South Australia’s Southern Ocean Lodge is a luxurious hideaway tucked away in Kangaroo Island’s wilderness.
“Whatever happens, don’t run,” says Peter Davis as he lifts the cover of a wooden bee hive stacked with frames. “Don’t show any fear and don’t make sudden moves,” he says, carefully lifting out one of the frames.
I stare at his bare hands, fiddling nervously with my protective gloves and the netting on my head. Never having been stung before, and with few clues as to my tolerance towards bee stings, I hang back. Every space in the frame is covered with buzzing bees.
Bonding with the Bees is one of the experiences available to guests at Kangaroo Island’s new upmarket wilderness hideaway, the Southern Ocean Lodge.
Due to an piece of legislation passed in 1885 proclaiming the island as a Ligurian Bee Sanctuary, Kangaroo Island has the only colony of pure-bred Ligurian bees in the world.
It provides an opportunity for visitors to participate in a unique local experience.
Although the lodge owns 104 hectares of land in a wildlife corridor located between two national parks (Kelly Hill Caves and Flinders Chase), only one hectare has been cleared for the lodge. The rest of the land is under a heritage agreement limiting future development.
The design of the lodge is contemporary, yet blends well into the surrounding bush.
The lodge is designed with the environment in mind and environmentally sustainable initiatives include heat pump technology for energy efficient hot water.
The design maximises weather patterns and provides benefits such as flow-through ventilation and glazing to store natural heat.
Other initiatives include eco-smart fires fuelled by green energy, chemical-free waste water and rainwater tanks for most of the lodge’s water needs.
The main living area, known as The Great Room, stops newly arrived guests in their tracks with jaw-dropping views of the rugged Southern Ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows.
From the Great Room, a very long timber walkway leads to the 21 guest suites, all bravely named after shipwrecks and designed to maximise the views with sunken lounges, glass walls and outdoor terraces.
At the very end of the walkway, the top-of-the-range Osprey Pavilion with its stone bathtub and private plunge spa sits high above the scrub overlooking Hanson Bay.
Throughout the lodge, the attention to the detail is exceptional.
South Australian talent was employed where possible and includes architect Max Pritchard, Adelaide designer Khai Liew, who designed much of the furniture, and local stonemason Scott Wilson who built the feature limestone wall which runs through the interior.
Local artist Janine Mackintosh stitched thousands of tiny leaves collected from the island onto large canvases, which hang as eye-catching features on the dining room walls.
There are kangaroo-patterned cushions from fabric designed by Julie Patterson, Danish lounge furniture and American Oak bathtubs in some suites.
Little touches of in-room luxury include a welcome platter of liqueur-coated lamingtons, which are impossible to ignore, a minibar stocked with tempting sweet treats and a book on Australian shipwrecks.
Boardwalks meander from the lodge through the coastal scrub, where tammar wallabies and echidnas can be spotted, and down to the beach, which is a breeding area for hooded plovers and ospreys.
A stroll along one boardwalk leads to a bracing cliff top walk while another ends at the lodge’s Southern Spa, which offers an extensive menu of treatments using Li’Tya indigenous products.
After a relaxing spa treatment, I stroll to a platform on the edge of the cliff for a sunset cocktail.
On another evening, sunset comes with a different treat, Kangaroos and Kanapes, which are canapés and drinks on the edge of a paddock filled with grazing kangaroos in a nearby historic property.
The island’s farming community provides a rich variety of fresh local produce: marron (fresh water crayfish), fresh lobster, King George whiting, American River oysters and abalone; pure sheep’s milk yoghurt, milk-fed free-range lamb, fresh free-range eggs from hens with diets boosted by grains harvested and crushed on farm, olive oils and lavender to use in herbs, vinegars, ice cream and chocolate.
These ingredients are expertly utilised by head chef Tim Bourke to create new menus each day.
Examples could be an entrée of freshly shucked American River oysters with mignonette granita followed by a bisque of local marron sprinkled with snow peas, wood ear mushrooms and lime, then a main course of roasted locally farmed barramundi cooked with eggplant, almonds, raisins and black olives. And a selection of South Australian cheeses for dessert.
Meals are usually accompanied by a bottle of South Australian wine chosen from the walk-in cellar, which stocks a few labels from the island’s fledgling wineries. Also available 24 hours a day is a self-service bar stocked with a range of spirits, liqueurs and local beers.
More than one third of Kangaroo Island is covered in national or conservation parks.
It’s a wilderness abundant with koalas, western grey kangaroos, Tammar wallabies and other less obvious wildlife like brush-tail possums, pygmy possums and heath goannas.
The stunning coastline is home to colonies of Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals.
It’s Australia’s answer to the Galapagos Islands, where you can walk on the beach among the Australian sea lions or take a tour to the wind-sculpted Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
There a colony of fat fur seals can be spotted lazing on rocks. Another place worth visiting is the historic Cape du Couedic lighthouse.
The combination of scenery, wildlife and lodge luxury is a polished package for anyone after a true Australian wilderness experience.
For more things to do on the way to Kangaroo Island, watch:
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of South Australian Tourism Commission
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Southern Ocean Lodge is on Kangaroo Island’s south-west coast and a 50-minute drive from Kingscote Airport. Drive to Cape Jervis (two hours from Adelaide and board the vehicle ferry to Penneshaw.
Air South and Regional Express have regular daily flights from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island’s Kingscote Airport.
Southern Ocean Lodge phone (02) 9918 4355 for bookings.
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