It began as a home. A protea farm, to be precise, with asparagus and free-range chickens. Thirty-five years ago Caves Road wasn’t the spine of southwest tourism that it is today. Distances were greater and conveniences, less. But the shape of the land was resonant, and it was that call that drew people to come and then to stay.
Owners of what was then the Birdwood Farm likely couldn’t have imagined the shift in global attention to their little piece of paradise: the evolution of 80 rustic acres into a property that halved in size but more than doubled its presence.
The Cape Lodge of today has changed a lot, and not at all.
The farmhouse has become a 22-room uber lodge, augmented by a stand-alone private residence that promises luxury equal to the stunning beauty of its natural surrounds. There is the pool. The spa treatments. The whisper-quiet plush of the in-house restaurant overlooking the Lodge’s own lake.
What hasn’t shifted is the insistence of Cape Lodge that this place still be seen as ‘home’ for the region’s residents.
So much of the beauty of the property that thrills visitors is endearingly familiar to the region’s locals. The trees, of course. The smells of the Australian bush and the calls of the black cockatoos. Kangaroos in their multitudes. And that feeling of turning off Caves Road and down a driveway promising wine, food, and good times.
When it comes to the latter, never has that statement been truer as summer settles in at Cape Lodge, bedding down with a series of cooking classes and long table lunches that give the outsider, an insider’s experience of people, place and produce.
Food, here, has a thumbprint. It’s all Dave Hohnen’s lamb, and Mario’s tomatoes. “The boys” from 34 Degrees and their Augusta whiting. Resident chef, Tony Howell, will help you get to know them all via a series of seafood themed classes and long table lunches that get you inside the flavour of the region. The fact you’ll pick up more than a tip or two during Chef Tone’s two-hour, pre-long-table-lunch demonstration is the proverbial icing.
Tours of the Lodge’s own vegetable and herb gardens are part and parcel. Culinary class intensity is an option for bootcamp-style, hands-on sessions that’ll tell you everything you ever needed to know about handling and cooking seafood. And the festive nature of food is explored in the Australia Day champagne and seafood barbecue.
Once closed to the general public, the mix of locals and visitors at the Cape Lodge restaurant come evening, and over the course of the Lodge’s summer series, creates a depth and complexity of experience. There is ease. Familiarity. The thrill of the new. The region’s residents experience their environment through shiny new eyes. The Lodge’s guests are given immediate and intimate introduction to a place, through its produce and people.
For Cape Lodge General Manager, Drew Bernhardt, this was the intent behind the creation of the summer series of events – to bring together locals and guests in a luxury small hotel that has deep roots in the region.
“People say they feel like they’ve gone somewhere else when they come here,” Drew muses, noting that combination of the foreign and the familiar. A holiday at home, without the airline taxes and custom queues.
And for visitors? Outside of the Lodge the world of the Margaret River region awaits. Day tours can be booked through the Lodge with a host of local tour operators as au fait with the region’s environmental secrets as Chef Tone is with the insides of the local produce. Discover the Cape to Cape track, canoe the Margaret River, or have a personal itinerary created just for you.
The beauty of Cape Lodge is found, not just in the luxury, but in the texture of its offerings. It’s easy to be exclusive. Expressing real character within the luxury is a commitment to thoughtful practice. It’s this aspect, as much as those shiny five-stars, that sets Cape Lodge apart.