Australia / Chronological / Destinations / Hotels & Resorts

Two Splendid Spa Retreats: Resorts in Margaret River

Years ago I worked as a masseuse at Empire Retreat in a cosy room under the stairs. It was lovely to work there for even just the beautiful drive in gracefully winding around the native flora. It’s one of the most tasteful and tranquil retreats I’ve ever been to on three continents. As mentioned (written) earlier, during an abseiling adventure I met three English ladies staying at the Empire Retreat. They all just loved it, too, and thought it was such a beautiful sanctuary with wonderful rooms, breakfasts and spa treatments.

Empire Retreat, Australia
– Photo courtesy of Empire Retreat


This retreat is nestled within 265 acres of tranquil and undulating pastures and the Empire Estate vineyard. The buildings themselves are testaments to an aesthetic combining of Bali and bush components woven compatibly. Architecturally designed to ensure complete privacy, each suite offers the level of luxury synonymous with the Empire culture of furnishings, furniture, textiles and designs. Subdued lighting, natural stone and timbers create a perfect ambience of clean lines and simplicity. The finest linens and soft furnishings await to envelope the guest.

Empire Retreat, Australia
– Photo courtesy of Empire Retreat


Now there is a purpose built spa set serenely off to the side. This is state of the art style designed to pamper both body and soul. The foyer, halls, rooms and furnishings are richly aesthetic. All is immaculate with therapists speaking in subdued voices.

Treatments include deep tissue and hot stone massages, body wraps, manicures, and, for myself, a unique signature facial. As a therapist myself as well as a spa “junquie,” I can tell quickly who has the magic touch and rhythm. My therapist Ailise was a magician on all fronts. I can’t give away all their secrets, but it involved cheesecloth on my face, masques painted on with a camel hair brush, unguents of all manner, refreshing spritzers, and a myriad of cleansers both creamy and exfoliating, not in that order.

Empire Retreat, Australia
– Photo courtesy of Empire Retreat


“Every activity, treatment, furnishing and food is about making the guest feel special,” explains Claire Wall, the manager. I was proud to work there before and this time pleased to enjoy the luxury and pampering of an afternoon of the Organic Glow. I floated back down the drive with radiant skin, renewed in spirit.

www.empireretreat.com luxury@empireretreat.com

There’s no such thing in my book of lifestyle as too many spa treatments, even in one day. And my birthday was coming up the next day, just quietly. So instead of cafe or bar hopping, I prefer spa hopping, so off I bounced along to Bunker Bay. The roads are a bit bumpy in the last bit to this retreat, now with the long name of Mii Spa Quay West Resort Bunker Bay of Mirvac Hotels.

Empire Retreat, Australia
– Photo courtesy of Empire Retreat


Before they had their separate spa built, I also worked here as a mobile masseuse. I’ll never forget the stormy nights I lugged my massage table onto a golf cart and was driven to the individual rooms. I brought music, incense, aromatherapy candles and my special blended oils. First I would treat one partner and then the other.

My signature treatment was to use an eye pillow with faintly citrus-scented tissue. For the last treatment I told the client it was all about trust, and if they trusted me, to open their mouth. I then placed an organic slice of kiwi on their tongue or a small taste of my famed chocolate mousse! Either delighted the guest and was inimitably memorable.

Empire Retreat, Australia
– Photo courtesy of Empire Retreat


Now there was another impressive purpose built spa with wonderful therapists and products from the Australia bush. Mii Spa has quite good copy in their four-colour brochure: “Our purpose is to provide dedicated ‘you time,’ or a shared relaxing moment (hope it’s more than one) with your partner, on a journey to vitality, health and wellness. Let us nurture your soul and awaken your senses with signature Mii Spa rituals and therapeutic treatments…”

My own treatment encompassed ancient Aboriginal plant wisdom into a product called Li’Tya Spa Care from the Australian Dreamtime, meaning ‘of the earth’. The last time I enjoyed these native treatments, I was at the Hamilton Island spa, luxuriating in a variety of Li’Tya products. As a Native American myself (1/16 Lummi Lummi) I love the use of indigenous ingredients. The history and practical uses of these spa recipes are fascinating and pragmatic. www.litya.com.au Gayle Heron, the company founder believes each plant has its own powerful “vibrational” essence, a life force that, when harvested in line with the workings of nature, the moon and the tides, delivers powerful vitamins and minerals directly from the earth to your skin. Her range of high-performance skincare products supposedly unlocks the potent powers of Australia’s resilient native botanicals, nutrient-rich mud, ancient desert salts and organic marine algaes, combined with the latest in skincare technology. Heron and her staff combine these active formulations with spa treatments created from ancient Aboriginal healing practices as taught to them by respected Tribal Elders.

Empire Retreat, Australia
– Photo courtesy of Empire Retreat


The process includes a cleansing, exfoliation, mask and moisturising treatment to the entire body with the addition of aromatherapy and rehydration. Some of their brochure prose reminds me of California psychobabble; on the other hand I felt wonderfully nurtured and polished to a gleam afterwards. In point of fact, I floated down to the beach and strolled upon the sands of Bunker Bay, which has got to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Good memories emerged from when I use to kayak here and go fishing with a mate. It used to be much quieter and remote, but it’s been replaced with great luxury — and corporate culture and restrictions.

For instance, I could hardly believe that the health practitioners only had 10 minutes between clients to break down, freshen and set up the room. The pay was one quarter of what I used to be paid; the ambience of Mii Spa was in some ways overbearing, in others rigidly sterile, with the uniforms and behind-the-scenes pressure. As a professional masseuse myself, I think it is vital for us to have at least 20 minutes between clients to maintain one’s own vitality.

The sweetness and caring of my masseuse overshadowed any corporate shadow of negativity but I sure wouldn’t want to work there any more. Just like not working as a chef any more on yachts (re: white slavery revisited), I prefer to be the client and journo’ these days.

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