Tranquil vineyard valley
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Empire Estate wine and a cheese plate
Rates from (inc tax)$204.60 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 (21AUD), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
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 (21AUD), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Tranquil vineyard valley
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Empire Estate wine and a cheese plate
10 suites (including two villas).
11am, but may be flexible, subject to availability. Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $204.60 (AU$268), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
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.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (AUD295.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
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.
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.
From 16th August to 15th September 2015.
A stellar day spa, games room and a communal kitchen for guests to cook up a storm. In rooms: TV, DVD player, WiFi, iPod dock, Elissa Coleman robes and Sodashi bath products.
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. The suites' polished wood floors and stone feature walls are complemented by a delicious colour palette of chocolate, cream and honey.
There's no pool, but there is secluded Jacuzzi, sauna and outdoor shower set among landscaped gardens are there for all to enjoy.
Luxe loungewear for reclining post-spa, a sarong or surf wear for beach hopping, and a copy of James Halliday's <i>Australian Wine Companion</i> for seeking out the region's best drops.
Two-night minimum stay on weekends; three-night minimum stay during peak seasons; four-night minimum stay over Easter. All rooms are non-smoking. The hotel doesn't cater to children under the age of 18.
This hotel is better suited to couples - leave the children at home!
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.
There's no restaurant as such, however there is a communal kitchen at the heart of the property that's open to guests, so stock up on supplies while you're in town. 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.
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).
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.
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.
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. Excellent examples can be found at Moss Wood (926 Metricup Road, Wilyabrup; +61 (0)8 9755 6266), Cullen Wines (Caves Road, Cowaramup; +61 (0)8 9755 5277) and Leeuwin Estate (Stevens Road, Margaret River; +61 (0)8 9759 0000). 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. Depending on how many tipples you tasted the night before, a breakfast burger might be in order.
With its sculpture-filled gardens and airy upstairs dining room, Vasse Felix (corner of Caves Road and Harmans Road South; +61 (0)8 9756 5000) 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. For dinner, make for Food Farmacy (Shop 9, Dunsborough Park Shopping Centre, Dunn Bay Rd, Dunsborough; +61 (0)8 9759 1877), where chef Simon Beaton and front-of-house Felicity Boreham have created an offbeat dining experience inspired by Simon's dad's pharmacy of yore. Expect quirky touches such as water served in conical flasks and salt, pepper and olive oil delivered in test tubes. The menu is a showcase for local produce, including marron (a tasty freshwater crayfish), venison and lamb.
For scrambled eggs by the sea, skip over to Bunkers Beach Café (Farm Break Lane, Bunker Bay, Naturaliste; +61 (0)8 9756 8284), 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.
For after-dark assignations, head to Must Winebar (107 Bussell Highway, Margaret River; +61 (0)8 9758 8877), a dimly lit bar and bistro on Margaret River's main drag that offers a stellar line-up of local drops, as well as noteworthy wines from around the world. If you find yourself craving a cleansing ale after all of that vino, try Bavarian beerhouse Duckstein Brewery (Saracen Estate, 3517 Caves Road, Margaret River; +61 (0)8 9755 6500, or The Colonial Brewing Co. (Osmington Road, Margaret River; +61 (0)8 9758 8177).
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.
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.
The rooms to be bug free (you are in the nature)
Bush outlook from room balcony and sun deck.
High-end service or fine dining.
The serenity, the peacefulness and the yummy breakfast menu! The lady met us at check in and showed us around, then took us to our room and that was it! whenever we needed their help, they were happy to help, but other than that you were pretty much left alone (which is a good thing for some, not for others). Also, bear in mind that it is not a buffet breakfast. However they offer a wide range of different dishes on their breakfast menu which is delicious!
To be insect free! This might be a little biased, as i am allergic to mosquitoes but i knew i had to expect it going to the winery region... so this is by no means a complaint! I am just saying that if you are going to be appalled that there is a mosquito or tiny bug in your room, then this is a heads up!
The room, the staff, the spa and the food! It was a great place to stay for a few days of relaxation at the end of a trip. The staff were extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming. Breakfast was great and we also ordered a hamper for one night, which was full of delicious food. It was lovely sitting on the terrace of our room just looking at the view and reading a book.
It is a small hotel with only ten rooms, so it is unlikely to feel very busy. We were there in the quiet season so it was really quiet, but that was just what we wanted.
The tranquility and warm interiors made it feel like a home away from home. Fantastic service without being too intrusive. This is the ideal bolthole for escaping the city, where you can relax with a good book, explore the area and enjoy the plentiful activities that Margaret River has to offer
Peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings. Sitting on the balcony with a good book and a glass of local wine was the perfect way to unwind. We also enjoyed the exhilarating effect of the outdoor shower. Breakfast was a delight - an excellent buffet followed by freshly cooked eggs.
Although we enjoyed the tranquiity of the place, we did feel that a small friendly bar would have been useful in the evenings. The hotel is so small that we often felt we had the place to ourselves in the evening.
Quality accommodation and great customer service.