Why you should stay in a Motel in Ontario

October 31, 2022Niry Fidelis
Road tripping in Ontario

Have you ever tried a motel in Ontario? Cool, you should give them a try if you are on a road trip in Ontario as they have special characteristics that distinguish them from other type of accommodations.

It was in September that Alessandro and I went on this quick Ontario road trip. We travelled five days and four nights from Toronto to Ganonaque on highway 60 and went back to Toronto through Trenton. This is why we did a lot of sleeping in motels.

Since there aren’t any motels here in Italy or generally in Europe, I can say that it was my first time to stay in a motel. Well, I often saw them in American movies, and they always made me curious because I perceived somehow that they aren’t like the usual places where we commonly go and sleep.

What is a motel?

motel in Ontario

Quickly said a motel is a place to stay overnight, with plenty of parking and easy access to a highway. Motels were originally “motor hotels, which means a place to stay for motorists that provided direct access from the parking area to the rooms.

In fact, while hotels are often in the middle of cities, motels are usually on a city’s outskirts, providing space to park and a quick walk from car to room. They might even be located along a highway where there is no city or town to speak of.

The first official motel (named Motel Inn) was built in 1925 in San Luis Obispo, California. It was designed to be an easy, cheap stop on a long car trip.

In the years that followed, in order to fulfil the needs of automobile travellers who needed a place to stay overnight so that they could continue their long trip the day after, several motel options were built. The popularity of motels increased through the twentieth century, along with the development of the modern highway system.

Motel architecture.

Motels in Ontario all have a similar ground plan. Generally, they are an “L” shaped road-facing single building with rows of rooms whose doors are toward a parking lot. This makes them easy to identify while driving t along the main roads.

One more characteristic I noticed about the motels is that all the ones we slept at had wide windows. We always kept the shades drawn in order to keep people from seeing us or our belongings.

The managing office/reception was in the building (often short leg of the letter L) attached to guests’ rooms and the reception seemed to have a single duty: handing out the key to the customer. They are not inclined to do more.

This confirms once again that they all convey the same message: arrive, leave your car, go in, sleep, and leave. After all, this is the message we perceive from the movies.

Booking a motel.

motel in Ontario

Although the modern procedure to reserve a motel is similar to a hotel, they once had a very curious way of doing so, which by the way, is still used.

The motels depending on availability, put a board-sign facing the main road which says “vacancy” or “no vacancy” so you know if rooms are still available while driving through without stopping. So, motels are a kind of place where at the last moment, while driving from one place to another, you can decide to stop and ring the reception at any time of the day if there is a vacancy board sign.

We had pre-booked all our nights through Booking.com.

Motels are not only a place to sleep.

If once the motels were similar to each other, not only in shape but also in accommodation facilities, nowadays something has changed in order to meet the competition of tourism. I mean that what was mostly meant to just give accommodations is also now providing some services which you might find at a nicer hotel.

In fact, each one we stayed at on our Ontario road trip had its own particularity: one had a kitchenette with a few things to prepare breakfast, another one offered a free buffet breakfast, another one had a barbecue and children’s play area, another one was rented without any passion for hospitality and so on. The following is the list and details of the places where we slept during our road trip in Ontario.

Motels we stayed at on our Ontario road trip.

motels in Ontario

Since it is not uncommon for tourists travelling across Ontario to plan stops at multiple motels along the way, I decided to review here the places we stayed at on our Ontario road trip so that it might be helpful somehow.

  1. Dwight Village Motel. 😊😊😊 Here is where we slept on the first night of our Ontario road trip. It is located along highway 60, some km away from the east gate of Algonquin Park. It is convenient for those who start the visit at the west gate and finish at the east gate. We arrived at 8.45 pm and the lady at the reception didn’t seem to want to be bothered with our questions about the restaurants and breakfast. She gave us a paper with a list of places to eat in the area and then quickly went upstairs she probably had her own accommodation. This motel was clean and well equipped. It had a wide selection of opportunities for children, too. I also loved the fact that there was a fire pit and barbeques for guests to use, although we didn’t get a chance to try it. Our room was spacious and clean. There were tea bags and a water boiler in our room. Dwight Village Motel had two family restaurants nearby. Both of them close very early. So if you still need to have dinner try to be there before 8 pm. The paper she gave us suggested Moose Cafè for breakfast was located right next door and what is special about this place is the fact that it is frequented by Canadians. So you can see authentic Canada here.
  2. Barry’s Bay Golf Club Resort Motel. 😊😊😊😊😊 We slept here on the second night of our Ontario road trip. It isn’t located along the main road but on the side streets and I understood only later why. Barry’s Bay Golf Club Resort is inside a golf course, and so it was born to satisfy the needs of the golf players. Surrounded by beautiful lakefront scenery and an amazing natural environment, Barry’s Bay Golf Club Resort remains my favourite place to stay in Ontario. I would not miss it especially if visiting Algonquin Park. It is really worth it to drive out of the park and sleep here. This place is truly a little hidden gem. The room at Barry’s Bay Golf Club Resort was spacious, very clean, and homey. Since there is no light pollution here during the night the sky is full of stars and believe it or not, we could even see the Milky Way. The man who was running the motel was just like the lady at Dwight Village Motel. He said what is necessary and nothing more. And just like the first one, Barry’s Bay motel offered tea bags and boiler. While sleeping at Barry’s Bay Golf Club Resort, remember that there are no nearby restaurants. Only Tim Hortens and McDonald’s are there in town, which are open all night.
  3. Imperial Inn 1000 Island Motel. 😊😊 Here is where we slept on the third night of our Ontario road trip. Imperial Inn 1000 Island Motel is owned by a Chinese family and offers basic but clean accommodations close to all major attractions in Ganonaque. The building is quite old and needs a renovation. The fact that it is very old can at first sight make it look dirty, but that’s not the case. Our room was clean, but anyway I’d not suggest that you stay at this place for more than one night. Since it is nestled in the heart of the 1000 Islands, it comes in handy for all those planning a visit to the area. The other two plus points about Imperial Inn 1000 Island Motel are that they have a Chinese restaurant attached to the motel and they offer breakfast, plus our room had tea bags and a water boiler like Dwight Village Motel and Barry’s Bay Golf Club Resort Motel.
  4. Bayside Motel. 😊 Here is where we slept on the fourth night of our Ontario road trip. Bayside Motel in Trenton is run by an Indian family. The girl at the reception desk was kind and gave us prompt answers to all of our questions. Since it was almost 9 pm (which means already too late by Canadian standards), right after getting the key we immediately left for the restaurant. We got into our room only later, after the dinner. Help!!! It was dirty, old, smelly and all! You have to be without an alternative to sleep in this motel. During our road trip in Ontario, we made reservations for rooms quickly without checking the reviews too much and here is the result! I don’t even think that in Italy there are hotels in these conditions.Our room had a kitchenette area with tea bags, water boiler, bread toaster, and microwave, but unfortunately, everything was dirty. There were crumbs of unimaginable things everywhere on the floor and even the microwave was dirty, so we preferred not to use them. The window in the kitchenette didn’t have a curtain so the sunlight came in early in the morning. And, also because of the bad smell in our room we couldn’t get to sleep that night.

10 Things to know about the motels.

Ontario road trip

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  1. Essentially, motels are places to sleep specifically designed to cater to the needs of motorists.
  2. Motels are often situated near major roads or along popular routes.
  3. Motels commonly have rooms accessible directly from the car park, as opposed to the conventional hotel layout, where rooms are accessed after going through a central lobby.
  4. Motels are optimised for short stays, in fact guests often stay only for one night before continuing their journey the day after.
  5. Due to the minimal facilities they offer, motels tend to have lower room rates than hotels.
  6. Since the front desk staff has zero contact with the customer, sometimes they don’t speak English.
  7. Commonly the rooms have wide windows and they are usually accessible from an outdoor parking area, so motels have very little privacy, although the windows do have curtains.
  8. Motels are smaller than hotels because they are meant to offer nothing more than a bed to sleep in and a shower to wash yourself.
  9. Motels often have a small reception for checking in, and that is probably the only time that you are going to see the staff.
  10. Last but not least, they all have tea bags and water boiler… (By the way I never saw a coffee bag)

My final thoughts about motels.

With all that been said, I’d also like to say that if you are not an American or Canadian you are probably not used to the motel concept because you are used to contemporary hotels. We don’t have motels in Europe and there are no motels in Asia or Africa, right?

This is exactly what is slowly changing the original meaning of a motel. The moteliers, in order to fulfil the tourists’ demands, are trying to give a certain level of service which is not a feature belonging to a motel.

So, I believe that we must stop with these expectations and let the motels be what they are. Motels are motels and hotels are hotels. Try just enjoying your stay in a motel without much comparison with what you are used to, and you will see that your Ontario road trip will turn out even more fun!

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Comments (1)

  • Elizabeth O

    November 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Ontario is such a beautiful place to visit. The peaceful and pleasant ambiance of this place is so fulfilling. I will definitely put this on my bucket list to my next travel visit. and those motel looks so interesting, perfect place to stay.

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