Empire Day Spa Yallingup

I have it on good authority that many people visiting Australia from overseas hug the east coast without venturing west.

They might trip to the eastern tropics, take a snap of the Sydney Opera House and The Bridge, and then maybe duck inland to visit The Rock (Uluru) before heading home to wax lyrical about the great down-under.

What they don’t know is that here in Western Australia we harbour a little secret called The Margaret River Region, where they could, if they were so inclined, come for some peace and relaxation. A place where, instead of frenetically ticking tourist must-sees off the list, they could simply revive and restore their bodies and souls without the rush and hustle of tourism gone mad.

Even we ‘sandgroper’ weekend warrior locals from Perth like nothing better than heading down south for a weekend of healing moments in gorgeous settings where soothing experiences crystallise into magical memories.

Last weekend, after battling the dreaded Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic out of Perth, we headed south for a quick weekend of body and soul restoration, a little pampering, some fine gourmet Australiana cuisine, and a gentle walk in some of the Margaret River Region’s prettiest places.

Empire Spa Retreat Yallingup

Empire Spa Retreat

As far as retreats go, Empire Spa Retreat is pretty special. Blink and you’ll miss the discreet entry which takes you off wooded Caves Road, and leads you along a winding drive surrounded by 265 acres of tranquil pastures, pristine native bushland, and the Empire Estate vineyards.

The driveway takes you through huge wrought iron gates into a woodland oasis where cute courtyard water gardens, an ancient monastery door and statues intermingle with quiet day beds and garden benches where you can sit and ponder or just watch the world go by. There’s an eastern flavor running through the retreat that made me think of Bali more than once.

The main part of the retreat consists of a 35 year old farmhouse where there’s a definite focus on style, and it’s just been revamped into something extra special.

To tell you the truth, the interior design is straight out of Homes Beautiful. Which is not surprising because Empire first originated from the owners’ love of design.

Perry and Jill Coleman originally set up a chain of stores called Pedlars providing stylish home products and furnishings, the forerunner to what would become Empire Homewares which now has stores in Perth, Fremantle and Dunsborough.

Empire Spa Retreat

The Retreat

Beyond and surrounding the main part of the farmhouse you’ll find 10 luxurious suites designed for complete privacy.

Our suite was style personified, with a huge bed, an open fireplace, sunken lounge area, corner lounge setting, dining suite, kitchenette, fine linens and stylish soft furnishings (that I wanted to take home with me).

Let’s not forget the large spa bath overlooking a private garden courtyard with an outside rain forest shower, and the spacious living area which opened up onto a timber decked balcony with day bed and a secluded private balcony overlooking bushland.

We loved walking around the property, meandering around the dam and watching the comical geese, but most of all we enjoyed lazing in the large outdoor bush Jacuzzi, gazing across the vineyards while enjoying a cold glass (or two) of champagne.

Now that’s the life!

Empire Day Spa Retreat

Empire Day Spa

Hidden in its own private glade is the Day Spa. The philosophy of relaxation and rejuvenation is carried through to the spa which is almost hidden from view amongst the native bush.

There’s a couple’s room if you like to do things together, and an extensive spa menu from which to choose your pamper fix; think traditional spa therapies or specialised Empire rituals.

I enjoyed a beautifully relaxing massage with Kerrie-Anne, who hails from Victoria. She’s been living in the Margaret River Region and working at Empire for 5 years.

“It’s so peaceful and serene working here,” she told me. “I really love it.”

So which products are used?

“In the Spa we use Sodashi products which are made up in Fremantle, and also Eminence products which are made in Hungary and distributed from Queensland,” Kerrie-Anne told me.

“But why have a massage?” I asked – as if I needed convincing 😉

And Kerrie-Anne replied without blinking …

1. It’s great for relaxation
2. It can help to reduce stress
3. It’s good for both blood circulation and your skin.

Bring it on! And if you need a bit of R & R then it’s time to book your restorative treatment at Empire Spa.

Dunsborough Meelup Trail

Time for Some Exercise

As much as I would like to live the life of dedicated sloth, there has to be a balance, and we were torn that afternoon in choosing our exercise for the day. Would we cycle along the bike trail from Dunsborough to Busselton, or walk along the Meelup Reserve Trail to Castle Rock from Dunsborough?

Deciding on the latter we walked to this prominent landmark, a massive chunk of orange granite which is at the end of Castle Bay. Looking at it from a distance it looks hard to climb but really it’s fairly easy and the back section of the rock is about level with the ground along the Meelup Reserve Trail, which runs above Castle Beach.

From Old Dunsborough, Castle Rock is about a half hour walk along the Meelup Trail.