Just a few hours’ drive south from our most isolated capital city, Perth, sits a region known to many travellers for its much-awarded wine. Margaret River is where I speak of, and on a recent venture down to Australia’s south-west corner I was invited to run the ruler 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 achieved 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 Daniela have a deep sense of pride in sharing that history. In fact, if you are up for it, Max will regale you for hours. 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, 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 to provide 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 bring it somewhat in to current times, but the core of the original structure remains true and its chronicle is a big part of what makes the establishment what it is today.
The accommodation for me still falls into that boutique definition, as there are only 19 rooms. Choices include 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 Suites are blessed with extra space and comfort. They have king beds, lounge areas with sofas and a balcony and/or courtyard. They also boast 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. These are 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 was the view from the balcony over the extensive and beautifully manicured gardens, lawns and lake.
The Manor is perfectly positioned, secluded on its own acreage but still only a relaxing 20-minute walk from the village.
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 Daniela are fantastic hosts. Amanda at the front desk 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, may have no real official chef training but delivers you breakfast pleasures that easily equal and, in some cases, better 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 keep all the grounds, the pool and the tennis court, in slick order. Jessica, who serviced my room daily, was happy for a chat as well as making sure everything was spick and span.
Then there are the little extras that come standard, like the succulent Devonshire teas from 12-4pm daily and all sorts of board games, books and jigsaw puzzles that seem to become an in-house guest challenge. I was amazed to discover that, on the day of 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.
Basildene Manor is an easy three-hour drive from Perth Airport. 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.
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, for sublime cocktails and a terrific array of foodie options for lunch or dinner.
For that coffee and café fix, don’t go past Egberts. It’s a little hidden away in Fearn Ave, but definitely worth hunting down.
The pick of the litter, though, is 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!