Room with a View
|Room with a view: Australia
By John Westbrooke, Financial Times, London
If you want a hideaway, it would be hard to hide in a place more remote than Chimes Spa Retreat, located way down under in Western Australia, one of the country's most sparsely populated territories. On a hillside near the south coast between the desert and the sea lies Chimes, a boutique retreat aimed at couples, named for its wind chimes tinkling in the ocean breeze.
Chimes has a cosy feel combined with five-star luxury. "We call ourselves a lodge," says founder and owner Kane Randle. "We don't have a full dining room, only breakfast, but that makes it sound like a B&B, and it's a lot more than that. On the other hand, it's not a hotel - we don't have 24-hour reception or room service like a five-star hotel." "The rooms are all open plan, so you shouldn't stay with anyone you wouldn't want to see in the bath," Randle notes. It is possible to stay alone as supermodel Elle McPherson did - although Randle points out that she did have a baby nine months later.
Gentle ambient music played as we entered one of Chimes' galleried bedrooms thoughtfully supplied with a bowl of chocolates and champagne cooling in the refrigerator. A vaulted ceiling was painted in the same muted colours as the rest of the suite. Only in the dark did we notice the 'stars' overhead - dots of luminous paint on the ceiling - that were an unexpected, imaginative touch. Each room has a diary, in which guests are invited to record their impressions. By reading the entries, it's clear why Chimes is an attraction: attentive service (as much or as little of it as you want); spacious rooms; massage therapy from Randle's wife Michelle, a trained masseuse; double spa baths; and the feeling of recharging relationships in a romantic and remote hideaway.
A highlight of the 10 rooms at Chimes is the bath. Ours occupied its own separate floor up a short flight of steps in our room. Most are equipped with whirlpools set next to picture windows overlooking gardens full of blue and white agapanthus and one room even features a double shower. The view extends over hills and tall timber all the way to the ocean.
Our bath was surrounded by a dozen colourful bottles of scented oils. Their labels advised using only a spoonful with the whirlpool jets and sure enough, a foot-high wall of foam emerged with just that small amount. Dimming lights, an abundance of candles, thick cotton bathrobes and a statue of an angel created an atmosphere of blissful indulgence.
Several miles from the nearest town of Denmark, Chimes shares its hillside site with a less upscale resort of chalets and a very good restaurant, which draws its long wine list solely from the dozens of vineyards within a 50-mile radius. There's plenty to see within an hour's drive: great beaches for swimming or fishing, whale watching (an old whaling station at Albany has been converted into a museum), and forests of tall karri trees near Walpole, where a walkway takes you 120ft high among the treetops.
But staying in your room with someone you like is enviable enough of an activity - just be sure to record your impressions in the diary to mark your stay.
Visit Chimes Spa Retreat