While a Novotel branded hotel might not have inspire much excitement among the well-heeled or frequent-fliers, this Geelong outpost of the household-name brand, part of the French Accor conglomerate, has had a rethink and a facelift. In prime waterfront location, it took $3.5 million dollars and two and a half years of planning to completely gut the four-star hotel's 18-year-old rooms, resulting in 109 spacious caverns with modern flair at a reasonable price.
I don't think you could wish for a better location in Geelong. Located smack bang in the middle of the waterfront, a stroll across the road will get you to its footpaths, swimming pools and cafes. Behind you, the main shopping and dining precinct including a Westfield, and Little Malop Street's bars and restaurants.
Throughout the hotel's common areas walls are adorned with modern paintings reflecting Geelong's love of street art - there's even a building-sized specimen across the car park, which guests get a birds-eye view of from the upper-level windows. There's also an indoor pool, an exercise room and a large restaurant with alfresco dining that overlooks the seafront.
I'm in a Deluxe King Room with Bayview, and what a view that is. It's situated on the 7th floor, in the centre of three staggered rooms - basically the best room in the house - with an enviable 180 degree view of Geelong's picturesque waterfront. The room even has an accessible balcony with seating from which to enjoy it. The room is L-shaped, with hues of green, blue and yellow reflecting the seaside landscape outside, and comes with a smart TV, chaise lounge and feature wall. There's plenty of storage and bench space, a comfortable, king sized bed and a large bathroom with double-shower. For room service, scan the handy QR code which brings up menus from which to order food and drinks from.
Welcome back, hotel breakfast smorgasbord. A continental breakfast spread in the good old fashioned serve-yourself style is back. The Novotel's spread is standard but sufficient for most guests, represented by the usual suspects starring mini pastries, unripe melon, yoghurt, cereals and sliced fresh bread (that needs to be sent through the olf hotel toaster twice for browning). Hot food is served at a separate station - snags, eggs, hash browns, bacon and beans. The hotel offers a 'breakfast package' with rooms so you can order something off their a la carte menu - avo smash, omelette or pancakes which you can choose to have in-room if you're feeling antisocial. Coffee service needs work. You can also dine from the restaurant for lunch and dinner.
Aside from Geelong's waterfront and its associated activities, the Novotel has prime access to one of the best new French restaurants in the state. Just across from the lobby, La Cachette (or 'The Hideaway') offers a set menu of seasonal, modern French cuisine. A little further afield is Little Malop Street - around five minutes' walk, which offer two more excellent dining options. Felix on Downes Lane, also modern French dining, and buzzing The Arborist, which has a Mediterranean menu with Middle Eastern flair. There are some excellent purveyors of local beverages, too - Geelong Cellar Door and Union Street Wine and for hops, try local brewer Valhalla Taproom (Union St).
Forget your preconceived notions of a tired old hotel brand - the Novotel's latest spruce-up is sure to impress, as will its hard-to-beat pricetag for waterfront views.
Rooms start from $269 per night. Ph 03 5223 1377, see novotelgeelong.com.au.
The spacious rooms offering killer views from the seventh floor.
Having to give up my car keys for valet parking was a bit embarrassing when my car was in need of a good clean.
The writer stayed as a guest of Tourism Greater Geelong & The Bellarine