Spilling down the side of a scrub-covered dune on the pristine southwest coast of Kangaroo Island, Southern Ocean Lodge is the ultimate base for exploring one of Australia’s most spectacular wilderness areas. A decade on from welcoming its first guests, the lodge – just 20 minutes drive from Flinders Chase National Park – remains among Australia’s top sustainable luxury retreats.
Managed by the same folks behind Uluru’s Longitude 131º, Southern Ocean Lodge’s 21 suites – all named for ships wrecked off the South Australian island – unfurl from the main lounge area towards the beach, each with its own uninterrupted ocean views. The entire property has a minimalist Scandi feel, with all five suite configurations decorated in navy and charcoal tones, with beautiful local sandstone bathrooms. There are no TVs (or need for them, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows), but you’ll find a solid selection of magazines to flick through in your personal sunken lounge or on your private outdoor terrace. You can expect to find a suitably chilled CD playing on the stereo (pretty much the only giveaway that the lodge was built in the noughties) when you check in, which is replaced by a perfectly ambient playlist while you’re at dinner.
If you’re a sucker for a free minibar, you might just die when you see this one – packed with gorgeous South Australian wines, cheese, and other gourmet snacks, and all of it’s complimentary! A pair of freshly-made lamingtons were sitting on the counter upon my arrival, and I may or may not have devoured all of the homemade Anzac biscuits in the jar.
The best bit? Aside from a few consumables, suites are single-use plastic free. The tea is loose-leaf, the bathroom amenities are contained in reusable custom-made pump-action containers, plastic-free cotton pads are presented in a glass jar, and even the sanitary bags are biodegradable!
The lodge has wooed some seriously big stars in its time (ahem, Brad Pitt), but the vibe is more relaxed than you may expect for the price point (from $1200 per person per night, which is actually incredibly reasonable given the price includes absolutely everything aside from spa treatments, vintage vino and private excursions). With most guests spending their days bouncing between complimentary excursions from fur seal viewing at Seal Bay to koala-spotting in Flinders Chase National Park, activewear is the standard dress code, and the free-flowing bar lends to a convivial mood in the main lounge/bar and dining area in the evenings.
It can’t be easy luring top-notch hospitality staff (especially 54 of them – that’s more than one to every guest when the joint if full) to such a remote location, but Southern Ocean seems to have managed it (the lodge has its own staff village tucked behind the lodge). Dining staff know the menus inside out (with all dietary requirements catered for), meals are delicious, activity guides know their stuff, and the bar staff know their cocktails.
Due to the lodge’s remote location, it makes sense that all meals are included. Using as much local produce as possible (including foraged edibles such as bush rosemary and lemon myrtle), the three-course lunch and dinner menus dreamed up by Executive Chef Asher Blackford (think: seared yellowtail kingfish followed by a duo of Coorong Angus beef, smoked potato, charred onion and Madeira jus and topped off with a shiso parfait and celery sorbet) are both wonderfully light and fabulously satisfying. If you’re not keen on any of the three options for each meal, you can order from a simple standard menu of burgers, pasta and the like. The wine list is all South Australian, with a pairing suggestion for each menu.
Come breakfast time, you can order a cooked breakfast or hit up the small but perfectly adequate continental spread (or, you know, both).
Commanding an entire wall of the main lounge area, the bar is dangerously well-stocked, with a bartender perennially on duty to whip up whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy. Be sure to try a G&T made with Kangaroo Island gin and garnished with local botanicals.
Naturally perfumed by a lavender steam room, the tiny three-room Southern Spa pavilion is connected to the main building by a wooden boardwalk. Formulated with Australian botanicals, heavenly-smelling Li’tya products are used in the ample menu of decadent rejuvenation and relaxation treatments. While there’s free access to the steam room, treatments are one of the few things that will have you reaching for your credit card during your stay.
Note there’s no swimming pool at the lodge (aside from the private plunge pools in the top-tier suites), but there’s a communal hot tub off the main lounge, and it’s just a five-minute walk to a swimming beach along a lovely wooden boardwalk.
Southern Ocean Lodge is a true eco-hotel. Aside from the single-use plastic-free situation (reusable bottles are available for guests who don’t bring their own), the lodge operates off the grid, harvests its own rainwater, and has worm farms to treat sewage. A third of its electricity is powered by solar, and co-manager John Hird tells me of plans to increase this to 100 per cent when the current generators reach the end of their lifecycle (in about six years). Naturally, the building was designed to be heated and cooled as efficiently as possible.
The property is located on Kangaroo Island’s southwest coast, 20 minutes drive from the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park and an hour’s drive from Kangaroo Island Airport. Airport transfers are included.
It’s a good few minutes walk down the ramp to suite 1, so if you expect to be making a lot of trips to the bar, request a higher-numbered room. Also, the controller for the in-room window blinds is on the bedside table – you’ll thank me for this later.
The important stuff
Free w-ifi? Yes
Breakfast included? Yes
Room service? There’s no menu, but if you ask nicely anything is possible here
Luggage storage? Yes
Child-friendly? Leave kids aged under 10 at home