Retro motels experience a renaissance on the Gold Coast


Remember a childhood vacation to the Gold Coast, spent roaming the palm-lined streets in search of a motel with a lighted vacancy sign? There was a time when a kidney shaped swimming pool and loud air conditioning in the rooms were considered a luxury.

Today, retro hotels and motels on the Gold Coast are experiencing a renaissance, allowing vacationers to recreate that old-fashioned vacation vibe, but with all modern conveniences.

The Mysa Motel at Palm Beach, formerly the Palm Trees Motel, is the latest to be transformed from Daggy to vintage chic, with its boutique offering of just seven rooms providing a luxurious and sustainable stay that major hotels simply cannot match. .

Local Gold Coast couple Eliza and Jason Raine lovingly restored the ’80s blonde brick building over a two-year period, retaining the original facade and using recycled items from the existing motel and other local properties.

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Owners Eliza and Jason Raine have carried out much of the renovations to the Mysa hotel themselves. Photo: Trent Mitchell

“Our carport and yards feature recycled vintage cinder blocks, and our carport roof is made from recycled hardwood salvaged from the original motel,” said Raine. “Up-cycling was at the forefront of what we wanted to do here in Mysa, and how we wanted to reinvent ourselves as an icon, with as little impact as possible.”

This desire for minimal impact has meant the couple installed water tanks – to maintain the garden, magnesium pool and toilets – and 64 solar panels on the roof to power the complex.

Mr Raine, a tiler for 20 years, said he and Eliza did much of the construction and interior work themselves, but also used local artisans and designers when needed. . These include award-winning local photographer Trent Mitchell, whose nostalgic impressions of quintessential Gold Coast scenes adorn bedroom walls.

But the crowning achievement is undoubtedly the towering neon sign for the Mysa Motel, which was created by the same long-time local company that produced most of the Gold Coast’s glitzy neon signs starting in the 1960s.

A little further south, in Coolangatta, it’s not so much the signage as the pale pink color of the building that catches the attention of tourists at the Pink Hotel.

In 2018, three local couples and a few secondary investors purchased the 1950s property, formerly the Ocean View Motel, and returned it over a six-month period.

Pretty in pink: The Pink Hotel in Coolangatta was renovated by locals in 2018. Photo: Michael Tomkinson

Co-owner Freya Frenzel said residents were delighted to hear that the dilapidated property would be renovated, not demolished to make way for another skyscraper.

“We wanted to keep a little slice of Coolie,” Ms. Frenzel said. “It’s like Coolangatta’s beating pink heart. It’s a great adventure the second you walk in here.

The 17-room hotel has plenty of retro touches, including record players (with a vinyl library available for loan from reception) and even a pinball machine in the hotel’s artist suite.

And in true 1950s beach hotel style, there’s no elevator, and a climb of the stairs to the rooftop bar reveals stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s the kind of place where you can imagine guests sipping a pina colada while devouring a shrimp cocktail.

Ms Frenzel said the co-owners, who all grew up in the area, did most of the makeover work themselves, uncovering gems such as herringbone ceilings that had previously been covered in horsehair plaster.

They have also replaced a “fortress of palm trees” at the entrance with trendy recycled breeze blocks.


Continuing on the theme of mid-century makeovers on the Gold Coast, Diane and John Cartmill transformed a 1950s airport motel into a charming 10-bedroom accommodation called La Costa Motel.

Located just 60 steps from Bilinga Beach, the motel’s colorful umbrellas and vintage bikes available for hire, along with all-inclusive breakfast baskets and beach towels, make you feel like you are in. be at home away from home.

“All you need to bring is your pajamas and your toothbrush,” Ms. Cartmill said. “I always say it’s like coming to your favorite aunt’s house.”

The husband and wife duo both grew up in the area, but it was after traveling extensively that they decided to turn the property they had owned for 20 years into a retro-themed motel.

“We thought about demolishing it, but in the end we kept the structure and renovated it ourselves,” Ms. Cartmill said. “We even found vintage Women’s weekly and Woman’s day magazines in the walls, serving as insulation.

“We have since framed them and they form some of the artwork in our rooms.”

Ms Cartmill said many of her guests were repeat customers and sometimes entire families or groups of friends booked each room.

Unsurprisingly, all three locations are also sought after by Instagrammers and big names who want to use the unique aesthetic for photoshoots and ads.

“We get two to three photo shoots booked every week,” Mr. Raine said. “We feel like we’re the launching pad in the area… our guests come and then realize what’s in Palm Beach, with the new restaurants, cafes and the beach so close. Many of them don’t know how much the region has changed and how good everything is now. “

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