Retro road trip revs up memories

Take a trip back in time to when families embarked on long road trips to stay at lodgings where pools, packs of biscuits and breakfast hatches were absolute luxury.

The California Hotel in suburban Melbourne aimed to capture the poolside glamour of ‘The Golden State’ was built in 1960.

It’s time to take a trip back in time to when families embarked on long road trips in the summer heat to see oversized attractions and stay at lodgings where pools, packs of biscuits and breakfast hatches were absolute luxury.

The trip down memory lane is part of a touring exhibition which arrives on the Sunshine Coast this month in the form of a nostalgic photographic and promotional film exhibition called Reception this way.

Featuring flashback images of the Cherry Blossom Motel in Darwin, California Hotel in Hawthorn and epic El Dorado Motel at Broadbeach to name a few, the exhibition is a must-see at Caloundra Regional Gallery from January 27 to March 17.

The exhibition takes you back to the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s when the roadside motel was an integral part of the Australian holiday experience.

Motels were stylish and sophisticated, and revolutionised the road trip for families and business travellers.

With convenient car parking, mid-century architectural styles and a generous offering of designer mod cons, who could resist booking a motel for their summer getaway? And, of course, there were swimming pools, chance celebrity encounters, sun and surf, tiny packets of breakfast cereal, twin packs of biscuits and a radio in every room!

Victoria’s first motel, the Oakleigh Motel opened in 1957.

Developed by National Archives of Australia in collaboration with comedian Tim Ross, the exhibition’s photographs and promotional film footage featured in Reception this way will revive memories of holiday experiences and give younger folks a fascinating peek into the past.

Director-General of National Archives Simon Froude said Reception this way reminded us of Australian invention and entrepreneurship, and our place in the international tourism market.

“We are very pleased to have Tim Ross taking this nostalgic journey with us,” Mr Froude said.

“His passion for Australian mid-century architecture and exploration of the national archival collection was the inspiration behind the development of Reception this way.’’

Mr Ross said the records at National Archives were richer and more diverse than many people would give them credit for.

“It’s a real treasure trove that deserves to be better known,” he said.

“I’m really pleased that my earlier research and partnership with National Archives planted this seed that has blossomed into a really great exhibition. To be part of that journey has been fun.

“The result is this pictorial love letter to a somewhat bygone era, capturing the glamour and convenience of the roadside motels, from the east coast to the west, during a time when Aussie families found the time to hit road and take a break.”

Division 2 Councillor Terry Landsberg said Council was proud to support this nostalgic exhibition at the Caloundra Regional Gallery in partnership with National Archives of Australia.

Reception this way is a story that is very close to home thanks to the ‘50s tourism boom which pinpointed the Sunshine Coast as an ideal driving destination with an array of motels on offer,” Cr Landsberg said.

Reception this way: motels – a sentimental journey with Tim Ross is coming to Caloundra Regional Gallery from January 27 to March 17, 2024. The exhibition is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program.

Caloundra Regional Gallery is owned and operated by Sunshine Coast Council.

The gallery is located at 22 Omrah Avenue. It is open Tuesday to Friday 10am – 4pm and weekends 10am – 2pm and entry is free.

There is level access from the car park to the gallery and all abilities toilet facilities are available.

For more info about events and activities at Caloundra Regional Gallery, visit, follow @caloundraregionalgallery or subscribe to the monthly eNewsletter.



Sunshine Coast Council acknowledges the Sunshine Coast Country, home of the Kabi Kabi peoples and the Jinibara peoples, the Traditional Custodians, whose lands and waters we all now share. We wish to pay respect to their Elders – past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the important role First Nations people continue to play within the Sunshine Coast community.

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