Kangaroo Island Luxury Retreat: Southern Ocean Lodge

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The multi-award-winning Southern Ocean Lodge is the master of the wow factor and sets the Australian benchmark for luxury…and environmental sustainability. It is well worth the splurge and makes a perfect base to explore Kangaroo Island, which is often nicknamed Australia’s Galapagos for its remarkable collection of Australian animals and birds.

Designed by Kangaroo Island local and Adelaide-based architect, Max Pritchard, Southern Ocean Lodge, a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, is an organic set of buildings with a bold, wave-shaped Grand Room as its epicentre, a spa facility perched in isolation and 21 spacious split-level suites cantilevered along the cliffs overlooking its namesake ocean that stretches all the way to Antarctica. The views of the ocean…whether it is calm and aquamarine or wild and choppy…dictate your experience at all times.

The Grand Room features a semi-circle of floor-to-ceiling windows that encourage guests to look outward and embrace the natural world. A suspended wood-burning steel fireplace is surrounded by natural-wood artisan furniture created by renowned Malaysian-born South Australian designer Khai Liew. The color palette reflects the sea and the sky: blues, greys and whites. A chalk white wall, crafted from local limestone by a local mason, meanders through the space. Many of the soft furnishings display prints from Australian visionary printmaker Florence Broadhurst, while the restaurant walls feature works by local artist Janine James patterned from leaves found on the property.

sol-web-6The buildings are sited on just one hectare of the property, the remaining 102 hectares have been donated back to the state in a heritage agreement to protect the land from further development. It is perfectly situation between Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Park offering unbridled access to some of Kangaroo Island’s best wilderness and wildlife.

The design aesthetic maximizes sunlight, airflow and natural heat. Boardwalks linking the Grand Room to the suites, spa, beach and a stargazing platform minimize the impact on local flora. The lodge also generates its own solar power, treats its own waste, and uses local products whenever possible. Each suite has a dedicated water tank.

The suites

The minimalist, very hip suites have more floor-to-ceiling windows to soak up those views. They feature heated sandblasted limestone floors, recycled spotted gum feature walls, bijou terraces with daybeds, sunken lounges with contemporary bespoke furnishings and artworks commissioned from local Kangaroo Island artisans. The locally made lavender-scented toiletries are a lovely touch.

There are walk-in robes, complimentary room bars, internet, music systems (with MP3 input), safe and telephone. Televisions are in selected suites only, so as not to distract you from the view. (They can also be brought in upon request.) King beds have goose down pillows.

sol-web-2If you don’t want a long walk, request one of the suites closest to the lodge when you book.

The Ocean Retreat suites offer free-standing tubs and over-sized rain showers as well as hand-cut limestone EcoSmart fire places.

For a complete indulgence, enjoy the 120 square-meter Osprey Pavilion with its hand-carved, egg-shaped limestone bath, huge rain shower, expansive living area, large deck with hot tub and 365 degree views, state-of-the-art audio-visual system and personal computer.


The experience

While the architectural marvels of Southern Ocean Lodge are nothing short of outstanding, the unpretentious charm and professionalism of each member of staff is equally appealing. In a very Australian down-to-earth manner, each of them introduces themselves, shakes hands and calls you by name for the rest of your stay. Nothing is too much trouble.

The food is also exceptional and the daily changing menus are one of the highlights of staying here. The inspired Mod Oz cuisine sashays around some of Kangaroo Island’s remarkable seafood, produce, meats, cheese and honey. And the wine list features a terrific selection of South Australian wines (and beers).sol-web-3
Dishes might include KI marron (freshwater crayfish), delicate King George whiting, risotto with local mushrooms, house-made gnocchi accented by salty KI samphire, rolled pork shoulder with local herbs, KI sheep’s milk manchego and haloumi.

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is like a manageable microcosm of Australia. So many visitors remark that they feel like they’re finally in Australia when they arrive on the island. Indeed, KI (as the locals call it) is one of Australia’s National Landscapes because of its stunning sandy beaches book-ended with dramatic ocean cliffs, dense forests, wetlands, desert dunes and farmland. You’ll see paddocks dotted with sheep and cattle, koalas sleeping in khaki-coloured eucalypts, plus the entire bizarre menagerie of Aussie animals from kangaroos and wallabies to echidnas and bandicoots. More than one-third of the Island is Conservation or National Park and it has five significant Wilderness Protection Areas. In short it is a walking wildlife sanctuary.


SOL-72Things to Do

Southern Ocean Lodge offers guests a personal Kangaroo Island experience and this is one of the many key reasons to visit the lodge. A signature itinerary of expertly guided island excursions is designed daily and included in the tariff, allowing guests to encounter abundant wildlife in a ‘zoo without fences’ and discover the Island’s unique natural attractions, often with exclusive access and always with a touch of luxe.

Some of the adventures include:
* Kangaroos and Kanapes sunset experience where you sip champagne as wallabies graze on the hillsides.
* Wonders of KI introduces you to the spectacular coastline, Cape Coudiac lighthouse, the Remarkable Rocks and a New Zealand fur seal colony
* Guided coastal cliff-top walk above Hanson Bay to learn about Kangaroo Island’s flora, fauna and coastal eco systems.
* Guided tour where you walk among the Australian sea lions on the beach at Seal Bay followed by afternoon tea at pretty Vivonne Bay.

Enjoy an Aboriginal-inspired Li’Tya spa treatment in one of the most exquisite spa settings in Australia. There are also special Kangaroo Island spa treatments featuring local salts, honey and lavender. The Southern Spa is perched high on a cliff top with spectacular views of the Southern Ocean. A steam room, chill-out lounge and spa cuisine program round out the offerings.

Be sure and make time to head off down to Little Hanson’s Bay, especially if it is warm and sunny. There are delightful pocket beaches for sunbathing and splashing in the shallows and interesting rock pools to explore. You are unlikely to see another soul.


What I loved:

The views, the access to deserted untouched beaches, the inspired food based on local specialties, and the understated but very professional Aussie service. The hotel’s ‘green’ credentials’ are also extremely impressive.

What could be improved:

It would be nice to have a larger pool than the very small communal plunge pool.

I visited on a gloriously warm weekend in the middle of winter (and even went swimming in the ocean). The furnishings are perfect for warm weather but I wondered whether they would be cozy enough if it was freezing cold and raining.

While it is wonderful that all of the artwork is local, some of it is less appealing than others.


The Southern Ocean Lodge is owned by James and Hayley Baillie, who also own Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island.  They were also the key founders of  Luxury Lodges of Australia, a collection of independent luxury lodges and camps offering unforgettable experiences in Australia’s most inspiring and extraordinary locations.

To get more information about all the adventures on Kangaroo Island and to see reviews of other Luxury Lodges of Australia, check out my Australia’s Best Places app.

Check out my review other members of Luxury Lodges of Australia: Saffire Freycinet and Wolgan Valley Resort.

My stay was courtesy of Southern Ocean Lodge.


Southern Ocean Lodge: Wild Australian Luxury

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Southern Ocean Lodge: Wild Australian Luxury -36.022447, 136.815491

Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.

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