LUXURY RESORTS: Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island,
Scene: Cliff top
Seen in the lobby: Those who love wilderness and style
Southern Ocean Lodge is one of the few of the new breed of Australian luxury eco-lodges to achieve truly international acclaim. Not long after after it opened in 2008 the New York Times was waxing lyrical and the lodge soon sizzled into the Conde Nast Traveller Hot List 2009 and picked up a number of other accolades along the way. Far be it for us to be followers - but in this case we agree - Southern Ocean Lodge is sublime.
The lodge offers its own special brand of Southern Comfort on the rugged coastline of South Australia's Kangaroo Island. The island has been called 'Australia's answer to the Galapagos' so what you are getting here is a little slice of luxury in a true natural wilderness. The majority of the island's roads, apart from of the two main highways are still dirt. The road to the lodge itself is no exception.
In the late afternoon sun the Kangaroo Island soil glows orange, my 4WD is satisfyingly dirty and behind me there is a cloud of dust. I drive through the white-walled entrance gates and there's still a kilometre or so of dirt road to go, a chain of bronze custom-cut through the lush green to get you to the Lodge.
Architect Max Pritchard, a Kangaroo Island local, has created a building that follows the natural cliff line and his design grabs me from the moment I arrive. If ever there was a reason to employ that much-over used term "Wow factor" -this is it. I walk through the huge and heavy double doors and the view takes my breath away. The whole of the Grand Room at the heart of the lodge is a half-moon of floor-to-ceiling glass and beyond it is the petrol blue of the Southern Ocean. I feel as if I am standing in the prow of a great liner with water and sky all around me.
Southern Ocean Lodge sits on a swathe of land between two National Parks and has been built with conservation and sustainability top of mind. The Lodge has brought super-luxury to sleepy Kangaroo Island without impinging on its natural beauty. Even from the air the lodge is barely visible; it is a just a slither of grey amongst the green. Raised, re-cycled boardwalks link the main building to the spa, the beach and a stargazing platform so there is minimum impact on the surrounding flora.
Twenty-one suites range down a covered walk reminiscent of an old style Australian country verandah with its louvered windows and water tanks. The interior design pays homage to the sea and the sky and the wild rugged coastal landscape. There are subtle coastal colours, recycled timbers and a chalk-white local limestone wall that undulates like a wave through the main building of the lodge. There is a real spirit of place too. Suites are named after ships wrecked on the rocks below and the work of Australian artists (the more local the better) is much in evidence.
South Australian Khai Liew has created many of the artisan timber furnishing, other furniture comes from Melbourne duo Pierre & Charlotte Julian. Many of the soft furnishings are Florence Broadhurst designs and well known Australian artist/designer Bruce Gould (of Mambo) has created some signature prints. Leafworks of local artist Janine James, patterned from leaves found on the property, grace the restaurant walls. My personal favourites are the little driftwood penguins and fish sculpted by another Kangaroo Island resident Indian James. Touches of Australiana are subtle; you see them in the kangaroo motive on the soft furnishing created by Julie Patterson of Cloth or the touch of Aussie humour in the Dinkum Dunny book in the bathrooms.
It is attention to detail that makes Southern Ocean Lodge special. The Lodge is the creation of Australian hoteliers
and Hayley Baillie
who brought us the beautiful Cappella Lodge on Lord Howe island off the New South Wales coast , which has recently undergone a $A1million+ glam-over under the guidance of architect Justin Long. Next on their agenda is the launch of Remarkable Lodge due to open on the Tasman Peninsula in 2011 . The signature
is to find a wild and spectacular setting and then to create a luxury lodge that actually enhances the environment. The Baillies put a little piece of their souls into each of their luxury resorts and it shows.
My suite ... has such a heart-stopping vistas that it is difficult to drag myself away from the windows
Visitors to the lodge exist in a bubble of comfort and style. The tariff is all-inclusive so good South Australian wine flows freely and local food magically seems to appear just when that bushwalk has really helped you work up an appetite.
The Luxury Travel Bible is particularly fond of the L'iTya treatments (based loosely on native aboriginal traditional) at the superb Southern Spa perched on the cliff top at the end of the boardwalk. This is one of our all time favourite spas worldwide - and we've been in a few. Showers have glass walls onto the ocean and the therapy rooms have such spectacular views down the coast that it's almost a crime to be lying face down.
My suite too has such a heart-stopping vistas that it is difficult to drag myself away from the windows but the staff are keen that I appreciate the great outdoors around me first hand and the complimentary tours offered by the lodge ensure I do so in style. Each day I am given a suggested itinerary, there is no pressure, but really what's on offer is too good to miss. There's the Kangaroos & Canapés sunset experience where you drink champagne as the wallabies come out to play or the lodge signature tour. Wonders of KI, introduces me to the spectacular coastline, Cape Coudiac lighthouse, the Remarkable Rocks and a unique fur seal colony. Other customised tours will take you to the sinkholes and caverns of Kelly Hill caves with their twisting stalactites and stalagmites or the crowds of sea lions of Seal Bay that lay around the beach like old men sunbathing.
Once I get a taste for the outdoors there is no stopping me. Each morning I walk the cliff path and look at the water crashing on the rocks. At breakfast on the terrace I see a school of dolphins frolicking in the foam below me. On the last evening after dinner I stroll along the boardwalk to gaze at the night through a high-powered telescope. But really you almost don't need a lens - the stars are somehow so bright here in the clear southern skies.
Kangaroo Island Top Five natural Experiences
More than one third of the island is Conservation areas or National Park - "Australia's Galapagos" indeed.
- The fairy penguins of Penneshaw
The hosts of sea lions at Seal Bay
The fur seals colony at Cape du Couedic.
The sand dunes of Vivonne Bay.
The kangaroos, koalas, echidnas in of Flinders Chase National Park.
|Check in: Hanson Bay, Kangaroo Island, via Kingscote SA 5223 (61) 8 8559 7347
|Ultimate Luxury: The Remarkable Suite with its American oak bath or the top Osprey Suite, with private plunge pool and panoramic views.
|Most Indulgent Moment: Kodo Rocks L'iTya treatment in the cliff-top spa
|Insider Secrets: Hayley Baillie's father, Australia entrepreneur and adventurer Dick Smith taught Hayley to love the great outdoors at an early age. He and his wife, Pip, love to visit the lodge.
|The Little Things: Complimentary gourmet sacks in your room, eco-freindly custom toiletries, staff who are genunely warm and helpful
|Junior Luxies: Welcome over 6. Children love the wildlife.
|Dress code: Smart casual evening, good quality bush gear for day
|Perfect luggage: Nothing showy - it is all about the nature
|Dent in the platinum:
|Luxury Resorts Link: www.southernoceanlodge.com.au
Hilary Doling 24/3/10
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