Last year my husband and I visited the newly opened Halcyon House at Cabarita Beach for our 10 year anniversary in November. It’s only taken me this long to get around to writing the post and sharing the images, and no doubt you’ve seen plenty of photos on social and print media since, but here’s a few pretty snaps to share. I never get tired of looking at the stunning interiors.
The interior design of course, as we all know, was done with great flair by omnipotent Brisbane based Anna Spiro of Black and Spiro. Her clever use of pattern, colour, textures, new and old with a dash overall fabulousness has created a slick and chic ultra groovy beachside motel which reflects her unique and individual style, but is perfectly suited to appeal to a broad clientele.
The motel was originally a beachside motel in a sleepy coastal town on the NSW far north coast, and was frequented on regular childhood summer holidays by the owners, the Bickle sisters, who hail from a clan of successful Brisbane entrepreneurs from the tourism and hospitality arena. They engaged the services of Sydney architect Virginia Kerridge along with Spiro, to reimagine the structure and create a stylish and contemporary motel that didn’t seem at odds with the laid back Australian coastal town.
The rooms on offer include 19 guest rooms and two suites, each featuring individual decor with sumptuously upholstered walls, clever blends of fabrics and soft furnishings, antique furniture and lighting sourced from Australia, America and beyond. The room on top floor, far left, behind the palm tree, was our suite.
The pool is central to the motel, lodged seaside between the restaurant and three storeys of rooms. The only disadvantage I found to this is that lying by the pool and swimming is a bit like doing so in a fishbowl with always scores of people overseeing your R&R. And you have to walk through the restaurant and bar to get to your room. Halcyon is the perfect place for those who like to parade and be seen, as there was a never-ending stream of hipsters lounging about the place or perched on a stool taking in a cool signature cocktail.
The location right opposite the beach is fabulous, although you can’t see the beach from the motel, it’s only a short stroll across the lawn.We chose a beautiful suite which was located on the southern side of the building on the top floor, overlooking the beach. It was just beautifully decorated and a joy to stay in. You get the sense of a very cool Palm Springs style hotel, not only from the decor but the clientele as well. Only problem is you step outside the compound and are in a pretty ordinary Australian coastal town which doesn’t have a lot to offer in comparison to the glamour and standard set by the motel.
I love the fact that “feature wall” is not in Anna Spiro’s vocab. And I agree entirely, if you’re going to do it, just do it! I loved the brass light fittings, dark timber antiques, quirky framed textiles on the walls, vintage mirrors and varied mix of artwork all blended to create a curated and layered effect, very unusual and welcome in an Australian motel.
I adored this beautiful brass light fixture on the upholstered wall, and the eclcetic mix of old and new furnishings which give the room soul and make it feel more like a home than the usual homogenised hotel rooms you find so often here. The linens, bedding and pillows were all luxurious and of the best quality. The housekeeping was fabulous. The only addition I would have made to our room was a rug under the living area to soften the room and dampen the echo, and a vase of beautiful fresh flowers, or a large indoor plant to give the room a touch of organic tropical life and add to the luxuriousness of the room and reflect the hefty price tag!
The much photographed and publicised bathrooms blend well with the bedroom design and are very “of the moment”, although I found them a little cold and utilitarian. I’m not a big fan of fully tiled walls in bathrooms as I think they can tend to feel cold and institutional sometimes, and I don’t know how long lasting the brass fittings will be, but the overall effect is good. I did make mention on my Trip Advisor review of the stinginess of the toiletries which I understand has been rectified. Nothing annoys me more than stingy amenities in a pricey hotel room. Again a nice vase of flowers would have been a nice touch, but hey I’m being picky.
The restaurant was another triumph by Anna Spiro, it has a feeling of being in one’s own very cool beach house, relaxed, casual, welcoming and convivial. The staff were not only stylishly kitted out in matching blue and white uniform, but very hard working and friendly, although staff shortages on our stay meant some staff seemed to be there 24 hrs a day.
Spiro’s talent at creating commercial spaces that feel like home is enviable, and when the place is full of guests and the atmosphere is pumping, as it was when we arrived, you can imagine you are at the beach house party in the Hamptons of a very cool friend with great taste.
One problem we had was that during our stay the weather was a bit ordinary, and while we had a small lounge area in our room to use for reading and relaxing, if you had a smaller room with no seating you would have relied on the communal areas to pass the time waiting for the weather to clear. The only lounging area is this small spot in the dining room, so again for the money, I think a larger more private and spacious lounge/living area exclusively for guests would be ideal.
The bar was a particular favourite with that fabulous marble bench top and white paneling, which those giant clam shells bursting with juicy pineapples and an abundance of tropical fruit, smart cafe barstools and oh so slick look. You again felt like you could be at a super stylish friend’s house having a cocktail and chilling to the sounds of the 80s soundtrack that played. Suits me!
Whilst we enjoyed the Ben Devlin created menu at the in-house restaurant Paper Daisy on the first few occasions, by the third day we were a bit tired of the menu, with the repetitive signature dishes and lack of specials, and ended up eating out for the rest of our trip. It was also very slow service, but again I understand this has since been ironed out since our stay. The restaurant has been hugely popular with locals and Gold Coasters, although we were told proudly by one waiter that people fly up from Sydney for lunch and go home again! As I said, it’s as much about being seen here as anything else.
Having said that, I eat mostly organic when I can and have a largely Paleo diet, so was happy to see a menu that reflected this current trend of eating and was full of buzzwords and catchphrases that appealed to me.
One hiccup we had during our stay was a rather chaotic fire alarm which went off in the middle of the night. We all piled out into the carpark, everyone rather confused and disoriented, and not a staff member in sight to guide or reassure. Eventually ten minutes after we assembled ourselves, the night manager showed up rather frazzled and with little apology or explanation we all returned to our rooms.
We enjoyed our stay, but we felt the hotel was very pricey for what is basically a fancy beach motel in a very ordinary coastal town, and our 3 night stay was over $4k. When you’re paying that much one has very high expectations of everything and I was very picky I admit. It was only a few months since opening when we stayed, and I’m sure the comments and criticisms I had at the time have since been ironed out and rectified. Teething problems exist no matter the number of stars and given the enthusiasm and dedication of the staff I have no doubt things would have improved. I couldn’t fault the design though, which I thought was really super.
Australia is seriously lacking in stylish, glamorous, uber cool, designer hotels, unlike the rest of the world where they seem abundant. So I absolutely welcome and embrace Halcyon House and all it is trying to achieve and offer. No doubt given the publicity and popularity to date, it will thrive and go from strength to strength and hopefully enable the clever Bickle sisters to open up many more fabulous motels like this around the country.