Most of the time a stay in a motel is a colourless experience; aided by small packs of boring biscuits and infuriating little milk sachets. When my husband and I stop at a roadside motel on our way somewhere, we expect very little, and sometimes pay what seems vast amounts for the privilege. Over the years there have been the good the bad and the ugly, with the lesson to anyone being you should do your homework before you book. We have learned the hard way.
Our early experience was a motel called The Paradise Motel. We had our first night of married life there, for that reason! It was a joke we had organised so we could bore people for the rest of our lives. A memory that stands out about this place was that the the bedroom was incredibly cold and I wore a baby doll nightie; we decided to drink some champagne, bought half a bottle, and thought we were so sophisticated. Yet really we were shy and scared.
The rest of the motel’s guests all seemed so old, but I expect they were about 30. Our motel room was very swish though and as we were not that sophisticated we loved the added joy of a telephone in our room (I’m talking 1959), a TV, valet service for shoes and ironing, and the ability to order snacks. It was a heady experience, but they are not all like that.
The most memorable experience we’ve had in Australia was one in Tweed Heads, New South Wales. We had travelled too far for that day, usually trying to stop before 5pm, it was getting late, and we ran out of options, not quite knowing where we were. We were road tripping to Bundaberg, Queensland and stopping at random places. We went to the first place we found. It struck a note of doom as we parked and went to pay. The person booking us in was behind a mesh grill, which I feared was an indication of the type of local clientele.
I should have listened to my gut on that one. I didn’t expect it to be like the ritz, and I was right. The bathroom was not inviting and certainly not a place I wanted to bare my body. The bed required close inspection to ensure it was clear of bed bugs. We decided we would not be eating at this place. We walked up the road and found a fabulous variety of great motels, and a bowls club with appetising food that would not have left us on a drip in intensive care. We ate there. The next morning — after a fitful night of sleep — we moved out fast. Finding a cafe with views of the water for us to gaze out at was perfect for our breakfast stop.
Another night of drama was a place in Bentleigh, Victoria behind a big club,. There were a lot of shady deals in the back lane, those involving small packets and cash. Bare electrical wires and broken light fittings adorned our very basic room. Yet this venue offered beautiful meals in the bistro attached.
Probably the best have been on trips to the Ocean Road in Victoria. There have also been great accommodations at Lakes Entrance and Phillip Island, with clean well-cared for rooms and good service some of our most basic requirements. The most luxurious accommodation we’ve stayed at was at Mildura with a spa bath, it was just glorious. We felt like film stars. We also stayed in a retreat perched on a hillside near Stratford once. Sweet smelling linen and reasonable prices. So beautiful were the sweeping views and serenity. There was a flower filled garden and two friendly dogs who came to visit.
We have been impressed by antiques and four-poster beds, and when we stayed in a private house in Brighton, Victoria, it was just like visiting a friend. We had beautifully appointed rooms and a home cooked breakfast with the lady of the house.
Though we do a lot of driving trips and choose to stop where we like, when we like, it’s meant we’ve always packed some camping equipment (tent, sleeping back, electric bar fire, cooker etc.) in the event our luck runs out. Camping out hasn’t occurred all that often, but when we stayed in Hervey Bay, Queensland we got to experience glamping. What luxury!
There are places that are memorable for the wrong reasons too.
On a stay in Arrarat, Victoria there was one such place. The couch here smelled so bad we had to spray it and leave the windows of our room open. I don’t want to think about what had occurred there, but it was difficult to sleep that night. We’ve put it on our ‘places to avoid at all costs’ list.
It also pays to take note of your hosts when booking in to a place. On a recent stopover, we’d stopped at a place that had good cosy beds for us to sleep in. However, the host mentioned that our visit coincided with some renovations. I didn’t get a full sense of what was meant by that until I stepped into the bathroom. It was freezing! Then I noticed a window was missing — it had been taken out in the renovation and not put back in yet. There was a nice current of frigid air whistling past as I washed. Large coats and plenty of courage were required if a bathroom trip was needed during the night, as I was very reluctant to get out from the warmth of the bed after that experience.
We’ve also slept in a caravan in winter, which normally wouldn’t be an issue. On one particular occasion however, the temperatures were so cold that everything iced up. Drips of condensation shocked us repeatedly as they fell to our noses throughout the night.
We’ve had unwanted guests in our motel room too, mostly frogs and beetles. Yet, there have been occasions when the wildlife has been the two-legged variety. The motel is fine, the room is perfect, the fridge is stocked, but oh boy when the lights go out, it becomes a little hairy. We’ve heard raging quarrels, noisy parties and even more annoying for the person and us, a dreadful hacking cough that went on all night, so loud it sounded like it was in our room.
We once stayed in the Violet Town Hotel in Victoria, which had a sort of shabby charm. The barmaid told us to help ourselves if we wanted a drink! She happily gave us a fire to take to our room. The table was a little wobbly and the bed was one of those old-fashioned high ones that needed a ladder for us to get into it, but the food in the dining room was beautiful. We loved all they provided. Unfortunately, the football revellers let down our car tyres … And a few years later the whole place burned down.
Most people are apprehensive about speaking up if something’s not right, you know, the room smells of smoke and you’ve asked for smoke free or you’d booked for water views and been given a room overlooking the garden, but I don’t have that problem. Last September our son had shouted us a two-night stay in a coastal town in Victoria. At that time of year many of the motels are getting prepped for the tourist season. We arrived at this place and unpacked. As I looked around the room though, I realised we had no chairs and no table, nothing at all to sit on other than the bed.
It was supposed to be a luxury stay, so we felt a bit let down. We contacted management (quite tricky as they didn’t live on the premises) and mentioned this to them. They agreed it was an oversight, we weren’t supposed to have been let into that room as it wasn’t ready for guests. Not only did they address the issue, but they upgraded us to a super double room, with extra room for seating and dining. It was fabulous, and we were grateful!
I’m all for having a look at what’s on offer when we go travelling and need accomodation. Read the reviews, inspect the rooms when you arrive (even better if you can do it before paying). Be courteous to the staff as they are the ones who can help you if there is a problem, put them offside and they might not be so forthcoming. I love going away and even now, at 80, it’s still exciting to see where we end up!