Head south from Adelaide and you’ll find a secret coastline dotted with secluded coves surrounded by sheer sea cliffs and lush hillside meadows.
In winter the rugged landscape and brooding weather of the Fleurieu Peninsula recalls a remote stretch of the Scottish coastline, while the sparkling aquamarine waters and hidden beaches turn it into a faux Mediterranean playground when the sun comes out.
Fleurieu’s simple wild solitude
The most spectacular of these gorgeous private beaches is an undiscovered coastal paradise that is utterly unique. Reached via a steep track dug into the side of a cliff, Naiko Retreat brings together luxury and solitude like few places in the world.
Nearby Cape Jervis is the jumping off point for the long distance Heysen Trail that winds all the way to the Flinders Ranges, while four shorter walking tracks created by the owners highlight the region’s sublime natural beauty and fascinating human history.
Tackle any of the tracks and it’s easy to see Naiko’s appeal. You can cross vast meadows that sparkle in the sunlight, and pass through dappled tunnels of native scrub filled with wattles covered in bright yellow pom poms and huge spiked grass trees lifted from the pages of a Dr Seuss book.
Bounded by Conservation Parks on two sides, the property is rich in wildlife; mobs of roos bound along ridgelines while wedge-tailed eagles circle overhead, and the high-pitched squeal of yellow tailed black cockatoos cuts through the low rumble of surf that provides a constant soundtrack.
Look across the Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island and you might spot dolphins, seals or even southern right whales playing in the surf just off the coast.
In fact, just about the only thing you won’t see is other people. That’s because anyone who rents this secluded retreat has the entire 2000 acre property all to themselves.
It wasn’t always this way; one walk passes an abandoned silver mine and the nearby ghost town that once had its own hotel, school and coach station servicing 600 people.
Naiko: secluded environmentally conscious luxury
While past inhabitants sought to extract wealth from this property, Naiko Retreat exists in sympathy with the surrounding landscape. That’s most obvious in the stylish three-bedroom house with a distinctive wave-like design that allows the winds coming in off the Southern Ocean to pass straight over it.
Designed by Max Pritchard (who was also responsible for Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge), the off-grid building’s east west alignment allows 24 solar panels to capture as much sunlight as possible, and six rainwater tanks are built discreetly into the slope behind.
The interior is just as stylish and proves you don’t need to sacrifice comfort for eco credentials. Polished concrete floors lead to a large open kitchen and common area filled with modern furnishings, including French foam sofas so inviting that getting out of them is one of the lodge’s biggest challenges.
They’re centred around a combustion heater that provides the only heating source needed in this thoughtfully designed dwelling, which also stays cool over the warmer months thanks to its use of passive thermal principles.
Each of the three identical bedrooms looks out over the Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island, and the floor- to-ceiling double glazed windows that help reduce energy consumption are just as effective in blocking out the fiercest storms. They can also open to fill the rooms with the calming sound of waves rushing in to the small beach below, so that even in bed you’re never far from the surrounding landscape.
The best views of the Backstairs Passage
Sink into one of the deep freestanding bathtubs to gaze out over the water to Kangaroo Island, where the tiny matchstick of a lighthouse sticking out above the limestone cliffs may be the only evidence of other humans you’ll see throughout your entire stay.
The widescreen views are just as spectacular from the large deck outside, and guests have exclusive use of the private beach directly below, where marbled surf slides over slabs of granite before the sandy bottom gives way to teal, turquoise and sapphire blue in the depths of the Backstairs Passage.
Futuro: secret design icon on the edge of the Fleurieu
On the other side of the cove sits a building every bit as distinctive as the main dwelling. Originally designed as a ski lodge, the aptly named Futuro looks exactly like a flying saucer from a fifties sci-fi movie, right down to the elliptical portholes and fold-down stairs.
If aliens did land here one could hardly blame them for deciding to stay permanently, but instead of extra-terrestrial visitors this unique structure serves as a wellness hub for relaxing massage therapies.
All the luxury services
Massages are just one of the optional extras guests can take advantage of, along with yoga classes on the beach and a private chef to cater or provide cooking classes. There’s even an astronomer who can lead guests on a cosmic journey through the night skies that are filled with uncountable stars thanks to a complete absence of light pollution.
But if that sounds like too much work, you can just relax and enjoy the sublime natural beauty safe in the knowledge there’s not a soul around for miles. That’s the beauty of Naiko Retreat, an oasis of tranquillity where you can commune with nature, connect with friends, and escape from the outside world while staying in the lap of luxury.