But the five-storey, 108-room Hilton Garden Inn Albany finally opened in November and appears to be running smoothly when I visit seaside Albany, five hours’ drive or an hour’s flight south of Perth, a few months later. Staff are friendly and capable, helping me out with a smile and chat when I struggle with the coffee machine in the Grab and Go mini-mart in the foyer and when I need an extra blanket for my room.
The hotel’s waterfront location overlooking the Albany Marina has a slight Nordic feel. When we arrived the light is fading and the islands of the harbour are coloured gunmetal grey, midnight blue and navy, the ashen clouds gathering above.
As we drive along Albany’s highway towards the town, the tiny sailing boats that float with eerie calm on the surface of Princess Royal Harbour remind me of the town’s place in history; this is where the fleet of Anzac ships left Australian shores in 1914.
My third-floor room is a King Panoramic Ocean View. Spacious, it has a light industrial feel with luxe furnishings; a leather bedhead, a bevvy of pillows, a thick bedspread, and nautical-style light shades that glow dimly, like a lantern in the night. A barn-style door slides across an airy open cupboard. I love the TV system that can be operated via a downloaded app on my phone, enabling me to lie in bed and change the channels. It’s similar to a remote, but without the remnant microbes of previous hotel guests, so more Covid-safe.
Attention has been paid to the senses when designing the bathrooms; marble countertops and roomy showers (rainshower head and handheld option) cleverly pair with timber tile flooring which feels satisfyingly earthy underfoot. A shelf next to the sink is refreshingly practical for a hotel bathroom. I was disappointed to see small, single-use plastic bottles still in use (admittedly they were Crabtree and Evelyn and quite divine) instead of bulk toiletries. Management assures me that this change is planned but supply issues during Covid border shutdowns affected this.
The highlight of the room is definitely the large, square picture window with uninterrupted views out to the Princess Royal Harbour and the port.
A word of advice: When someone waved at me (on day three of my visit!) I learned that if you sit, scantily clad, on the banquette lounge and contemplate the golden light of sunrise, anyone on the foreshore can see you, as clearly as you can see them.
An open kitchen at ground-floor restaurant Together & Co. serves share plates and modern Australian meals; think fresh salads, arancini balls, croquettes, grilled meats, seafood and other local delights. The rooms are without a mini bar but there’s a Grab and Go mini-mart downstairs for snacks and drinks (hot and cold).
On Sunday afternoons the bar has music and locals gather to celebrate the weekend. Regional beers and wines are on the drinks menu and cocktails are fun and fabulous. Order a cheese platter, pull up a stool or settle into one of the comfy bean bags for an afternoon of laughter and maybe even dancing!
Albany is well known as the terminus for the Bibbulmun Track long-distance walk and the Munda Biddi Trail for off-road cycling, and this hotel is a perfect place to wash off the days or weeks of trail dirt and relax in comfort after a big adventure.
With the first stage completed and a second stage with a rooftop bar soon to come, the first Hilton Garden Inn to open in Australasia is shaping up to be a fine addition to the accommodation scene in Albany.
For modern, sophisticated accommodation with excellent water views, this is the jewel of Albany. The Footbridge makes light work of the trip to town.
An ergonomic leather desk chair, pull-out sofa, USB wall chargers and a King bed with an ocean view. What else does one need in a home away from home?
The buffet breakfast is back. Fill up on favourites from the bain marie or go continental. Together & Co offers a selection of modern Australian food.
A comfortable, cosmopolitan hotel in a regional town that offers culture and panoramic ocean views with good food, and accessibility for disabled travellers. There are lots to love.
The writer was a guest of the Holiday Garden Inn Albany and Tourism WA. This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com