Quentin Long ventures inside one of the Signature resorts of Australia, Southern Ocean Lodge.
You’ve seen the pictures – that sweeping panorama of rugged coastline, sparkling turquoise water, a sexy fireplace that descends from the roof and a gorgeous lounge from which to take it all in. This is, of course, one of the Great Australian Luxury Lodges: Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island.
The brainchild of one of Australia’s great hoteliers, James Baille and his wife Hayley, Southern Ocean Lodge and qualia both pioneered the new wave of uber-luxury resorts in Australia from about 2007.
The main lodge area, the Great Room is a truly gorgeous space with loads of sunlight and beautiful fresh finishes that deliver a sensational view. Throughout your stay, just sitting in front of the windows in one of the big lounge chairs with a drink from the self-service bar is the ultimate in what you would come to SOL for – total relaxation. The Restaurant sits in the same open space, but up a level with similar gorgeous views.
The art collection across the entire lodge is beautiful and features the best local artists. My pick would be the leaf art by Janine Mackintosh but it is the Kangaroo by Indiana James that confronts you on arrival. The massive roo is made from iron from discraed farm machinery and greets all. He’s a clever roo. But it’s Janine’s fine five pieces, commissioned by the Lodge, that are the masterpieces to me. The simple collation of tiny individual leaves into a work is mesmerising. The works line the wall in the restaurant and form a superb gallery.
Throughout my stay, the food is almost always beautiful – except my first meal. The curry was perfect but the rice had been too long in its mould so the rice at the centre had become a hard inedible ball. This was the only aberration in food quality with loads of highlights – a warm tomato consommé with island-grown lemongrass sorbet was an amuse-bouche that wowed. Another observation is portion size. Many guests, mostly male, would order a “double portion” for their meals. If I was not on doctor’s orders to lose weight I would have followed suit.
SOL’s greatest offering is its immersion in the wilderness. The half day Exceptional Kangaroo Island tour lives up to its name. It is well worth having the guys take you out for a full day touring to make the most of the island to get a handle on the amazing wildlife and history of the island. The seals at Seal Bay, the koalas, the NZ fur seals at Cape de Coudic and the list goes on. However, it is the commentary and insight into the flora and fauna that makes it amazing.
I did take the quad bikes for a spin. There were three other guests on the tour – all blokes. Led by Jen, we ripped it up. I was surprised and heartened that we were allowed, even encouraged by Jen to “have some fun on this part of the track” and to ride it like we wanted. We burned up to 80km/hr over some parts of the fire trail – exhilarating stuff.
Jen also guided me on the walk to Cape Young Husband. Highlighting the flora around us like the yaccas or Tate’s Grass Trees that grow incredibly slowly and even supplied pyrotechnicians with red dye for their fireworks until their harvesting was halted.
You would have seen the photos of the lodge which hugs the landscape. The Great Room and Restaurant form, the main body of the lodge at the top of the structure and the rooms follow the landscape down. It makes for a very long walkway (250m to the bottom, to be precise) and for some guests I believe it could be a little annoying getting around. Thankfully, it was a relatively short walk to my beautiful room. The suite was split across two rooms with a sunken lounge area to make the most of the amazing views, a walk-in wardrobe and spacious bathroom.
The mini bar is all included in the room tariff and is stocked with some great finds. Bottle of Crozer anyone? Efficient mood lighting makes evenings a chic and beautiful affair.
The only downside to the room itself is the positioning of the bed, which backs up against a wall shared with the hallway outside. The sound of guests and staff walking up and down the hallway (particularly a heavily laden bell-hop trolley) did make a good lie in difficult.
The only thing missing at SOL is a decent pool. There is a tiny plunge pool on the balcony of the Great Room and the beach is a good 15-minute walk away.
But to be fair, this is a totally indulgent relaxing stay. The experience is outstanding and gives over-worked and over-tired couples an amazing recharge.
Southern Ocean Lodge
08 8559 7347