Melbourne’s Space Hotel describes itself as “budget accommodation as it was never meant to be”, and there’s a lot true in that statement. The backpacker hotel, which also calls itself a “poshtel” rather than the typical “hostel”, offers the perfect range of accommodation options for travelers – from family-sized private rooms with ensuites, to shared dorm facilities.
First, let’s talk location. The Space Hotel – which until four years ago was known as the Victoria Hall* – sits opposite the Old Melbourne Gaol, on the edge of the city’s free tram zone. It’s a moments walk from said trams, though you’ll find it just as easy to walk many places you might need to go – be it south down Russell Street to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square, or North to Lygon Street, Carlton and Fitzroy. Here, you’ll find tourist hotspots like the Melbourne Museum, and great pubs like the Curtin Hotel. And if you need a train, it’s about 6 or 7 minutes from the Melbourne Central Station. So it really is a perfect spot.
Though the hotel isn’t much a looker from the outside, from the minute you walk inside you’ll get the feel for the entire building – it’s colourful, friendly and clean. I was immediately reminded of the Generator Hostel chain in the UK, as well as the USA Hostels chain in the US – which I would recommend among the best in the world. And like both these chains, the hotel does pride itself on having rooms that are clean and safe, with as much privacy as contextually possible, while endeavoring to provide great experiences for the guests. It means you’ll pay a few dollars more than some competitors, but it’s more than worth it. And as someone who stayed in a private room with ensuite, here you are provided most of the luxuries of a modern hotel, while enjoying access to the social atmosphere of the backpacker lifestyle.
When it comes to being clean, you’ll notice that the dorm rooms are fully cleaned and vacuumed daily (so make sure to have some earplugs if you intend to sleep through much of the day) – and in private rooms you can choose whether you want to have the same treatment or not. Meanwhile, the showers (be they ensuites or shared facilities) have glass walls to make them easier to clean. The rooms have also been specifically designed to prevent bed bugs – the dorms with vinyl floor and the private rooms with carpet tiles to help prevent an environment where they can survive (also making the floors easy to clean in the process), while all the beds in the hotel are comfortable Sealy posturepedics with bed bug protection. The beds are also about 200cm in length – or 6 and a half feet – to help accommodate their taller guests – which is half a foot longer than the usual bed offered in a hostel or even a hotel.
Though some things are missing from the rooms that you might find in a traditional hotel – such a a phone to dial downstairs – pretty much everything else you need is either in your room or found in one of the shared spaces. You’ll find tea and coffee on every level, which can only be accessed by keycard, as well as private, individual bathrooms for your level. So even if you don’t have an ensuite you don’t have to share the room with anyone.
If you need wi-fi, it’s readily available. Depending on your room type, you may have it included in your cost, but for most you’ll need to pay extra for it – it’s a perfectly reasonably $20 a week, or $5 a day, for hi-speed internet which was of fantastic quality no matter where we tried using it in the hotel. On the fifth floor, there’s a communal kitchen with commercial grade appliances, including 8 sinks and microwaves, massive TVs and lockers. And elsewhere you’ll find massive Dexter washers and dryers to do your washing as you need it.
The first four floors have communal spaces in the middle of the floor, with a lounge space on the fourth and a gym and a movie theatre elsewhere. To help with language barriers, each floor is also covered with a different colour. And the roof of the building will not only give you a great place to relax and socialise, but provides an incredible view of Melbourne, as well as a hot tub to enjoy with best friends, or new ones. A bar on the ground level serves up food and drinks daily, should you not want to cook for yourself – or need a beer to start the night off right. All rooms are non-smoking and the front desk is open 24 hours.
During my stay, I enjoyed a Private Queen Ensuite, which was of impressive size and comfort. The showers were great, clean, and the Sealy beds were as comfortable as any other. There were plenty of sheets and blankets available, and a new flat screen TV on the wall – in fact you’ll find one in all of the private rooms, alongside an alarm clock with an iPod dock. The room had its own air condition, but you aren’t able to change the settings – if you need anything fixed with it (as I did), you’ll need to go down to the front desk. But they respond to the issue promptly.
One great thing about some of the private rooms, too, is that they can truly accommodate a full family. No roll-aways – everyone gets a bed, thanks to a queen bed and a bunk taking up the room. Some of the rooms even have a balcony. And if you do stay in a dorm room, the beds have been engineered in a way to provide optimum privacy.
My only real complaint (and it’s hardly one) is that the 10am check-out that hostels are famous for enforcing is no different here. But ask nice enough at the front desk and I’m sure they’ll see what they can do about a slightly later check out – especially if you’re in a private room. The staff really do their best to accommodate. Check-in, meanwhile, is available from 2pm.
If you’re looking for a way to stay affordably in Melbourne, while not being robbed of your security or creature comforts, this is definitely the place for you. The social aspects are a great bonus, and there are few things better than watching the sun set on that rooftop. Though they position themselves as budget accommodation “as it was never meant to be”, the Space Hotel is everything budget travel should be and more.
Getting here from the airport is easy – just jump on a Skybus from Melbourne’s main Tullamarine airport ($19 each way), and then onto one of their free connection shuttle services. If the connections aren’t running, train it to Melbourne Central and walk 6-7 minutes. The other alternative is to UberX it from the Airport (you can do that now!). Definitely avoid a taxi though – you’re further from the city than you realise and it will make it a much pricer start to the trip than you’ll expect. UberX is still expensive due to the distance, but is the far cheaper alternative of the two.
Rates are as low as $30 a night and the hotel is located at 380 Russell Street. For more details head to: spacehotel.com.au
Photos from booking.com. The author stayed as a guest of the hotel.