The remote location is what sets Southern Ocean Lodge apart: It is perched above Hanson Bay on the southwest coast of Kangaroo Island, the last outpost between Australia and Antarctica. The island itself is referred to as the Galapagos of Australia, home to a host of endemic wildlife — koalas, wallabies, sea lions and, of course, kangaroos.
When we flew in for our stay, we were picked up at the Kingscote airport by two staff members from the lodge and drove for the next hour without passing another vehicle; we saw more kangaroos than cars! Arriving at the lodge is quite impressive. Two staff members open the doors and you are confronted by a wraparound screen of floor-to-ceiling glass with jaw-dropping, panoramic views of the Southern Ocean.
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The lodge is sleek and modern in design, with an open floor plan and a footprint that blends seamlessly into its surroundibgs. However, the thoughtful details and the fantastic team offering “first-name” service yield a warm, welcome-home feeling. Each of the 21 rooms and suites is cantilevered to ensure everyone has the same mind-blowing views of the ocean and rugged landscape.
All of the rooms lie down a long hall that descends from the main lobby, and are all named after shipwrecks that have occurred off the island.Rooms have bespoke contemporary furniture with design elements and artwork made by local artists that capture the essence of the island. We stayed in an Ocean Premium room, ideal for families with two good-sized bedrooms and a sunken living area. The fireplace is a welcome feature to enjoy on chilly evenings with a glass of Australian wine from the complimentary in-room bar, and the wraparound terrace with a daybed was perfect for curling up with a good book to soak in the mesmerizing views.
Southern Ocean Lodge has a two-night minimum. Children must be 10 and up to stay.
All meals and most drinks are included in the room rates. The food and wine were real highlights of our experience — most of the ingredients were proudly sourced from the surrounding area. Local artisanal snacks and drinks in the rooms are included too; you should never go thirsty or hungry.
After a day of exploring the great outdoors, guests enjoy relaxing in the great room by the suspended fireplace, watching the sunset with drinks from the open bar and house-made canapes. We loved the home-away-from-home ambience.
The walk-in wine cellar was a favorite for my husband and I. Sahil, the restaurant manager and sommelier, was so helpful in educating us on many of the fine Australian wines.
Families should take advantage of the complimentary bikes to explore the area. There are hardly any cars on the roads, so they’re perfect for riding — just remember that what goes down must come up. Leaving the lodge is a fun ride down a long, gradual hill, but we had to walk up that hill on the return.
In keeping with the goal of a minimal carbon imprint, the lodge chose not to build a full-size pool, but there is an infinity-edge plunge pool. There’s so much to do that we did not even miss having a pool. The spa has spectacular views and incorporates local products like lavender, honey and mineral salts into the treatments.
Many of the guided activities, called Signature Experiences, are included in the room rate. We booked the Wonders of KI experience to see the incredible and diverse landscapes of Kangaroo Island — this is a must-do! Stops include Admirals Arch (home to a fur seal colony), the Remarkable Rocks and Hansen Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. All of these are a photo-lover’s dream.
We also took the beautiful Coastal Clifftop Walk with one of the lodge’s many expert naturalists, who pointed out the local fauna and all the wildflowers that were blooming. The walk is moderate across an uneven trail out and back, and takes around an hour since you stop to take a photo about every 10 feet.
The Seal Bay experience involves a long, scenic ride to visit a sea lion colony. Our driver brought along a lovely picnic of homemade muffins, scones, coffee and hot chocolate. However, if you have seen sea lions in the wild, these fellows — though adorable — are no different. If you are short on time and have to choose, I would skip this experience. Note: Seal Bay is not open to the public and can only be visited with a guide.
We also did one Bespoke Experience, the Nocturnal Tour, which is at an additional cost but well worth it. It was wonderful walking a trail at night with Ranger Rick in the Hanson Bay Sanctuary and seeing the local animals at their most active, including the stars of the show: koalas. You can get reasonably close to these marsupials. You also visit the Sanctuary on the Wonders of KI tour and see the critters during the day; that is the time for photos.
One afternoon, we did the Kangaroos and Kanapes experience to see the hundreds of kangaroos grazing in an open pasture. This is very near the Lodge and is well worth the time, as you can get great photos and videos of the wildlife. Again, this is included in the room rate.
Although the lodge is a bit of a trek to reach, as with much in life, the journey is part of the adventure. For families truly seeking to escape and connect with nature in luxurious surroundings, Southern Ocean Lodge is hard to beat. It is one of those rare lifetime-memory-maker experiences.
Editor’s Note: Southern Ocean Lodge provided a media rate in order for us to review the property for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Sandy Pappas.
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