35 Bettington St, Miller Point
The Rocks, Sydney 2000
Our hotel was closed when the taxi dropped us off. (A problem with boutique spots, they have they unique features.) A couple of guys were cleaning the bar on the first floor but they were not hotel reception. Almost twenty hours in transit and we needed to crash so we did what all good transients do, and with bags in tow we rolled on down the pathways to the nearby park for a snooze. Early morning commuters were passing by on the many mosquito fleet boats. A plane was sky writing messages to god only knows.
We took the message to heart. We would persevere!
Returning to the Hotel Palisade and finding no one there, we called the back up number and made the connection. We were in our third story room in a short time…and soon collapsed on the expanse of white sheets.
The room came with a sitting area, dining table and four chairs (a little worn but stylish mid-century) and a giant bed with a massive window looking out on Headland Park (where we just had our nap), Balmain, Goat Island and Walsh Bay criss-crossed by commuter ferries.
Both the upstairs lounge and first floor bar offered some food choices. The roof space offered great views, and samplings of fish, meat and veggies. Downstairs cuisine was more in the way of fish and chips. On certain nights these spots were packed.
The Rocks area is transforming and this hotel renovation is a strong indication of the gentrification to come. Older two story townhouses were showing signs of transformation, (engineering/construction signage on porches or in windows) and apparently low income housing is slowing disappearing.
Within walking distance were several coffee shops. We preferred walking down the hill near the waterfront piers to have breakfast.
Port Douglas Motel
9 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4877
+61 7 4099 5248
After picking up the car at the Cairns Airport, and taking a moment to reorient to the parallel universe of driving on the left side of the road, we turned onto the Captain Cook Highway for Port Douglas. Luckily for me, the route demands attention at multiple roundabouts and merging in a clockwise direction. After going through three or four, I was into the routine. (It had helped to have driven a stick shift in Ireland just a couple of years ago.)
Our Port Douglas Motel was not hard to miss with its garish colored sign off of Davidson Street. It offered, “Retro-styled accommodation with old-fashioned hospitality.” You park your car right up to your door. The back sitting areas are intimate and nicely secluded, with vegetation screening off the large hotel next door. And Macrossan St with all the restaurants and shops is just around the corner in one direction and the beach is a block the other direction.
Thala Beach Lodge
Oak Beach 4877
A few miles south of Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway is Thala Beach Lodge and the Thala Beach Nature Reserve. Michele had managed to get us a three night deal at this rather expensive retreat. Our humble cabin (#70) was on the lower slope of the promintory, elevated on posts giving it a tree house effect from the porch. On top was the lodge, dining area and pool…and some pricier cabins with views.
We did dip ever so briefly in one forest pool. The water was frigid but the space was so inviting that we bore the numbness to have the lived experience.
Cairns City Palms
199 Sheridan St,
Cairns, QLD 4870
+61 7 4051 7155
This was a one night stand in Cairns and this classic two floor motel served us well. The place was packed with travelers and workers, with everyone’s cars filling the inner court with little room to spare. The place was immaculate and had laundry facilities.
Dinner options were all an easy walk away. We chose the Bay Leaf, a Balinese restaurant. Without reservations the only table was just outside the front door. We felt a little like the snubbed wanna-bes who don’t make it past the bouncer at night clubs…but we made do and the food was great.
Of course in the middle of the night, we had our next door motel neighbors coming back drunk and loudly making their way to their room. Thank God they were so inebriated that they crashed or perhaps blacked out into blissful oblivion soon after slamming their door.
Ayers Rock Resort
Emu Walk Apartments
Yulara Drive, Yulara NT 0872
61 8 8957 7888
Sticker shock will hit you at anytime in Yulara. Our rental car cost $200 /day, and 36 cents per km if we drove over 500 km. Given the agents scary tales of wrecks on the highway, kangaroo carnage and the need for costly insurance, we left with eyes wide open along every km to the hotel.
All the hotels and the camp ground is in one large complex, as well as the restaurants. So you are confined to the grounds so to speak. Our room was spacious with a living room, kitchen and laundry facilities, so no complaints there. The pillows on the couch tried to reflect some aboriginal patterns. We faced north so we stayed cool in the shade. Our walled patio offered views of the parking lot and scrubland beyond where a few brave souls ventured under the mid-day sun between hotels and restaurants.
Nearby under the canopy of canvas and trees, were walkways to a grocery store, shops and access to fine dining and/or fast food.
Squeakywindmill Boutique Tent B&B
971 Ilparpa Rd ,
White Gums NT 0870
Alice Springs, NT
Before heading out of Alice Springs, we managed to locate an organic grocery store to stock up on provisions. We were going glam-camping (at an incredibly reasonable price) and wanted to be prepared. This was a first for both of us. The last time I was in the outback working as a crew boss/doodlebugger with a geophysical outfit, I bunked in a basic tent with a plywood floor.
Dodging road construction vehicles, and taking multiple detours, we managed to avoid dinging the rental car exterior. We took a left at the camel riding ranch and pulled up to the Squeakywheel Boutique Tent B&B…just past the windmill. We would be the only guests the first night. The tent offered a large bed, mini-kitchen with fridge and sink, a roomy bathroom with shower and a barbecue out front. So cool.
The field hosted a flock of pink dusted lorikeets and two wallabies, just barely visible in the dusk light, hopped towards the water tank. Our dinner of organic corn and chicken sausage cooked on the barbe and all was right with our world. Except for the gun shots. Down the road a bit was a shooting range and this was target practice night. Once they had spent their shells, and driven past the property as a caravan…we had the place to ourselves.
The two lounge chairs by the fire pit gave us grand seats for viewing the exquisite Milky Way. There was some glare in lower night sky…apparently from Pine Gap, the US-Aussie listening post for all things Top Secret. That was over the ridge and worlds away.
Quest Alice Springs
9-10 South Terrace, The Gap
Alice Springs NT 0870
A one night stand before exiting Alice Springs for Adelaide, the Quest was clean and efficient if lacking in character. It has a washer and dryer…a big plus. A tiny pool offers solace for a few desperate souls. The parking was full of utility vehicles, cross country trek SUVs and rental cars. Evidently they have a few security issues since there are locked gates for cars and pedestrians to pass through.
Dinner options were across the dry river bed where the large new hotels were located. The receptionist did not recommend bushwacking so we stuck to the river path. We passed a couple of aboriginal conversation groups sitting on the path in the dark, perhaps sharing some libation. We bid good evening and continued on.
Largs Pier Hotel
198 Esplanade ,
Largs Bay SA 5016
With some trepidation we asked our Uber Drive where the heck he was taking us since after 30 minutes riding from the airport we did not seem any closer to the City. He pulled over on a busy arterial so we could get our bearings and check our itinerary. The joke was on us, since he knew where we should be going even if we did not. Our reservations were for a vintage hotel in the suburbs, not in downtown Adelaide.
Passing down streets of classic Aussie bungalows with filigreed ironwork railings, we pulled up to the Grand Dame of hotels. This place most likely had seen better days but pushing through the the front door, the grand staircase was impressive. Once we found the tiny lobby, we confirmed this was the place with our reservations.
We sampled a few rooms over the three nights we stayed at Largs Hotel. On first entering our second floor corner room with a view of the water and access to a lovely porch…I noticed the throbbing sound of a base line from the music in the bar below. Not ideal for rest and relaxation so management kindly switched us to their suite for a night, complete with conference room, four poster bed and a jacuzzi. Not a bad upgrade.
Of course with no elevator, hauling bags up and down the staircase was a bit of a schlepp…but the musical rooms arrangement was worth it.
The first floor offers two dining rooms (big enough for wedding receptions), a pub, and casino. Just outside and next door over, is the bottle shop. The tiny historic district does not have much to offer besides a coffee shop so this spot is the entertainment hub. Dinner in the pub was pretty good so we toasted to our new out-of-the-way accommodations, and made the best of it.
Access to downtown Adelaide is by light rail, and the nearest stop was just a couple of blocks away. Two coffee shops nearby got our days started right. One was clearly a Mom’s retreat. Children with plastic dinosaurs endowed with red flashing eyes terrorized the imaginary Jurassic Park, as they lumbered around the forest of table and human legs.
The Melbourne Hotel
33 Milligan St.
Perth WA 6000
One step inside this spot and you recognize “Boutique” in every detail…almost to the point of being over the top. Old and new structures have been merged with some architectural finesse. Aboriginal art is on the walls. The rooms are not vintage though our room was in the older historic part. Our French doors led out to the porch where we had coffee and pastries from a shop across the street.
Three restaurants and a bar occupy much of the ground floor. We dined at the Chinese restaurant, and the pub but could not stomach a wait in line for ramen though the latter place had quite a reputation. And given all the activity, it was reassuring that the rooms and hallways of the hotel were quiet.
Sal Sails Ningaloo Reef Hotel
Cape Range National Park, Exmouth
Exmouth, Australia 6707
Arriving by plane, our flight attendant warned us not to take photos of the airport since we would be landing at a Aussie military base. Perth was remote but this area was beyond the Outback. Our drive took us along the Exmouth Gulf to a cafe for breakfast in Exmouth, then a left past the matrix of sub communications towers, around the Cape Range to Ningaloo Marine Park. We were met at a beach parking lot and driven in a golf cart to the “hotel”, actually a series of glam camping tents and an main lodge.
Our tent, though not as well appointed as Sqweakywheel in Alice Springs, was eco-friendly with a compost toilet, recommendations for low level water use and minimal lighting. Glam is in the eye of the beholder, and if sitting on a composting toilet in an open air bathroom is too primitive for you, then this is not your slice of heaven. Having worked in the Great Sandy Desert and lived in a large tent with bunk beds, this still seemed upscale.
Young employees were very welcoming and service was friendly and attentive. Walking up into the nearby range and snorkeling tours off the beach were offered everyday…if you weren’t out floating with humpback whales. Meals were delicious. An open bar was a plus though we did not take full advantage. Australian wines accompanied the main repast.
One employee described her dwelling as a van with her boyfriend, the chef. They would find various spaces in the Park to park over the period that the hotel was open. She reminded me of the gang I worked with at the McKinley Park Hotel who saved money in creative ways. The whole complex has to be dismantled each year during the summer months after which our employee informant works on the Ghan catering to other tourists.
The Blackman Hotel
452 St Kilda Road, St Kilda Road
The Blackman Hotel was full of Footy Fans since there was a finals match in Melbourne between a Sydney team and a local powerhouse. Our room was on the twelfth floor, and it was a bit disconcerting decompressing at this level. This high up, balconies just are not that relaxing…though they are great for drying out laundry. Room, hallways and front lobby all displayed reproductions of an artist Charles Blackman, reputed to be one of Australias primo artists.
Given all the sports enthusiasts occupying the tables, we sat at the bar for good dinner in the hotel restaurant one night.
The light rail into Melbourne is just half a block away and across the nearest park was Entrecôte Parisian Steakhouse & Cafe, where I played Boy Scout and provided a band-aid when an overly enthusiastic diner knocked over his wine glass and sliced his hand.
40 Swanson St, New Town
Hobart Australia 7008
This grand hotel stands out as an extraordinary mansion conversion in Hobart catering to tourists. Large rooms have been retrofitted with fully equipped bathrooms, inserted into the space, …with a glass door and a wall that goes opaque at the flip of a switch. Gas inserts provide a cozy fire…once you deduce how to get that switch to cooperate.
Climb up to the Cupola for a late evening drink -BYOB.
Breakfasts were included and nicely done with fresh juice, yogurt, granola, choices of egg preparation or pancakes and bacon. And cappuccinos with a dusting of dark chocolate shavings. Fellow guests around the tables were predominantly Chinese tourists. Who knew that Hobart was such an attraction.
5 Bridge Lane
Sydney, NSW 2000
+61 2 9240 3100
I did not know where the hell the taxi was taking us from the airport. We turned on some familiar downtown streets past the botanical garden, down into the heart of Sydney…and then into a tiny alley, made a left into an even tinier alley before stopping to check for directions. We had arrived apparently though who knew? Did we need a secret pass word to get through a nondescript door.
Our windows looked out on a skyscraper under renovation..this was very urban. More grey tones like the Melbourne in Perth, keeping up with the subtle coolness inherent apparently in all things boutique.
After viewing Hair at the Sydney Opera House, we really enjoyed the Chinese restaurant, Mr. Wong (3 Bridge Lane) just down the alley from our hotel. Again it had a hip feel, full of the young and restless.