‘Sunset Strip Motel’ 199-203 Boundary St, Coolangatta QLD

In our continuing tradition of motel alerts comes this textbook example of Mid-Century-on-the-road family accommodation now sadly facing demise. Much like earlier options we have listed, we believe (perhaps more than any other) that this classic U-shaped motel, in a beach-tourism mecca, centered around a large pool courtyard with incalculable retro charm has the chops to be reborn with sympathy and celebration. One only has to look at accommodation sensations like the stunning Beverley Laurel Motor Inn in Los Angeles or The Burrard in Vancouver to see just how a considered rebirth of a central motel can add intangible cool and immediate desirability to solid Mid-Century foundations, which this particular motel has in spades (starting with their very name ffs!). We’d assure anyone with the backing and nous who gives Sunset Strip Motel a bold and Modern flavored rebirth, perhaps with an Aussie twist (A welcome pack of twisties and XXXX 6-pack in each room maybe?) would see the hipsters and the nostalgic of all ages come running from across the country. C’mon Southern Queensland – show us you can be more than bland 90s interiors and 4 star aspirations!*

*Brisbane’s Hotel Callie a singular exception here.

Thanks to Alistair of Dr Retro Housecalls for the historical images and Christ Osborne at Brisbane Modern for the current day ones (check our Rolodex for the links to both!), it’s even better than we imagined!

Hospo Inspo

Every couple of years or so, amid endless residential offerings online we chance upon something more substantial, a specifically more commercial proposal than a domestic one in the form of a classic Mid-Century motel. The recognition and romance of the Australian motel has been creeping up for many years (generally in the minds of those reaching a certain middle age who now find themselves unnervingly the responsible adults in the room) and has been duly enjoyed in recent events such as the Ok Motels mini-festival (5 stars – would go again) and the current Tim Ross show and new book, ‘Motel’, mining similar cultural bedrock. 

Image from ‘Motel’ by Tim Ross pub. 2019

We at MA, in our tireless goading of you all, have oft championed the idea, much embraced in the USA, of taking a potential though perhaps rundown, Mid-Century Motel and breathing new life into it – celebrating its past, its design, its invariably holiday-esq location and spinning a hip narrative within a hospitality venture. You cannot deny that The Saguaro Palm Springs or Austin Motel (for example) aren’t onto an easily exportable and attractive variation for our own Australian stockpile of untouched 50s/60s motels just sitting offside the M1. And indeed there are a few intrepid Aussies getting their game on here with the Warburton Motel Yarra Valley and The Sails Motel Brunswick Heads for starters, but there is always room for more!

The Austin Motel, Austin TX

So today, for your consideration, we propose The Blue Dolphin Motel on Mid-North Coast NSW. Not to be confused with Robin Boyd’s Black Dolphin Motel in Merimbula,  this unadulterated classic 1960s motel with incredible beach/river location, impeccable Mid-Century lines and 22 rooms is just gagging for someone to seize the opportunity and transform a dormant business with a sketchy recent past (you can goog that yourselves) into a MCM infused wonderland. You need bucks. You need a plan. You need an exceedingly catchy eye. And you need to set a hospitality standard which will keep the kids Instagramming and coming back time after time, but as Brian Wilson asks – wouldn’t it be nice?

‘The Blue Dolphin Motel’ 6-10 Fraser St, Nambucca Heads NSW – MA listing


‘ES&A Bank’ 13A Bent St, Wingham NSW

As rare a listing as the come, with nothing we’ve ever posted coming close in terms of restoration efforts nor regionally historical MCM importance. This ES&A Bank designed by Richard Apperly was opened in 1957, one of perhaps hundreds of landmark Modernist commercial buildings of the post-war boom built in regional Australia (back before economical rationalism decided regional Australia didn’t exist anymore). Spending the last 50 years spiralling into a familiar oblivion and now yanked back into life with sheer grit.  We shan’t go into too much detail here for suffice to say the vendor, who is reluctantly selling, has an entire website dedicated not only to the provenance of this incredible building but also details the blood sweat and tears put into the bank in the last 3 years to bring it back to unheralded glory. And what unbending yakka it has taken! As the owner states;

“I personally saved and restored every original feature, spending over 60 hours a week for 7 months on the project……I have poured my heart and soul into the building, ensuring that every detail was as close to original as possible.”

It shows. On par with the most heavily and publicly financed and manned restoration works, this effort of private dedication and funding is a majestic rebirth of a building in totality. Every aspect studied and renewed. Every material considered. Every ounce of craftsmanship cherished and recaptured and in some cases enhanced with the only the most deft design eye. From the iconic staircase, the entry reception, the exterior stone work and (our favourite) the bank vault itself. This bank building in a tiny, Mid-Coast town (pop. 5000) on a winding riverbank now sits as a museum of Mid-Century Australia.
Indeed, one could easily conduct a walking tour of the last 150 years of rural culture as seen in the untouched streetscape with a MCM building now taking its place now among the old familiar institutions: the Saturday NRL match-ups in the oval across the road. A shandy in the (also wonderfully intact) Federation pub. A bit of Sunday penance at ‘Our Lady’s’ round the corner, followed by some old-timey, white Australia antiquing in the Wingham Museum right next door.
And now the big question: what next for the ES&A Bank? Shall its rebirth be the start of a new chapter for itself and even Wingham overall? Can a fitting, most likely creative, business continue on this wonderful path? Or shall it be bought and forgotten? Perhaps worse still picked up and destroyed through ignorance? To direct fate in the best way, we make the national call out for a the new owner. An entity who knows decentralisation is the key to the working future (NBN willing). Maybe a type who easily straddles the regional culture and more urbane aesthetics. Or maybe just someone who will adore this building as much as the current owner does? We wonder.

**Update** Well, it’s taken a while but this wonderful building has now been sold in the best possible transfer as mulled over when we listed- it has gone to a business with regional interest and an owner with MCM running through their veins as the vendor attests:

“I have finally sold her and the good news is that the new owner just loves Mid Century Modern. It is now the offices for Pilot Childcare Management. They run a chain of childcare centres along the NSW east coast. They love the building so much that they purchased all of the furniture as they did not want to change anything. All of the staff are so excited to be working in such a beautiful building. They even went out on the first day they moved in a bought new plants for the garden wall and lots of MCM nick nacks to keep the vibe. The new owner, Adam, has decreed that nothing that is not on era is to pass through the door! They are even going to keep the signage as it was originally.”

How we adore a Scooby Doo ending.