The Motels of Yesteryear

Seabreeze Motel Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise, QLD

“Motor hotel” = MOTEL

I had the misfortune of spending a night in a very tired, past-its-use-by-date motel during my recent trip to Western Australia. My trip began with a very comfortable room at the stunning Rydges Fremantle followed by 2 nights on a dreamy pillow-top mattress at the new Rottnest Island Eco-Resort and a night in a brand new studio apartment I booked via Airbnb.

Choosing to spend a night mid-trip in an eerily empty 80s motel barely warranting a 2-star rating was a poor decision from the outset. The walls were dinged and tired, the bathroom was leaky and sported an old curtain around the shower and they had clearly located the only other guest in the room behind me as I heard every flush of their toilet. I was reminded why I turn to Airbnb for accommodation these days.

The heyday of the motel is well and truly behind us. But there was a time when they were the epitome of a budget holiday, one step up from the caravan holiday. Here’s a few in my Kodachrome Slide collection.

Hi Ho Motel – 2 Queensland Avenue Broadbeach Queensland

When the Hi Ho Motel opened in 1958 it was one of only 18 motels in Queensland and 45 motels throughout Australia. The late 1950s is considered the start of the motel boom in Australia and by 1959 the number of motels in Queensland had increased from 18 to 40 with the Gold Coast considered to be the epicentre of motel development in the late 1950s. The motel operated for almost 15 years until it was demolished to make way for the new motel of the same name in 1972.

Hi Ho Motel 2 Queensland Avenue Broadbeach Queensland
Rescued Kodachrome Slide

Siesta Motel – 2827 Gold Coast Hwy, Surfers Paradise, QLD

This photo was taken by a family friend, most likely in the early 60s. I can’t find much about this hotel online. Note the unfenced pool right by the footpath and road!

Siesta Motel Gold Coast Hwy, Surfers Paradise, QLD
Photo by Joe Matthews

El Dorado – Gold Coast Hwy, Surfers Paradise, QLD

Originally named the Surfers Paradise Motel it was the first true motel in Surfers Paradise where guests could drive their cars and park directly outside their room. The partnership of the two owners didn’t last and the motel was divided into two for some time until one sold his half to the other and the entire complex became known as the El Dorado. In 1988 the two-storey El Dorado was demolished and replaced by the 23-storey Surfers Paradise Travelodge.

Photo by Joe Matthews

Seabreeze Motel – Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise, QLD

I was beside myself with glee when I came across this slide taken by a family friend during an early 1960s trip to Surfers Paradise. The colours. The cars. The signage. The airline bus. What’s not to love?

Seabreeze Motel Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise, QLD
Photo by Joe Matthews

Sherry Time at Number 28

I have no clue where this was taken but the lady in red is having a grand old time thanks to the bottle of sherry she bought along for happy hour. One wonders what spectacular view this motel boasts. A road? A paddock?

Unknown lady at motel
Rescued Kodachrome Slide

Departure Imminent at Number 16

This sure doesn’t look like any motel I want to stay at. I only hope it had more windows on the other side. What interested me most about this shot was the size of the suitcases. Small!

Rescued Kodachrome Slide


  1. Dirk
    April 25, 2022

    in 1986 I lived at the former siesta motel at Broadbeach, I was 19 at the time and had just moved out of home from Brisbane for the first time.
    The pool was long gone and filled in to make a car park for the 7 flats with a driveway going through to the rear, rental on a 1 bedroom flat cost $80 a week and the 2 bedsits like mine cost $45 a week, the former managers residence upstairs cost $120 a week.
    Recently visited the coast again recently amazed how things have changed over the past 36 years.

  2. Mark
    September 28, 2021

    My family and I stayed often at the Siesta hotel during the 1970s. For a kid it had the best pool you could want on holiday and it was an easy walk to the beach. The accommodation was very straight forward providing only what you really needed. I kind of miss the place really…
    I would love to know more about the Bel Sito next door. My aunt and uncle lived there when they first moved to the Gold Coast in the early 1970s but I presume once upon a time it was for holiday guests. Its pool by comparison to the Siesta’s was quite small and would eventually be filled in to provide much-needed parking for residents.


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