Margaret River, Australia

Empire Retreat and Spa

Rates from (ex tax)$202.71

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (AUD295.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Fashionable farmhouse

Setting

Tranquil vineyard valley

The owner's ancestral abode anchors the Empire Retreat and Spa hotel’s stone and timber presence on the Western Australia's Margaret River. At this rural retreat with Asian accents, quaff a glass of chardonnay from the on-site vineyard after indulging in mud wraps from the signature spa.

Smith Extra

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A bottle of Empire Estate wine and a cheese plate

Facilities

Photos Empire Retreat and Spa facilities

Need to know

Rooms

10 suites, including two villas.

Check–Out

11am, but may be flexible, subject to availability. Check-in, 2pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $202.71 (AU$268), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (AUD295.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

More details

Rates include a Continental breakfast buffet. Rates don't include a credit-card surcharge of 3.2 per cent for American Express a stay – this will be charged at the hotel.

Also

If you like something you see at the hotel, you'll find it at Empire's homeware stores (www.worldofempire.com) across Australia and online.

At the hotel

12-acre wine estate and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, DVD player, air-conditioning, minibar, Elissa Coleman robes, Salus bath products and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Our favourite rooms

The open-plan Luxury Villas are our pick, thanks to their sunken lounge area, open fireplace and private courtyard with outdoor shower. These, and the Deluxe Balcony Suites, are connected to the main lodge by a timber boardwalk; Loft Suites occupy the first floor of the farmhouse; and the Courtyard Suite is on ground level.

Spa

Slink into Empire Spa for a seductive range of treatments, including a three-hour Opulence session that will have you scrubbed, rubbed and soaked into submission.

Packing tips

Luxe loungewear for reclining post-spa, a sarong or surf wear for beach hopping, and a copy of James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion for seeking out the region's best drops.

Also

Three-night minimum stay over Easter; four-night minimum booking over Christmas. All rooms are non-smoking.

Children

18s-and-over only at this couples retreat - leave the children at home.

Food and Drink

Photos Empire Retreat and Spa food and drink

Dress Code

Things may be relaxed, but you'll have to slip out of that gorgeous Elissa Coleman robe eventually… Mrs Smith, mirror the hotel's Asian aesthetic with something fabulous and floaty from Akira Isogawa; Mr Smith, keep it smart and simple.

Hotel restaurant

There's no restaurant as such, however there is a kitchen at the heart of the property that does breakfast and weddings. A lavish Continental buffet, with hot and cold delicacies, is laid out in the dining room each morning, where you can gaze out over an olive grove. Lunch hampers and dinner platters can be arranged on request.

Location

Photos Empire Retreat and Spa location
Address
Empire Retreat and Spa
1958 Caves Road, Yallingup
Margaret River
Western Australia, 6282
Margaret River
Australia

Planes

Planes fly into Perth Airport (www.perthairport.net.au) from all of Australia's capital cities and it is increasingly becoming a hub for international flights from Asia, South Africa and the UAE. If you don't fancy the three-hour drive south to Margaret River, charter a flight through Axiom Aviation (www.axiomaviation.com.au).

Trains

TransWA (www.transwa.wa.gov.au) runs daily trains to Bunbury from Perth, which connects with the Westrail bus service that takes passengers south through Margaret River.

Automobiles

For the three-hour drive south from Perth to Margaret River, take the Old Coast Road (1) or the South Western Highway (20) through Bunbury, Busselton and Dunsborough. The turnoff for Empire Retreat and Spa is about 4.5 kilometres past the second Dunsborough roundabout as you head towards Yallingup. For cooling off en route, Eagle Bay offers kaleidoscopic snorkelling, Yallingup Beach has a sheltered lagoon and Meelup, near Dunsborough, is a top swimming spot.

Worth getting out of bed for

Start the morning with a big breakfast – you'll need it to steel yourself for a day of tasting your way around one of Australia's most popular wine regions. Premium cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay should be at the top of your sipping list, as well as the easy-drinking blends of semillon and sauvignon blanc, and cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Start your flight at the hotel's own Empire Estate, then sample the excellent examples at Moss Wood, Cullen Wines and Leeuwin Estate. Whether it's wine or wildlife that piques your interest, the Margaret River Discovery Co. offers a range of tours to suit, including a luxury 4WD expedition, sunset canoe trips and an insider's guide to the best vineyards. On the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, the Margaret River Farmers' Market sets up shop in the Old Hospital (corner of Tunbridge and Farrelly Streets, Margaret River), selling organic fruit and veg, fresh-caught seafood, handmade sausages and artisan cheeses. Make the most of the coast and learn to hang 10 like a local at one of the many prime surf spots around Eagle Bay. If the Aussie sun gets too strong for you, retreat underground to the cooler confines of the subterranean Mammoth, Ngilgi or Lake caves.   

 

Local restaurants

With its sculpture-filled gardens and airy upstairs dining room, Vasse Felix makes the perfect lunch spot. After tasting the estate's world-class cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay in the cellar door, head up to the restaurant for chef Adam Carr's fresh, modern dishes with an Asian accent, such as tuna tartare or drunken chicken, which work a treat with a glass of crisp Vasse Felix classic dry white. The lakeside Little Fish serves delicious seafood dishes and light plates ideal for a laidback lunch or easy dinner. Take a bench outside overlooking the water and share their winelands platter laden with cold meats, olives, fresh breads and other antipasti, before tucking into your own snapper, scallamari (a scallops and calamari combo) or a marinated rack of lamb. 

Local cafés

For scrambled eggs by the sea, skip over to Bunkers Beach Café, a charming beachfront spot that offers alfresco dining in summer and fireside feasts during winter. The menu features breakfast favourites such as bubble and squeak or crepes with poached apple, and lunches of shepherd's pie, pizza or fish and chips. Another spot for a beachside brunch is Lamont's deli and café at Smiths Beach hotel; they cook up breakfast favourites like pancakes with maple syrup, smoked salmon on brioche or a full English breakfast wrap, or go for something a little more like lunch with salt water barramundi grilled in Dijon butter with pancetta or a Greek salad with slow cooked lamb. 

Local bars

If you find yourself craving a cleansing ale after all of that vino, try Bavarian beerhouse Duckstein Brewery or The Colonial Brewing Co.. For the best of both, head to Eagle Bay Brewing Co., a family-run farm with an organic microbrewery and vineyard. Pair you tipple of choice with one of their sharing boards – we particularly like the sound of the beer plate with cheddar, bacon, sesame-crumbed pork belly and and pale ale dip – or tuck into a crispy duck leg or maple cured ocean trout all of your own. 

Reviews

Photos Empire Retreat and Spa reviews
David Grant

Anonymous review

If we had a rich friend who cracked it big in some brilliant, reckless enterprise in the Nineties, cashed up, dropped out and retired as a limousine-leftie in the “bush”, then Empire Retreat is exactly the sort of house we imagine he’d have.

Two milkshakes, one pie and three scenic hours from Perth, Mrs Smith and I drive excitedly into Margaret River, the gourmet capital of Western Australia.

Even Jane, our bossy GPS navigation voice, becomes suddenly sultry and breathless with anticipation as she teasingly whispers, ‘You have arrived at your destination.’ We look around, but see nothing… It’s dusk and we feel adrift amid a serene wilderness until a kamikaze kookaburra, surreally lit from below by the Retreat’s welcome sign, dive-bombs our car, then leads us helpfully in the direction of the house.

The beauty of Empire Retreat and Spa is that it blends into its surroundings seamlessly, like Tom Cruise at Willy Wonka’s factory. You could be anywhere among its 260 acres of bush and farmland, but you immediately feel secluded, relaxed and at home.

Our host shows us around the original farmhouse, now transformed into a hippy-chic hideaway. Local timbers and stone frame eclectic furnishings, creating a space that is designer but cosy, hip but homey. With a communal kitchen, library, lounge room and barbecue terrace, there are plenty of places to chill or schmooze as the mood takes you. The hotel is small enough to feel luxurious, but large enough so that you’re not bumping into other guests unless you want to. It all feels very residential.

Our Luxury Villa is a cleverly designed, split-level pad, with high cathedral ceilings that make it feel more like a studio loft than a bedroom. Panoramic glass doors open onto a spacious deck, which allows you to perve on the scenery without any of the neighbours returning the favour.

Smoldering incense and loungey music fill the air as we graze on a gourmet dinner platter (because it’s a B&B, Empire Retreat only fires up the stoves for breakfast). It’s delightfully locavore, featuring an imaginative spread of boutique provisions that go down a treat with Empire Vineyard’s very own chardonnay.

In front of the fire, atop the luxuriously woven L-shaped day-bed, Mrs Smith thrashes me at Scrabble and then fills the huge bath for a steamy victory soak. I read a dictionary, until, bored by the time I reach ‘aardvark’, I join her.

From the four-poster, we watch the full moon climb across the Van Gogh sky, casting shadows into Where the Wild Things Are characters. It’s our very own Opera in the Vineyards, without the crowds or the worry of what to wear, but with the commonality that I slept blissfully through both.

It’s dawn when our friend the kookaburra transforms into an alarm clock. We decide to take a bracing splash in the outdoor shower (significant shrinkage ensues, but only the kookaburra notices – I imagine he’s thinking he’s the early bird and I’m the early… well, you get the picture).

After enjoying a classic country breakfast in the atrium dining room, with views of the valley, we set out for the day. The hotel is the perfect base for exploring this unique slice of Australia, as beaches, underground caves, blue water bays, vineyards, artists, craftsmen and quaint forest towns are never more than 30 minutes away.

We drive to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and tackle a section of the spectacular Cape to Cape Track, taking a 10-kilometre jaunt south along the clifftops to the surfing town of Yallingup. Along the way we spot whales, incredible limestone gorges, elephantine beach boulders, delicate wildflowers and some of the whitest beaches ever – all washed down with enough fresh air to revive Janis Joplin.

As the local taxi driver has gone home for lunch, a surfer senses our plight and kindly gives us a lift back to our car because he’s heading that way, ‘To crack a monster left hander.’ While we’re not exactly sure what this means (is it surfing or does it get lonely in his VW Kombi?), we accept this perfect example of the region’s friendly, laid-back vibe.

Starving, it’s down to the legendary Vasse Felix Estate for a fabulous lunch overlooking the sculpture garden. The popular restaurant draws both tourists and locals – sensibly dressed grey nomads, hot honeymooners, and a group of very earthy guys and girls that look like they’ve just climbed off the tractor or out of a dam, but who are tucking into the marron (crayfish) and very best of reds with charm and gusto.

After lunch, we rush back to Empire in time for our Serenity Massage in the day spa, where a gentle breeze and native birds outside form the soundtrack to one of the great spa treatments of all time. This massage has a happy beginning – and a sleepy ending in the outdoor Jacuzzi, where we indulge in local cheese and port in the steamy mist as the sun sets.

For dinner, we cruise down the road to Cape Lodge restaurant for what turns out to be one of the most memorable meals of the year. Some really clever chefs and winemakers call Margaret River home, and this level of sophistication is a delightful contrast to the rough, prosaic beauty of the natural surroundings.

We leave the next morning, regretting we didn’t spend another night. Even GPS Jane seems to sigh audibly as we drive out the gate. We consider letting her stay one more night with the handsome iPod dock she seems to have taken a liking to, but we need her to steer us home, and the consolation is she’ll now be gagging to guide some other lucky couple back to this lovely home in the bush.

 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith Hotel with us, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Empire Retreat and Spa’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The staff, the breakfast and the tranquility. Miki's Open Kitchen, the cave nearby (Ngigli), the wineries (too many to mention), the Cape to Cape Track.

Don’t expect

Glitz, swimming pools.

Rating

Stayed on 1 Sep 2017

We loved

The quaint (but luxe) farmhouse feel, the spacious rooms, the lovely daily breakfast spread, and the games and DVDs! We LOVED the demo (offered daily at 11am) at the Shearing Shed (a 10 min drive from Empire in Yallingup). Also Studio Bistro is a terrific restaurant art gallery, also nearby Empire

Don’t expect

A full service restaurant / room service - the restaurant is only open for (complimentary) breakfast.

Rating

Stayed on 17 Mar 2017

We loved

Lovely place at a great location, amazing team, amazing breakfast, tasteful decor, great location in getting to the Margaret river and yallingup. Rooms are all very well equiped, beautiful terrace for enjoying your wine and admiring the beautiful sunset and nature.

Don’t expect

The rooms to be bug free (you are in the nature)

Rating

Stayed on 20 Dec 2015

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