With nine properties carving their own niche for what ‘Australian luxury’ means, the story of Spicers Retreats continues to spread.
What began as a cluster of regional escapes in south-east Queensland has become a lifestyle brand for thousands of people who have discovered its mix of understated elegance, fine dining and casual, rural sophistication. And now, you can add ‘urban chic’ to the mix with the recent opening of Spicers Potts Point in the heart of Sydney’s premier dining and entertainment district.
It’s the energy, creativity and passion of owner Jude Turner (pictured above) that continues to drive and expand this unique portfolio of hotels and what they stand for.
Well Travelled spoke with Jude to find out more about her vision for Spicers.
When people think of Spicers Retreats, what do you want them to feel?
I hope they think of ‘different quality experiences in great locations with authentic service’ .
I want them to feel cared for, looked after, excited and relaxed!
The luxury market is a growing but competitive one, what is the uniqueness of the Spicers brand in this space?
Spicers is a growing group of different high quality and authentic experiences where our guests feel cared for in “relaxed luxury”.
Each destination is unique and appropriately designed to provide the best experience in its location. We’re more about experiencing the natural environment without having to rough it. Our luxury is green, not gold.
The opening of Spicers Potts Point (Sydney) must have felt like a great personal achievement given the scale of the restoration, the heritage issues to consider and the final result. What are you most proud of in completing this incredible project?
A project like this is definitely a team achievement. We’re all very proud that we’ve kept the integrity of the building but created a contemporary welcoming hotel to experience Sydney. We feel we’ve brought the essence of the Spicers brand to the city.
- Escape to the hinterland
- A weekend at Spicers Clovelly Estate
- Cooking schools at Spicers Tamarind Retreat
Why did you choose this part of Sydney to open a boutique hotel?
It’s the perfect location to get a feel for living in Sydney. It’s just outside the chaos of the city centre; close to restaurants, coffee shops, cultural spaces and the beaches … and it’s what came on offer that I could afford!
What part of the process – from sourcing locations to the first guest check-in – do you enjoy most?
The vision of a new location excites me – designing the experience and coming up
with those few special pieces that sets that new project apart.
The original art and the suitability of the architecture to its location is very important to me. Then, seeing guests enjoy and experience the spaces as they were planned, makes me feel I got it right. It’s extremely rewarding.
The majority of Spicers Retreats are in lush regional areas, why is that?
Spicers started on country land we already owned. I genuinely wanted to share those locations and what ‘getting into the bush’ restores to the human spirit. I figured ‘they’d only come if they also had the promise of a comfortable bed and good food and wine’.
Our first property was Spicers Peak Lodge located on the Scenic Rim just two hours drive from Brisbane. There was nothing else at Spicers Peak and it wasn’t a popular destination for travel – I had to create the whole experience.
That proved to be challenging so I looked for destinations where I could still provide a Spicers experience, where people were already travelling for other reasons.
Superb culinary experiences appear to be a cornerstone of Spicers Retreats. Was that always an important part of your vision for the portfolio?
Given we had to create the whole experience at our first retreat, we quickly learned that great food and good wine is an important part of this. It’s remained part of the brand experience and has set us apart from other hotels.
In Sydney, we didn’t have the space and there are so many great restaurants close by. A city experience is eating out! We still have a great breakfast offering and bar snacks there for our guests and we can provide them for the meeting room.
Do you intend to grow the brand into other Australian States or even
Possibly in Australia but I don’t see Spicers overseas … not sure everyone else agrees though!
How would you define a typical guest experience – what sort of feedback do you get?
I would define it as ‘relaxed luxury in great locations’.
We receive great feedback. Our guests say things like “it feels like a home not a big hotel” and “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before – I’ll be back!”.
We do have a huge number of repeat and return guests which says it all.
What does the next decade look like for Spicers Retreats?
With Spicers Guesthouse in the Hunter (48 rooms) coming on line next year and other planned additions to existing properties, five cabins at Spicers Hidden Vale, six new rooms at Spicers Clovelly Estate and the six-day Scenic Rim trail progressing – we have plenty on our plate in the short term.
There’s always a search for more rooms and new experiences for our guests. We have a big events calendar planned at the properties also.
I’ve always said I’d like to add a beach property to the portfolio … and I’d like to get the chance to build one more from scratch rather than renovating others!
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