We crane our necks to take in the magnitude of the midnight blue star-studded sky. The galaxy above appears to embrace our little pocket of Margaret River and Walk into Luxury owner Nikki King declares, “I’ve never seen so many stars so close before.” Talk about receiving star treatment!
I’m joining Nikki for an exclusive preview of the new two-night package in Margaret River, about three hours south of Perth. My tour begins with a five-course degustation and stay at Cape Lodge. It’s the perfect way to begin a weekend escape of food, wine and walking – in that order. In saying that, traversing any part of the 135km trail between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin does require a medium level of fitness. Although Nikki’s tours don’t span the entire trail, they have opened up the track to a whole new audience wanting to stop and smell the buttercups – the experience certainly lives up to its tagline of “a new way to walk.” However, the longer four- and eight-night Walk into Luxury treks cover a wider range of territory and terrain, including limestone cliffs and caves, coastal expanses, forests, varying gradients and calf-pumping treks across beaches; the scenery may just be beautiful enough to distract you from the burn.
The two-night walk offers a sweet taste of the landscape and includes two night’s accommodation at the five-star Cape Lodge, gourmet meals and wine, as well as a personalised guided one-day trek. Private transfers and a daypack stocked with tissues, wet wipes, sunscreen, hand towel, snacks and a water bladder with a straw to easily stay hydrated, are all part of the service. A good pair of walking shoes, light and practical clothes, a hat and camera are essential, and perhaps bring a change of clothes for lunch.
Our chauffeur arrives at a civilised 9am and drops us off at Wyadup car park with sweeping views along the coastline where we watch for whales and frolicking dolphins. We amble through the sand dunes and rocky granite coastline to Injidup Spa Retreat, another boutique resort offered on the longer treks and I’m given a tour of the villas. There are private plunge pools, in-room massages, chefs on demand and at sunset, guests are invited to a spiritual didgeridoo performance. As the sun heats up the day, the nearby natural springs tantalise from afar.
We’re transferred to the lookout above Conto Beach and it’s an easy stroll towards the forest with a pit-stop of morning tea overlooking Cape Freycinet. There are few times I’ve ever felt so wonderfully isolated. It’s just us and the elements. The sun warms our journey as the ocean crashes in the distance. Lizards rustle amongst the natural perfume of rosemary as sea salt lingers on our lips. Its pure escapism and the luxury to indulge in nature at will.
Heading into Boranup Forest, we’re dwarfed by towering karris and peppermint trees as kookaburras and cockatoos laugh at us from above in our quest for a kangaroo, echidna or possum encounter. We stride into our pick-up point where our chariot awaits with cool towels and cold water and whisks us off for a late lunch at Leeuwin Estate winery.
It’s while we’re sampling the 2011 Leeuwin Estate Brut and panko crumbed oysters on the balcony overlooking the expansive lawn, which annually hosts concerts to the likes of Chris Isaak and Tom Jones, that Nikki reminisces. This was the scene of an elaborate proposal orchestrated by her then fiancé, which entailed a helicopter, a “will you marry me” banner and exactly the same drop of Leeuwin bubbles. Ocean trout, 45-day dry aged Black Angus, a cheese platter and the Leeuwin Estate Art Series are lingered over for the rest of the afternoon in this impossibly romantic spot until our return to Cape Lodge.
Back in my lake-view suite, a platter soon arrives laden down with goodies off the main menu including chicken soup with truffles, Rangers Valley beef, cheese, salmon and cured meats. Resistance is useless, even though today’s 6km trek barely walked off lunch, let alone last night’s degustation at Cape Lodge’s restaurant; one of Australia’s finest and voted one of the Top 10 in the World for Food in Condé Nast Traveller’s Gold List. The menu changes regularly and features regional specialities like venison, Donnybrook marron, Wagin duck and quail matched by a sommelier to the famous wines of Margaret River, and beyond.
From my balcony, the turquoise lake sparkles with diamond droplets. However, a deep bath adorning the marble bathroom awaits.