Destination Down Under: Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge
Kangaroo Island is not only Australia’s premier wildlife destination, but also a luxurious gastronomic paradise with an intimate spa.
Where to Stay
There’s a reason Southern Ocean Lodge is ranked the fourth best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure and tenth best by Condé Nast Traveler. A winding driveway leading up to reception builds anticipation that is matched when you’re greeted by name and step inside the expansive lobby with breathtaking views of the coastline for a check-in welcome of smoked salmon finger sandwiches and local sparkling wine.
The 21 rooms are all named after local shipwrecks and each has a sweeping ocean view. The shower does not have a door or curtain, and several of the rooms have tubs, so you can simply soak and listen to the wildlife and crashing waves. Feel free to walk around in your birthday suit. Even with the floor-to-ceiling windows, you’re so isolated from the world that nobody could see you.
Lamingtons (sponge cake covered in chocolate and desiccated coconut) and anzac biscuits made with local Ligurian honey greet you in your room. The room rate includes everything in your minibar, all meals and your choice of activities each day, so you truly feel at home.
Where to Spa
Take a short stroll down a wooden boardwalk through the bush to the edge of the earth at The Southern Spa. There’s no reception desk to greet you, but rather a comfortable lounge with yulu antioxidant tea (a blend of Australian superfruits) and an array of products from Li’tya, an indigenous Australian line of natural skincare products with a spiritual focus on Ya-idt’ midtung philosophy, medicines, and healing techniques.
Every treatment begins with a foot soak and aboriginal smoke ritual. Rest your feet in a tub of warm water with rosemary, eucalyptus, and juniper foraged from just outside as your inhale the aromas of burning lemon myrtle, paperbark, and eucalyptus.
There are just three treatment rooms and three therapists on staff, although at any given time it’s likely that you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Experience the “Untouched Horizons” for a serene yet revitalizing facial combined with hand and foot massage and masks. After a gentle cleansing with lillypilly, lemon myrtle, and rosehip oil, and a firm facial massage, two masks are applied – one to purify, then one to hydrate. As the ingredients penetrate your skin, both hands and feet are scrubbed, massaged, and moisturized. The facial finishes with a marine algae hydrating cream made with spirulina, Tasmanian kelp, macadamia oil, and mother of pearl. There are no extractions, and the facial focuses on nourishing your skin, so it’s gentle enough for even sensitive complexions.
Where to Dine
The restaurant at Southern Ocean Lodge does not have a name. It’s open for three meals a day but only for lodge guests. The talented kitchen will create separate menus for dietary restrictions and nearly everything is local. I tried a couple of items I’d never tasted before in my first meal – muntries, a native berry with apple-like flesh, and pigface, a foraged bush herb with plump leaves.
Nearly everything is local, from freshly caught fish to locally made cheese and yogurt from Island Pure Sheep Dairy. Plus, there is an array of different local honey, all produced by the purest straight of Ligurian bees in the world. The menu changes each day so you won’t get sick of eating here even if you stay a full week.
What to Do
Your room rate includes an array of wildlife and nature experiences around the island. Wake up early for a guided morning hike on the edge of cliff tops or through bushlands and plains. Or, don’t set your alarm, sleep in and roll out of bed to a plentiful breakfast on the balcony. Most evenings, there is a “kangas and kanapes” excursion at sunset where you can mingle with kangaroos and wallabies while sipping local Aussie wines, nibbling freshly prepared canapés, and chatting with other lodge guests.
The hotel has an open bar stocked with local brews so cocktails on the terrace is always an option. If you want to learn more about what you’re imbibing, stop by Kangaroo Island Spirits on your way in from the airport for a taste of local gin, vodka, and liqueurs. Don’t miss the affogato of drunken honeycomb ice cream topped with walnut honey liqueur and a shot of espresso that is guaranteed to wake you up. If wine is more your style, the best winery on the island is The Islander Estate, run by French winemaker Jacques Lurton. Call ahead for an appointment to taste his wines that blend Australian terroir with European winemaking technique.
The Remarkable Rocks at Flinders Chase National Park are worth a visit, and you’ll see them one of the complimentary tours offered by the lodge.
You’ll hop on a 35-minute Regional Express flight from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island’s Kingscote Airport that runs several times a day. There is also a SeaLink ferry that operates daily. The South Australia Tourism Commission recommends a three-day minimum stay to enjoy all of the island’s major highlights.
Australia has the highest melanoma rate in the world, alongside neighboring New Zealand, due to the powerful sun and reduced ozone layer. Protect yourself by bringing a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and sunscreen that you reapply liberally.