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Category - Southern Ocean Lodge

Southern Ocean Lodge is the ideal base for exploring the wilds of Kangaroo Island. Photography by Jeremy Simons.

The pavilions of Southern Ocean Lodge stretch along the sea cliffs as if they’re embracing the silver-green coastal scrub. Enormous waves with opulent whitecaps batter the shore and fill underground caves, making the foundations tremble. This is the Australian landscape at its most powerful and, in the true sense of the word, awesome.

It’s midwinter on Kangaroo Island, when tourists are few and scattered but when the island’s raw beauty is showcased spectacularly. On the quick 25-minute flight from Adelaide to Kingscote, the island’s largest town, we bump through the clouds until golf courses, farmsteads, emerald-green grazing land and wetlands are revealed below. It’s an additional hour’s drive to Southern Ocean Lodge in the south-west, where the landscape becomes considerably wilder, the forests denser and the cliffs dramatically vertiginous.

Australia’s third-largest island lies 112 kilometres south-west of Adelaide, across Investigator Strait — named after the ship of English explorer Matthew Flinders, who was the first European to discover it back in 1802. Kangaroo Island’s original Indigenous inhabitants, abandoning it about 2000 years before that, named it ‘Island of the Dead’. In the 19th century, the first white settlers were sealers and salt harvesters, clearing some of the land for farming. A century later, in 1919, the Flinders Chase National Park was established on the western end, conserving the bushland as a sanctuary for endangered species, some of which, such as koalas and platypuses, were introduced from the mainland and surrounding islands.

The island is now often referred to as ‘Australia’s Galapagos’ for the diversity of its wildlife and plant species and for its pristine coves. Anyone wanting to see kangaroos, wallabies and koalas in their native habitat won’t be disappointed. It’s teeming with roos while koalas prop, just out of reach, in the forks of eucalyptus trees. In winter, the first joeys appear, as well as platypuses, echidnas, Cape Barren geese, maritime birds, seals, wild pigs and Australia’s third-largest colony of sea lions.

When Southern Ocean Lodge opened in 2008, it brought a welcome touch of glamour to the remote island. The bold concept from James Baillie was sensitively designed by architect Max Pritchard. The resort has been repeatedly recognised in international hotel awards. It is arguably Australia’s most luxurious ‘basecamp’ for exploring the wild southern coast and its singular flora and fauna.

The lodge is situated on limestone cliffs overlooking Hanson Bay, a location that lies roughly between the island’s two major attractions — the Remarkable Rocks and the sea lion colony at Seal Bay. The architecture has been designed to bring the outside in, so that when guests arrive in the curvaceous Great Room, which serves as lounge, lobby and restaurant, the view of the coast is undisturbed through 180 degrees of floor-to-ceiling glass.

The 21 suites, all facing the ocean, run along a breezeway, culminating in the very sexy Osprey Pavilion, a private suite with sunken lounge and an exclusive vantage point along the coast. All the suites, other than the Osprey Pavilion, are named after the historic shipwrecks that regularly occurred in these dangerous waters.

While it’s tempting to stay around the fireplace and explore the carefully assembled wine cellar, the lodge encourages guests to get into nature, with a varied collection of daily bespoke experiences and tours with guides who know and love the terrain, as well as self-guided hikes and walks. Kangas & Kanapés is one of the most popular excursions, where guests can mingle with grazing kangaroos while sipping cocktails. A dawn visit to the sea lion colony is exhilarating, followed by a breakfast barbecue at nearby Bales Beach with chef Asher Blackford — his inventive menus for the lodge reflect the natural environment by using, wherever possible, intensely flavourful produce from South Australia and what can be foraged on the island. (“Good, honest food”, as he calls it.) Guests are greeted with homemade lamingtons when they arrive and chocolate koalas on turndown at night.

The synergy between the natural world outside and the lodge interior is carried through to the Southern Spa, which sits on a cliff at the end of a boardwalk. One of its signature treatments is a delightfully sticky Ligurian Honey and Almond Wrap, using honey from the Ligurian bees that inhabit the island, the world’s only purebred and disease-free colony of these bees.

Digital detoxers will be pleased to note there are TVs only in selected suites, and the telephone reception is poor. But the view of the pounding ocean through the lodge’s panoramic windows is more cinematic than anything you’d find on the small screen.

Rates at Southern Ocean Lodge start at $1200 per person per night twin-share and include all dining, open bar with premium wines and spirits (Cellarmasters List additional), in-suite bar, signature experiences, island airport transfers and use of the comfortable new guest lounge at Kingscote airport.

Source: Vogue Australia