From afternoon tea in the oldest hotel in Australia, to a stay (and a ghost tour) at a 19th-century quarantine station, these storied properties offer insight into the country's history.
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
The Art Deco Hyatt Hotel served as the residence for Depression-era Labor Prime Minister, James Scullin
Thanks to its location on Commonwealth Avenue, just moments from Parliament House on Capital Hill, The Hyatt Hotel was the site of much political skulduggery over the years. This Art Deco establishment was built in the style of architect, Frank Lloyd-Wright, to house visiting politicians and diplomats. And it served as the official residence for the Depression-era Labor Prime Minister, James Scullin. Gone are the days of political plotting, affairs and deal brokering, but the hotel is still renowned for its high tea, held in the Tea Lounge to the tinkling tune of a grand piano.
The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne
The Constitution of Australia was drafted in the Hotel Windsor in 1898
The Windsor is the oldest hotel in Australia, its Renaissance Revival facade making it a major Melbourne landmark, still proudly standing opposite the Gold Rush-era Parliament House and Treasury. It was the place where the Constitution of Australia was drafted in 1898, and has hosted guests including Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Stepping into its burgundy carpeted-, antique-filled lobby, you’re met with a level of tradition and grace that brings to life the hotel’s grand, Victorian history. And if a stay here feels a little too extravagant, there’s always the renowned afternoon tea with classical music and opulent floral arrangements in the 1920s dining room.
Q Station, Sydney
The haunted Q Station used to be a quarantine from the 1830s through to 1984
In contrast to its idyllic setting in the beachside suburb of Manly, this old Sydney station has a dark history. From the 1830s through to 1984, its grounds were used to quarantine people migrating to Australia who were suspected of carrying contagious diseases (the rooms of the staff have since been transformed to 4-star hotel status). Now, touted as one of the county’s most haunted sites, the property runs ghost tours featuring vivid storytelling and visiting spots like the old hospital precinct and the Gravedigger’s cottage. Expect layers of titillating history and heritage, complemented by deluxe accommodation, Sydney’s only hotel private beach, and views from the timber wharf of the city’s glittering skyline across the Harbour.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart
Australia's first 'art hotel' used to be a 19th-century jam factory
Though the Henry Jones Art Hotel itself only opened in 2004, the building is a Hobart institution. You’ll find it in Hobart’s ‘Old Wharf’, facing the harbour and with views of Mount Wellington. Dating back to the early 19th-century, its historic sandstone facade is remarkably well-preserved, still bearing the original signage denoting its past life as a jam factory. But in its new reincarnation as Australia’s first ‘art hotel’, the interior has been transformed into an eccentrically-curated, industrially-inspired space, housing a hefty collection of Tasmanian art.
Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide
With 14 storeys and facade adorned with lions, gargoyles and vultures, the Mayfair Hotel was built during the Great Depression
In 1934, after only nine months of construction, a neo-Romanesque architectural masterpiece known as the Colonial Mutual Life Building opened in Adelaide’s busy King William Street. Built right in the middle of the Great Depression, its 14 storeys and facade adorned with lions, gargoyles and vultures made quite an impression on the city. Today, a sophisticated, luxury hotel exists inside, with the high-end Hennessy Bar (named after the building’s architects) on its rooftop; try the signature ‘Honey Trap’ cocktail, produced using raw honey from the hotel’s own bee collection.