Southern Ocean Lodge is the Kangaroo Island Adventure You’ve Been Waiting For

Southern Ocean Lodge, SA

The newly reopened stay retains its style, spirit and that singular, stunning view.

I’m conflicted, feeling drawn outside by the biggest of skies but also inclined to stay put because rarely has a suite been so lovely. Mother Nature solves my dilemma. On my first day at Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, about a 40-minute flight from Adelaide, South Australia, the weather turns angry; wind and rain lash and the sea rages. The lodge’s experiences team cancels a guided clifftop walk.

In one of the two-bedroom Remarkable Suites, I turn my back on the cosy curved lounge and EcoSmart fireplace to instead sink into the king-sized bed. Through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows is a misted panoramic spectacle – brooding sky, wild foamy sea, waves rearing up to slam a rocky headland to the east.

In this weather, it’s not hard to imagine the island’s ghosts, which seem to imbue the lodge with a spiritual quality: the ancient megafauna that once roamed here (fossilised Pleistocene-era tracks have been found less than two hours east of this very site); the souls who were lost in dozens of shipwrecks on the craggy coastline during the 19th century; and the animals that perished in the island’s catastrophic 2020 bushfires, which also destroyed the beloved lodge. Evidence still remains of both that terrible fire’s ferocity and the subsequent rebuilding project: charred, skeletal remains of mallee trees poke up through swathes of new green coastal scrub and protective sheaths encircle small, fire-resistant natives planted en masse.

Southern Ocean Lodge, SA

While the design of the resurrected lodge is the same as the original – the iconic building curving down a slope towards the sea – the guestrooms are angled more towards that view. All have private outdoor terraces, some with plunge pools. It takes a huge effort to leave my bolthole for pre-dinner drinks in the Great Room, the lodge’s beating heart, a vast circular space of sofas and armchairs along with a central suspended fireplace. Some guests mingle near the long open bar; others sit and watch the light fade over the extraordinary vista while waiters glide around with trays of canapés.

Outside, the wind ruffles the turquoise surface of the small wet-edge pool as I sip a Kangaroo Island sparkling wine and eat too many profiteroles stuffed with mushroom mousse and crowned with a dab of tart lilly pilly jelly. The lodge’s menus draw heavily on local produce and indigenous ingredients: Kangaroo Island olive oil and olives; wattleseed in a sweet sponge; partridge from a local producer; saltbush in gnocchi and the seasoning for French fries. The fish dishes are particularly excellent, such as the barramundi from an island aquaculture project in a velouté sauce with fennel, miso-glazed kingfish and mulloway with mead butter.

Under-eating is not an option as lodge packages include all food and beverages. At breakfast there’s a buffet as well as an à la carte menu. Lunch and dinner are both three courses with recommended wines (a superior cellar list is available for an extra charge). The suites feature complimentary wines, spirits and snacks, including a plate of petite lamingtons on arrival.

An itinerary of experiences is also part of the tariff. On my second day, the lodge leads a Wonders of Kangaroo Island tour in the Flinders Chase National Park. We’re guided to the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and Admirals Arch for spectacular views and glimpses of fur seals, as well as a wander around the famous Remarkable Rocks. A mist enshrouds the land as we drive into the park but by the time we leave a couple of hours later, it has lifted and the sky is a brilliant blue.

In the minibus on the return journey, discussion centres on the competing demands on our time now the weather has cleared. Another guest, a Los Angeles businessman, has felt similar pangs to mine – to spend time in the suite or leave for an activity?

Southern Ocean Lodge, SA

“It’s an opportunity cost,” he says, outlining what’s on his list: a visit to the Seal Bay Conservation Park, home to an Australian sea lion colony; drinks at the end of the day to watch the sunset; and a nocturnal wildlife-spotting tour.

I decide to combine the two. After a brisk 30-minute hike to nearby Hanson Bay for an icy dip in the clear waters, I return to my room, make a gin and tonic and immerse myself in the warm plunge pool on the terrace. It’s time to look at that view again.

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SEE ALSO: 15 Incredible Things to Do on Kangaroo Island

Image credit: George Apostolidis

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