Gourmet Traveller names Australia's best hotels for 2016

Australia's hottest hotels this year share a common attribute. It's not late check-out, or a deluxe pillow menu. It's not a free fruit platter or fluffy bathrobes. And it's certainly not free WiFi.

No, the top hotels, as judged this week by Gourmet Traveller magazine, pack cutting-edge features into historic buildings to create a more memorable customer experience.

Treasured history

The third annual Gourmet Traveller Australian Hotel Guide Awards were announced on Wednesday night, with the grand prize of Best Hotel of the Year going to Perth's COMO The Treasury. COMO also picked up the New Hotel of the Year Award after undergoing a $110 million heritage restoration of three Colonial-era buildings by Perth architect Kerry Hill.

The awards also saw Sydney's Palisade Hotel pick up the gong for Best Bar, while the all-important Best Breakfast went to the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne.

Editor Anthea Loucas Bosha says the hotel industry in Australia is booming at the moment.

There's a real charm and personality in these sorts of properties.

"It's so dynamic; eleven of the 50 hotels we feature in our latest issue are actually new properties," she says. "According to the Accommodation Association of Australia there's $8.5 billion due to be invested in hotels over the next five years, which is pretty exciting."

Great restoration

One of the key trends Loucas Bosha has seen over the past few years is the restoration of old properties to create luxury boutique hotels. For example, this year's winner, COMO The Treasury was created within the 140-year-old State Buildings of Perth's Cathedral Square.

Boutique Hotel of the Year, The Old Clare in Sydney's Chippendale, saw the revamp and expansion of a 19th century pub, while the fabulously retro Halcyon House in Cabarita NSW (winner of the Regional Hotel of the Year and Best Service awards) started out life as a classic 1960s beach motel.

"Even the hotel where we held this year's awards; the gorgeous Primus Hotel in Sydney's CBD, is an art-deco restoration of the old Sydney Water Board headquarters; there's a real charm and personality in these sorts of properties," Loucas Bosha says.

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Trending rooms

As for the must-have creature comforts that Gourmet Traveller has noticed this year, Loucas Bosha says the emergence of the 'toilet-shelf' has caught her by surprise. "We're seeing shelves appear behind toilets as a place to rest your mobile phone," she says.

Another development is the advent of what she calls the 'sheet sandwich'. "The doona cover is disappearing, and instead we are seeing the doona sandwiched between two sheets; it's rather strange."

Also disappearing is the hefty in-room hotel compendium as digital takes over. Which leads us to the area where Loucas Bosha says hotels are continuing to under-deliver: free WiFi.

"That's the biggest frustration we are still having with hotels; we really need to move on. WiFi is no longer a luxury."

Click through the gallery above for the full list of winners.