Small-scale travel has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. You may have noticed a few while scrolling through social media. They’re the boutique-like, design-forward, and Instagram-worthy abodes that focus on a more intimate experience. Enter: the reimagined motel.
Not only do these smaller, more eclectic—and, arguably, more interesting—options house fewer fellow travelers than their sprawling alternatives, they’re often located in less populated areas.
In pandemic-ridden times, these are major selling features.
While adding a new passport stamp may currently be out of the question, Canada has no shortage of enticing boutique travel options, many of which are the result of recent motel makeovers and fitting for a weekend getaway. The common theme of these eclectic options is a retro-chic and reimagined vibe that offers a temporary escape to simpler times—something not many of us would decline in our current climate.
The June Motel
Sauble Beach, Ontario
The June Motel became a quick, sold-out success when it opened in Prince Edward County in 2017, breathing new, highly Instagrammable life into a once tired roadside motel. Now, just in time for Labour Day Weekend, the bubby brand opened a second location in Sauble Beach, a retro beach town in southwestern Ontario. Embracing this 70s beach vibe, the freshly transformed, 24-room motor lodge features things like sun-bleached wallpaper and trendy colours from times past. It boasts individual patios, an indoor/outdoor restaurant, and—the star of the show—a retro floatie-filled pool with sunset views.
Galiano Island, British Columbia
Bodega Cove on BC’s Galiano Island is designed to help your reconnect-with-nature cause. Here, you’ll find restored, rustic chic 1969 Pan-Abode cabins neatly nestled in the pristine Canadian wilderness. Located across the street from the ocean shoreline, the cabins feature talking points like floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and kitchen, cedar paneling, a fireplace, and a sleek standalone bathtub complemented by heated floors—appreciated perks when the cool air rolls in. The surroundings are perhaps best enjoyed from your deck, with a French press coffee in hand.
Drake Motor Inn
Prince Edward County, Ontario
In summer 2019, the Toronto-based Drake Hotel Properties gave Prince Edward County something to talk about when it renovated a local motel to create the Drake Motor Inn. Located just steps from the brand’s existing hot-ticket Drake Devonshire, the more affordable 12-room property pays homage to the classic roadside motel, but with no shortage of modern, design-forward twists to complement retro splashes of colour and other nostalgic nods. Guests can expect things like a keyless check-in, curated vending machines, Polaroid cameras, art installations, and a fire pit.
Tofino, British Columbia
For those in the market for a swanky 70s-vibe (who doesn’t love nostalgia?) and completely unexpected amenities—all within one of the most stunning settings in Canada—you’ll want to have the just-opened Hotel Zed Tofino on your radar. Joining locations in Kelowna and Victoria, Hotel Zed’s Tofino outpost takes over the site of a modest inn, giving it a stuck-in-time aesthetic—minus the shabby carpets and weathered furniture. Thanks to a fun, over-the-top design and features like a psychics den, mini disco, retro office, secret 80s arcade, and bike path that goes right through the lobby, this hotel is just as social media-worthy as Tofino’s surrounding scenery.
The Lakeside Motel
Prince Edward County, Ontario
Located in Ontario’s ever-popular Prince Edward County, The Lakeside Motel checks all the boxes of an ideal escape in the winery-filled region: a 70’ gunite swimming pool, endless lake views, and the county’s largest waterfront deck and bar. A subsequently rare find accommodation-wise, the restored motel is more accurately described as a lakeside lodge, with fireplace-equip rooms, permanent glamping tents, and family-size bungalows. Things like canoe rentals and bonfires offer a cottage country vibe, while added touches like a scenic lakeside swing and editorial-worthy décor are a nice contemporary touch.
The Burrard Hotel
Vancouver, British Columbia
For its location in the middle of downtown Vancouver, The Burrard Hotel offers a unique, distinctively non-touristy vibe. A converted motor hotel from 1956, the character-rich accommodations retain a photo-worthy retro feel, but with modern touches. Recent renovations saw makeovers of the lobby, rooms, and amenities. For a breath of fresh air, the hotel features a patio and a breezy courtyard oasis that’s complete with a Ping-Pong table. Guests can fuel up, courtesy of their in-room Nespresso machines or the on-site coffee shop, before taking advantage of cruiser bikes and Steve Nash gym passes.
The Inn by Mallard Cottage
St. John’s, Newfoundland
For a Newfoundland stay full of east coast charm, history, and refined touches, you’ll find all three at The Inn by Mallard Cottage. Located in the quaint and historic—yet convenient, at just 10 minutes from downtown—Quidi Vidi Village, here you’ll find two cottages reminiscent of 18th century saltbox houses. Each features four thoughtfully decorated rooms with eclectic, conversation-inspiring décor from past and present. The Inn complements the Anthony Bourdain-approved pre-existing Mallard Cottage restaurant across the street, a cozy 18th-century Irish-Newfoundland vernacular-style space that becomes a quick favourite of visitors.