Southern Ocean Lodge review, Kangaroo Island, South Australia: Weekend away

Our rating

5 out of 5

HIGHLIGHT

The first time you step out onto your private deck and take in that fabulous view. Amazing. The impact of that sweeping coastal panorama never lessens, no matter how long you stay here.

LOWLIGHT

Although understandable, the property's erratic Wi-Fi service can be annoying for anyone who needs to keep up in touch with the office.

THE PLACE

Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island.

THE LOCATION

The worldwide interest in Kangaroo Island, a self-contained little realm of farms, vineyards, hamlets and pristine wilderness, owes much to Southern Ocean Lodge. Since it opened in 2008, this sexy clifftop structure has been praised for its eco-friendly design, James Bond-style interiors, fabulous cuisine and, dare we say it, generous open bar. The lodge was recently named as one of the best 100 hotels and resorts in the world by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler – the only Australian property to make the list. As you step into the Great Room, a cathedral of light and space, it's easy to see why Southern Ocean Lodge turns people to jelly. There is something truly audacious about the design of the building, which is said to ripple like an ocean wave along the unblemished limestone cliffs above Hanson Bay. The lodge is the ideal base from which to explore the island's major attractions, such as Seal Bay and Remarkable Rocks, but many guests will struggle to leave its tranquil embrace.

THE SPACE

Designed by South Australian architect Max Pritchard, in association with owners James and Hayley Baillie, Southern Ocean Lodge is at once theatrical and highly sensitive to its wilderness location. The property is divided into three distinct parts: the main lodge area, including the Great Room, dining room and open bar; the Southern Spa and an accommodation wing. Access to all 21 suites is via a long, sloping walkway – each room enjoys sweeping ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows. The building is perched on limestone cliffs above Hanson Bay and, thanks to its low profile, seems to melt into the dramatic coastal scenery. Recycled timbers and hand-cut limestone have been used extensively. The furnishings are bold and contemporary, with specially commissioned pieces of glassware, furniture and ceramics on display. There are several interesting artworks throughout the building, including impressive leaf mandalas created by local artist Janine Mackintosh. 

The building is perched on limestone cliffs above Hanson Bay and seems to melt into the dramatic coastal scenery.

THE ROOM

The Loch Vennachar Suite, named after an ill-fated British clipper which came to grief on Kangaroo Island in 1905, is ridiculously large for a single person, with an enormous lounge area, galley kitchen, huge master bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and a private outdoor deck, complete with hot tub. In fact, the curved banquette was long enough to accommodate the entire Wallabies rugby team. Apart from its sheer size, there are some clever touches, such as the electric blinds, the American oak bathtub and space-age fireplace fed by odourless methylated spirits. Throw in underfloor heating, cable TV and a downy king-size bed and the picture is complete.

THE FOOD

Kangaroo Island has a small but intensely creative artisan food scene and the chefs at Southern Ocean Lodge are keen to use as much local produce as possible. Executive chef Jack Ingram, an Englishman who previously worked at Vue du Monde in Melbourne, is collaborating with several small island producers, buying herbs and lettuce, sheep's milk cheeses, marron, free range eggs, oysters, honey and even farmed barramundi – the barramundi and lettuce come from the local high school. Guests who are particularly interested in the distinct island produce can join a small group Epicurean Adventure around the island. The hosted tour, which is limited to four people, includes visits to farms, apiaries, cheese dairies and wineries. In 2016, the lodge is offering an exclusive KI Food Safari, led by food legend Maggie Beer, from August 20 to 27; guests enjoy winery lunches, cooking demonstrations, sampling local produce, sunset drinks and other food-related activities. Despite the location, eating at the restaurant is highly civilised affair, especially in the evening when Ingram really cuts loose with some spectacular dishes, including wagyu bresaola with sourdough, apple and onion sauce and free range pork, served with salt-baked celeriac and dates. The extensive wine list has a good representation of Australian, European and, of course, Kangaroo Island vintages. Breakfast and lunch are served in the airy dining room, which enjoys spectacular views of Hanson Bay.

STEPPING OUT

The lodge is perched on the southern coast of Kangaroo Island and adjacent to the Flinders Chase National Park, which means that you are a long way from the bright lights, such as they are, of the island's two urban centres, Kingscote​ and Penneshaw​. Although the property does offer excellent beach and clifftop walks, most guests will want to sign up for one of the many signature island tours, such as the Wonders of KI, a half-day adventure visiting Cape du Couedic​ lighthouse, Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. The more adventurous can choose from a wide range of guided activities. These range from quad biking safaris to beach fishing on Hanson Bay, adventure hikes, nocturnal tours of Hanson Bay Sanctuary and an epicurean expedition, visiting a marron farm, local apiary, an artisan cheese factory and several wineries.

THE VERDICT

Southern Ocean Lodge wrote the book in terms of luxe wilderness in Australia, so expectations are very high. The resort does not disappoint. Despite its obvious glamour and exclusivity, the property manages to retain an unstuffy, youthful vibe – but with the correct formalities when required.

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ESSENTIALS

Doubles start from $2,200 a night; this tariff includes all dining, an open bar, signature experiences and island airport transfers. Southern Ocean Lodge, Hanson Bay Road, Kingscote, South Australia. Phone (08) 8559 7347, see southernoceanlodge.com.au. The writer stayed as a guest of Baillie Lodges and Regional Express.

See also: Secret's out on spectacular Aussie coastal playground