Just a few hours’ drive south from our most isolated capital city of Perth sits a region known to many travellers for its much-awarded wine region. Margaret River is where I speak of and on a recent venture down to Australia’s southwest corner I was invited to run the rule over a little historic gem that has developed into a remarkably stylish guest house while managing to retain the feel and the splendour of yesteryear. This has been perfected not only by maintaining and sprucing the best part of the original building and its glorious grounds, but also by the service on offer, which can only be described as old-fashioned etiquette mixed with a hint of relaxed Australian thoughtfulness. Basildene Manor has an intriguing history, and current managers Max and Daniele have a deep sense of pride in absorbing and sharing that history. In fact, if you up for it Maxie will regale you for hours about it. What he doesn’t know, isn’t worth knowing!
Percy Willmott and his brother Frank arrived in the region at the turn of the century and Percy took up residence as the Chief Lighthouse keeper at Cape Leewin. He acquired the land on which Basildene now stands to begin farming with his wife Margaret (a somewhat ironic name) who gave him three children, Henry, Edward, and Madge. Basildene was built in 1912 making good use of the natural resources that were readily available in the Margaret River region including quality granite that was quarried and provided the walls and main structure of the building while the abundant Jarrah trees were fashioned into flooring, balustrades, staircases and the impressive central gallery and main hall. Of course, the building has had renovations and improvements to equalise to the current times but the core of the original structure remains true and its chronicle is a big part of what makes the whole establishment what it is today.
The accommodation for me still falls into that boutique mode as it only houses 19 rooms. Choices range from original Manor rooms located in the main heritage building. These vary in size and are priced accordingly and all come with shower ensuite bathrooms King Bath ensuite that are blessed with extra space and comfort. King beds, lounge areas with sofas and either a balcony and or courtyard. They also comprise spacious bathrooms featuring deep and practical baths that are created to take your mind to chillsville.
Finally, you have the bee’s knees for me, in the form of the Lakeview King Suites. Super roomy with inclusions of King and Sofa beds, lounging area with sofa and desk space, expansive bathroom with luxury bath and separate rain shower. The icing for me, however, was the view from the balcony over the extensive and beautifully manicured gardens, lawns and lake. The Manor is perfectly positioned itself secluded on its own acreage but still only relaxing twenty-minute walk from the town village that is easily accessible on one of the areas many walking and bike paths.
Yes, the rooms are delightful and the gardens close to immaculate, the combination of history and modern-day additions near perfect. But what really makes this establishment a massive standout for me is the team that operates it. Even if like me you only stay for a few days you will probably leave knowing most of their names. You may even have some knowledge of their life story and them yours, it’s just that sort of place. You will most likely engage with fellow travellers and you most certainly have a sense of being really cared about. As I mentioned Max and Danielle who are fantastic hosts. Amanda at the front desk who is happy to help in any capacity she can. Estu, who swings between breakfast cook and the wait staff is just a delight. Judith, the ultimate foodie who with no real official chef training delivers you breakfast pleasures that easily equals and, in some cases, betters many of the offerings I have had around all parts of the globe. She is also a lovely human! Rosa and Steve and the team that keeps all the grounds the pool and the tennis court in slick order. Jessica, who serviced my room daily and was happy for a chat as well as making sure everything was spick and span.
When you add to these blessings, the little extras that come standard like the succulent Devonshire Teas from 12-4pm daily, all sorts of board games, books and jigsaw puzzles that seem to become an inhouse guest challenge and get this, on the day of your check out you are delivered freshly made hot scones with butter and home-made strawberry jam for your journey homeward or onward. That’s old school love and affection right there people.
Getting There: Basildene Manor is an easy 3-hour drive from Perth Airport and it’s great to have a car on hand with so many inviting day trips within easy reach of the Manor. If you are Melbourne based you can now fly direct to Margaret River.
Eats: The Manor doesn’t serve lunches or dinners but there are many great offerings in the village. My top choices would be www.morries.com.au serving sublime cocktails and a terrific array of choices be it lunch or dinner. For that Coffee and café fix then don’t go past Egberts. A little hidden away in Fearn Ave, but definitely worth hunting down. The pick of the litter is a hands-down winner at www.mikisopenkitchen.com.au It’s Japanese you won’t find in Japan and it’s a taste sensation all prepared and cooked right in front of your eyes. The optical event almost surpasses the cuisine…almost!
For all your WA needs check out www.westernaustralia.com