Great Southern Road Trips: Retro Motels

Cool your heels—and wheels—at these retro motels reimagined for twenty-first-century wayfarers

Illustration: Mark Matcho

  • Belmont Hotel

    Belmont Hotel
    Dallas, Texas

    The art moderne architecture of this 1946 stucco gem deserved every bit of the loving restoration it received in 2005. Locals and savvy travelers alike now mob chef Tim Byres’s on-site restaurant, Smoke, for traditional Texas barbecue and its Carolina cousin. After dinner, fetch a cocktail from the lobby lounge and head outside for a sweeping view of the Dallas skyline.

  • Casa Morada

    Casa Morada
    Islamorada, Florida

    Take one classic Keys beach motel. Transform it into a secluded sixteen-suite boutique hideout with luxurious interiors, lush tropical landscaping, private outdoor showers, and a fresh-water pool. Give the boot to kids under sixteen. And what do you get? A laid-back retreat that feels much more like a mini resort than a roadside stop-off.

  • Postcard Inn

    Postcard Inn
    St. Pete Beach, Florida

    From its bright surfboard-adorned rooms to its weathered wood beach-shack bar, this Gulf Coast waterfront haven is so immersed in retro surfer chic you half expect Frankie and Annette to start doing the Frug on the pristine white sand. Though it does concede to modern times with Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.

  • 3V Tourist Courts

    3V Tourist Courts
    Saint Francisville, Louisiana

    A stay at this 1930s motor court feels like stepping into a sepia-toned postcard, complete with impressively renovated cottages for you and attached carports for your road-weary chariot. You can catch a local band and grab a po’boy along with a beer at the acclaimed Magnolia Cafe, located right next door.

  • Thunderbird

    Marfa, Texas

    This 1959 motor-court relic has been completely reinvented, with sleek rooms sparsely decorated with pecan wood furniture and local paintings and photography that reflect the outsider-art reputation of this remote desert town. Come for the quirky galleries, stay for the motel’s rental bikes, courtyard pool, and impressive library of vinyl records.

  • Thunderbird Inn

    Thunderbird Inn
    Savannah, Georgia

    While Savannah’s historic district still looks like the 1760s in many places, this revamped motor court on the neighborhood’s fringe appears to have dropped straight out of the swingin’ 1960s. Check out the humongous neon sign and matching paint palette while you enjoy your complimentary RC Cola and Moon Pie.