become the digital equivalent of the postcard, the original format used to showcase exotic holiday destinations from afar to family and friends.

In some cases, these photogenic, Insta-worthy palm springs inspired makeovers with their breezeblock enclosed magnesium pools, tasselled or striped beach brollies, retro pool lounges and cactus gardens have become so popular that they’ve been forced to adopt photoshoot policies to control this unfettered behaviour.

Image courtesy of The Sails Motel & Pool Club
Image courtesy of The Sails Motel & Pool Club

The benefits of refurbishing an existing building rather than building a new replacement are not just financial. Sustainability is also an important consideration for many owners and guests, reducing their carbon footprints by repurposing these buildings, materials and furniture rather than creating something new that will ultimately age and face the same fate as its predecessors. 

Another new Motel marketing tactic that has emerged recently on the Gold Coast is the “pop up room” where artists are enlisted to do a retro makeover of individual Motel rooms, creating highly Instagram-able spaces.

Image courtesy of Golden Ticket Motel – photography Ellamay Fitzgerald

Established by new startup Golden Ticket Motel their premise is to create “Art you can sleep in” to attract guests to these older Motels, and to offer employment and marketing opportunities to local artists.

The resurgence in popularity of these refreshed oldies confirms that beauty really is only skin deep, and is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

Image courtesy of The Pink Hotel
Image courtesy of The Pink Hotel


If you are interested in viewing more examples of retro Hotels or Motels on the Gold Coast or Tweed, you can find out more through these links: 


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