It's hardly a dowager, having opened less than a decade and a half ago, but Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island, two hours or so by air from Sydney, is essentially the grande dame of Australian luxury lodges.
Its owners, James and Hayley Baillie, after all, took the luxury lodge formula perfected by the New Zealanders and transplanted the concept of deluxe small-scale accommodation into a breathtaking setting on the World Heritage-listed island.
Now the Baillies, who went on to launch the Kiwi-topping Southern Ocean Lodge on South Australia's Kangaroo Island, have lavished $4 million on a facelift for the old girl, including a spruce-up of Capella nine luxury suites each with unmatched, dreamy views of Lord Howe Island's spectacular twin peaks, Mount Gower and Lydbird.
Capella's premium Makambo Loft suite now features extensive outdoor decks and a new heated plunge pool. The Catalina suite has had a loft added and now features two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and an expanded deck includes outdoor lounging and a generously sized hot tub.
High quality hot-tubs have also been added to the lodge's Lagoon Lofts while Capella Spa has been repositioned and now delivers ocean views. Bruce Goold's offbeat vintage linocuts complement landscapes by local artist Ben Waters in the spa and the capacious guest lounge, and fabrics by Sarah Jordan reference the island's native kentia palms.
But the Baillies' signature fresh designer touches don't end there, with Capella's main public space now adorned with new dining chairs and tables by Tasmania designers Pierre + Charlotte along with lounges by Melbournre's Jardan. Laid-back luxury, par excellence, and Howe.
The writer was a guest of Baillie Lodges and Destination NSW.