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Pull Right In: Retro Motels of Tasmania

Nov 22, 2023
Article by Tess Crellin

Is the monotony of modern hotel fare and Airbnb copy ‘n’ paste getting you down? Perhaps a dose of bygone era charm is just what you need. Here’s four of the best time capsule motels in Tasmania.

The Riverfront Motel and Villas – Berriedale

The Riverfront is a mid-century masterpiece. The arrangement of rooms in a line next to a central car park is a reminder that old school is still cool, and convenient.

Although some of the decor might have been updated since the black-and-white photos were taken, the interior designer, Michelle Boyde, has successfully retained the original look and feel through a thoughtful renovation of the site. The process is ongoing, with a focus on including vintage pieces and items built to spec that honour the motel’s first iteration. The restaurant has also been made-over with sofas from Angelucci 20th Century and new brushed aluminium cone lights custom-made locally by Stuart Williams, but the floor-to-ceiling windows and wood-panelled bar have always been there.

Detached from the motel rooms is a self-contained modernist bungalow (‘The River House’) that can be booked by groups. The owners of the Riverfront always knew it was something special with its internal courtyard, yellow kitchen, stone fireplace and built-in timber bed frames. However, it took quite a bit of digging by Michelle and her husband to uncover the architect: Jim Moon (known for ‘Jaffa House’ in Hobart, and for works in collaboration with other architects from his firm, like the brutalist Hobart Hydro-Electric Commission building). The rest of the original motel was designed by IG and LG Anderson, a father-and-son team who also designed Glenorchy City Chambers and Glenorchy Pool.

A beloved Googie-style bright yellow metal arch has also stood at the motel’s entrance since 1961. The arch was custom-made by businesses in Glenorchy for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the area in 1954. The iconic structure is currently being refurbished but will be back to greet visitors soon.

riverfronthobart.com

Photos by Nicole Hastings

The Waterloo Hotel – Swansea

The Waterloo is all business: three floors of neat brick with room entrances at the back, and windows and balconies overlooking Great Oyster Bay at the front.

But therein lies the charm — on a warm night you can sleep with just the screen door closed, or while away the day in one of the ‘80s outdoor chairs that populate the balconies (you know the kind — white tubular plastic frame with an apricot mesh seat that is completely indestructible and waterproof — your aunt probably had one next to her pool).

Several of the rooms have been refurbished by interior designer Rebecca Kirkland but still maintain their appeal with new patterned carpet and olive green headboards. The bathrooms have a certain nostalgia with pink tiles and vintage quirks such as hairdryers attached to the wall.

Several of the rooms have been refurbished by interior designer Rebecca Kirkland but still maintain their appeal with new patterned carpet and olive green headboards. The bathrooms have a certain nostalgia with pink tiles and vintage quirks such as hairdryers attached to the wall.

Room 307, however, is best in class with an unrenovated and endearing mish-mash of different styles: faux antique chandeliers, overstuffed arm chairs, an ‘80s mirrored wall and maroon bathroom. Plus, a wraparound balcony with views to the bowls club next door.

Of note is the popular Waterloo Inn restaurant on the ground floor run by Zac Green (ex Movida) and his partner Alex Sumner (one of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet). The food is very, very good, and the space still has its kitschy features including the original blackboard menu signage and vinyl seating.

thewaterloo.au

Photos by Remi Chauvin

Beachfront Voyager Motor Inn – Burnie

Built in 1972, the name of this motel says it all. Picture bedside tables with built-in radios and a foyer with signed and framed photographs of celebrities who stayed there during its heyday. Unfortunately, for our purposes, many of the rooms have now been modernised, but there are still a few untouched options left.

The exterior is also wonderful, featuring curved brick arches, fabulous signage, and little balconies with views of Bass Strait. Like several of the other motels mentioned here, the restaurant is also a good get, especially the tables up against the curved windows. The menu is simple in the best way possible (eggs on toast, supermarket cereal, and other affordable fare), and the waitress calls you love. Delightful.

beachfrontvoyager.com.au

Photos by Tess Crellin

Poatina Chalet – Poatina

Truth be told, this is the one place this writer hasn’t actually stayed in, but photos of its impressive breeze-block frontage and bright-red cursive sign are all over Instagram. I couldn’t leave it out, as the whole town is perfectly frozen in time from when it was built in the 1960s.

Amber Koroluk-Stephenson, a Tasmanian painter represented by Bett Gallery, successfully applied to undertake a residency in Poatina through Arts Tasmania earlier this year and has kindly shared some of her photos of the chalet for this article. The interior certainly lives up to the hype: pink cupboards, vintage wallpaper, and wooden beams everywhere. The images also document the old-timey elegance of the local convenience store and hall, and a decommissioned pool with a giant octopus painted on its floor.

A former hydro village, Poatina is now mostly owned by a Christian organisation called Fusion Australia, which purchased many of the buildings in the ‘90s.

poatinachalet.com.au

Photos by Amber Koroluk-Stephenson

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