Accommodations properties in Australia carry star ratings given by AAA Tourism, which has been awarding ratings since the 1950s. This independent assessment is based on facilities, amenities, maintenance, and cleanliness. Ratings run from one to five stars. Stars are featured in AAA Tourism guides, and recent research shows 70% of travelers use the star ratings when choosing their accommodations (these star ratings are noted using asterisks). The rating scheme covers over 18,000 accommodations throughout every state and territory.
It's a rare hotel room that does not have air-conditioning for heating and cooling, a telephone, a color TV, a clock radio, a minifridge (if not a minibar), an iron and ironing board, and self-serve coffee and tea. Private bathrooms are standard, although they often have only a shower, not a tub.
The largest hotel group in Australia is the French chain Accor, which has more than 100 properties (that's about 15,000 rooms) under its Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, All Seasons, Ibis, and Formule 1 brands. Many other international chains, such as Marriott, Sheraton, and Hilton, have properties in Australia.
Serviced apartments are favored by many Aussie families and business travelers. You get a fully furnished apartment with one, two, or three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen or kitchenette, a laundry, and often two bathrooms -- in other words, all the facilities of a hotel suite and more, often for less than the cost of a four-star hotel room. (Not every apartment kitchen has a dishwasher, so check if that's important to you.) A nice two-bedroom apartment's cost can vary a night, depending on your location and the season. Australia's apartment inventory is enormous and ranges from clean and comfortable, if a little dated, to luxurious. Most apartments can be rented for 1 night, especially in cities, but in popular vacation spots, some proprietors will insist on a minimum 3-night stay, or even a week in high season.
Medina Serviced Apartments (tel. 1300/633 462 in Australia, or 02/9356 5061; www.medina.com.au) has a chain of 23 midrange to upscale properties in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, and Darwin. Australia's biggest apartment chain, with more than 110 properties, is Quest Serviced Apartments (tel. 1800/334 033 in Australia or 03/9645 8357; www.questapartments.com.au). It has apartments in every state and territory.
Motels & Motor Inns
Australia's plentiful motels are neat and clean, if often a little dated. You can count on them to provide air-conditioning, a telephone, a color TV, a clock radio, a minifridge or minibar, and self-serve tea and coffee. Most have only showers, not bathtubs. Some have restaurants attached, and many have swimming pools. Motor inns offer a greater range of facilities and a generally higher standard of rooms than motels.
Bed & Breakfasts
B&Bs are cheap and plentiful in Australia. It is easy to find charming rooms at a good price for a double. Bathroom facilities are often shared, although more properties now offer private, if not always en-suite (attached), bathrooms.
B&Bs can be hard to find because most travel agents don't list them (the establishments are not big enough to pay a commission). A good source is the Australian Bed & Breakfast Book (tel. 02/8208 5959; www.bbbook.com.au), which lists more than 1000 B&Bs across Australia. The individual entries are supplied by the B&B operators themselves. An older edition of the book is posted on the website for free download. In Australia you can buy the latest edition in bookshops and at newsdealers, or you can order it online for overseas airmail postage.
What Next? Productions (tel. 03/8520 6444; www.beautifulaccommodation.com) publishes a series of Beautiful Accommodation color guides, listing around 500 exquisite properties in every state and territory, many in charming country areas. Each has been checked out by the editorial team before being included in the book. The properties listed are more upscale than most. Each book can be ordered online once you are in Australia.
Another good website is that of Bed & Breakfast and Farmstay Australia (www.australianbedandbreakfast.com.au), which has links to all state B&B organizations.
Most Aussie pubs are made for drinking, not spending the night, but many offer rooms upstairs, usually with shared bathroom facilities. Because most pubs are decades old, the rooms may be either old-fashioned or just plain old. Australians are rowdy drinkers, so sleeping above the bar can be noisy, but the saving grace is often incredibly low rates per person a night. However, a new wave of gentrified pub accommodation is seeing some lovely old hotels sprucing up their accommodation, particularly in historic pubs. For these, though, you will be paying higher rates.
The Aussie answer to the dude ranch is a farmstay. Australian farmstays are rarely as well set up for tourists as the dude ranch Billy Crystal's character visited in City Slickers. Most are farms first, tourist operations second, so you may have to find your own fun and know how to take care of yourself, at least to a degree.
Accommodations on farms can be anything from a basic bunkhouse (ask if it's air-conditioned, because most farms are in very hot areas) to rustically luxurious digs. Do some research on your farm -- a lot of activities are seasonal, some farmers will not allow you to get involved in dangerous work, not all will offer horseback riding, and "farm" means different things in different parts of Australia. If you like green fields and dairy cows, Victoria may be the place for you. If checking fences on a dusty 500,000-hectare (1.2-million-acre) Outback station (ranch) sounds wildly romantic, head to Western Australia, Queensland, or the Northern Territory.
The website of Bed & Breakfast and Farmstay Australia (www.australianbedandbreakfast.com.au) has links to all state farmstay organizations. Rates vary and sometimes includes breakfast. Meals are often available as an optional extra.
House-swapping is becoming a more popular and viable means of travel; you stay in their place, they stay in yours, and you both get an authentic and personal view of the area, the opposite of the escapist retreat that many hotels offer. Try HomeLink International (www.homelink.org), the largest and oldest home-swapping organization, founded in 1952, with more than 11,000 listings worldwide. There is a branch of HomeLink in Australia. Swap at your own risk.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.