At Baillie Lodges, we often interview staff for the blog to provide a behind-the-scenes insight into each lodge. For the first time we have chosen to interview a guest for a personal account of a stay at Baillie Lodges.
A great friend of Baillie Lodges, Bronwyn regularly travels to Southern Ocean Lodge with her husband Neil, family or friends and occasionally on a solo retreat. We interviewed Bronwyn to find out what keeps her coming back, her most cherished memories at the lodges and her personal recommendations.
1. Bronwyn, you’ve stayed at Southern Ocean Lodge, several times over the past decade. Do you remember your first stay, and what you most loved about it?
It’s very easy to recall my first time at Southern Ocean Lodge. Neil and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and searched for somewhere special to go. We arrived on Kangaroo Island in an eight-seater light aircraft, so the adventure started when we arrived at the private departure terminal at Adelaide Airport. The drive to Southern Ocean Lodge was full of excitement and anticipation, it had been open for less than a year and we had already heard so much about it. We were not disappointed! Neil and I were impressed by the spectacular coastal location, the understated luxury and comfort across the lodge, the sensational food and wine, the exclusive private touring, and the caring, personalised service.
Earlier this year we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at Southern Ocean Lodge and noted that lots has positively changed. The lodge is so expertly maintained that it hasn’t appeared to age but only improve with purpose. The exclusive lounge at the new Kingscote Airport is a fine addition. However, the professionalism and thoughtful kindness of the entire team at the lodge hasn’t changed… I’m sure we will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary there next year.
2. What keeps you coming back to the lodge each year?
Knowing I can totally relax, rest and unwind. To be nurtured in a beautiful, isolated location is like medicine for me. I walk out of my front door in Adelaide and in less than three hours, I’m being welcomed through what seems to be the magic healing doors of the Great Room.
I love that I don’t have to worry about airport transfers, all taken care of by the team. Less than an hour into the journey I get excited when the vehicle turns off the main road and onto Hanson Bay Road. The dirt road, surrounded by the dense scrubland with its cathedral like canopy of trees is quite intense and mystical, until you arrive at a clearing and the sculptural entrance to the lodge is revealed. The long-sealed driveway through bushland gives no indication of the luxury, comfort and beauty that awaits.
Even as you’re greeted and walk along the lodge’s main entrance, the surprise is still not revealed. Nothing will ever beat the view when you walk through the doors into the Great Room… it takes my breath away every single time!
I also love that Southern Ocean Lodge is an all-inclusive lodge. I appreciate the focus on local Kangaroo Island produce and South Australian wine and that the lodge supports local farmers, producers and wineries; a genuine desire to look after their own. I love the open bar and the generous offerings included in the in-suite mini bar, especially the fresh lamingtons, South Australian cheeses, chocolates and fudge. I love that the signature experiences are always different depending on the weather and the guide, and I also love that I can’t get mobile reception on Kangaroo Island. I happily turn off my phone once onboard the flight and only use it as a camera whilst on the island.
I love the fact that Southern Ocean Lodge is furnished with art, sculptures, bespoke furniture, and printed fabrics that were made especially for the lodge by Kangaroo Island residents or artisans from South Australia. In guest suites all toiletries, furnishings, books and yummy treats are Kangaroo Island or South Australian-made, and if South Australia can’t provide it, only the best Australian-made products fill the gap.
There is so much to do on and off the property, but at the same time I don’t feel guilty if I do absolutely nothing except enjoy the luxury of the lodge, the spectacular views, the finely crafted food and delicious wine.
However, there is a secret ingredient; the Southern Ocean Lodge team. The people that care for you at the lodge are exceptional. We are welcomed like old friends and cared for like dear and valued family members. Everything is personalised and presented in a friendly but highly professional manner.
We love to bring family and friends to Southern Ocean Lodge knowing they will be in awe as they enter the Great Room and that they will finally understand why we keep coming back!
3. Of all the Signature Experiences on offer at Southern Ocean Lodge, which is your favourite?
The Wonders of KI. In just one morning you experience the most iconic Kangaroo Island landmarks; Remarkable Rocks and my favourite, Admirals Arch. I love the visit to Admirals Arch because it has so much to offer; the beautifully constructed Cape Du Couedic lighthouse, the village and the history that goes with it, the large colony of New Zealand fur seals that play in the rockpools just below the boardwalk, and the secret at the end of the boardwalk: the sensational Admirals Arch itself. My absolute favourite time to do this tour is in winter when the swell of the Southern Ocean is so powerful, waves are crashing against the rocks, the strong brisk winds bring tears to my eyes, engaging all my senses and happily refreshing them.
4. Do you have a Bespoke Experience you would recommend to first-time guests?
I would recommend the Kelly Hill Cave walk back to the lodge – to understand the diversity of the native vegetation, experience totally different micro climates, see elevated views across the island, to appreciate the smells and sounds of the bush and enjoy the solitude! Neil and our teenage sons also love the quad bikes and kayaking.
On our very first stay we went late afternoon fishing at Vivonne Bay Jetty. The water was so clear and calm that we watched as the fish took the bait. We sat on the jetty with a young honeymoon couple, sipping wine, enjoying canapés and catching fish and not another soul around. The guide told us that Vivonne Bay had been named “1989’s Best Beach in Australia” and there we were, all alone. How lucky we were!
5. Do you have a favourite treatment in the Southern Spa?
I adore the Southern Karmal signature facial which includes a fabulous head and hand massage. My spa journey begins on my solitary walk along the boardwalk to the Southern Spa. The clifftop views and the vast ocean moving below set the scene. I know that once I enter the spa, I am going to be warm, safe, nurtured and spoilt. I’ve never walked (actually floated!) away disappointed.
6. What’s your favourite pastime while staying at the Lodge?
Our preferred time to visit the Lodge is in winter (I have gone every year for my birthday for the past nine years!) Unless we are travelling with family or friends, our favourite past time is to relax, either reading, chatting or curled up dozing with a blanket in the Great Room. I especially enjoy this space if a thunderstorm is rolling in over the Southern Ocean, even better when the sea is raging and the waves are crashing on the cliff and beach below. The lodge inside is so safe and warm, a total contrast to what is happening in nature outside. At this time of year it is also the best place to spot the occasional whale.
7. You have also been a guest at our other Baillie Lodges properties, how was your time at Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island?
We celebrated Neil’s 60th at Capella with our family almost nine years ago. We found Lord Howe stunningly beautiful and fascinating with its unique flora and fauna. We loved its customs – getting around by bikes and golf carts, placing a picnic rug on a table to reserve it for later. Capella Lodge was more casual and relaxed than what we had experienced at Southern Ocean Lodge. We were well looked after, found plenty to do both individually and as a group, and loved the quirkiness of the island.
8. And last year you travelled to Longitude 131˚, Uluru-Kata Tjuta, what did you think of the Red Centre?
Last year was my second stay at Longitude 131˚. I travelled with a Japanese friend who was so excited and overwhelmed by the whole experience that she spent her time either smiling ear to ear or crying tears of happiness and joy. Since our first stay, the Baillies have certainly waved their magic wand! When I got home from Longitude 131˚ last year, I said to Neil: visiting Uluru and Kata-Tjuta is always special, but now Longitude 131˚ is the destination!
Longitude 131˚ has the best location at Yulara. The lodge is stunning, the relaxed décor sits well with the red earth landscape. I love how the tent balcony is transformed into an outdoor bedroom complete with swag and Eco-smart fire, all expertly set up while guests are at dinner. There is nothing better than to feel the cool outback air, to smell the bush and gaze up at the millions of stars whilst cocooned in a warm swag with the universe above. But the absolute hero of the lodge is the Dune Top bar and dining area where you can see both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. The night I turn 60 this year, I will be enjoying a private dinner at the Dune Top.
I was raised in Alice Springs and spent a lot of time at the rock as a child as my dad was a bush pilot. What Baillie Lodges have achieved at Longitude 131˚ is worthy of this impressive and spiritual place.
Thinking of her time spent with Baillie Lodges over the past decade, Bronwyn says:
Neil and I have become friends with so many people from all over the world while staying at the lodges, and still keep in touch with a couple of friends even after several years. The open, friendly and relaxed atmosphere seems to place everyone on the same ground. We have found if we or other guests wish to remain private, that’s respected, but more often than not, guests start talking on tour and before you know it, we are chatting away like good friends.
We have also met some amazing individuals amongst the staff. There have been so many souls that have shown me kindness and friendship over the years. I would like to applaud Lucky and Angelique from Southern Ocean Lodge and Caroline from Longitude 131˚ who are super humans and know exactly how to create the perfect holiday for their guests!