south australia

SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, KANGAROO ISLAND

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Stepping on to the tarmac at Adelaide Airport, boarding a twin propeller REX Airlines plane to Kingscote, I was starting to get a sense of how special and remote Kangaroo Island would be. The blink and you'll miss it flight, glided over the strait to an island of classic Australian terrain drenched in red sunlight.

After a scenic one hour drive in the Southern Ocean Lodge's transportation, I arrived to a breathtaking piece of architecture hidden on the south-west tip of Kangaroo Island.

Bags are whisked away and I'm seated in the Great Room chatting to the concierge about my itinerary for the next few days. Kangaroos, rock formations, fur seals, koalas: it's plain to see I could spend weeks on Kangaroo Island.

Southern Ocean Lodge's lounge and dining room flow effortlessly with a connecting open bar and wine cellar. The views from my morning plunge to my chair at dinner are absolutely commanding and all point south to the ocean.

The morning sun bathes me in light and breakfast is a magical time to be in the Great Room. A delicate spread of poached fruit, nuts, jams and the best-ever gluten free banana bread are laid out for starters. Also available is a menu of varying dishes such as truffled mushrooms and eggs or french toast that are cooked fresh to order.

Lunch, which I liked to take outside on the secluded clifftop patio, changed daily. A meat and pickle board freshened the palate, followed by a halloumi salad and a basil sorbet with fruit. The portions were just the right size and used produce from around the island.

Dinner takes on a grander vibe, without any stuffiness. Crispy skinned fillets of fish with a broccoli salad was cleansing and well seasoned. A main of duck done several ways melted in the mouth and a dessert of coconut and pineapple mousse, jelly and sorbet was tropically fresh.

On hand for all guests to use is an open bar and wine cellar. A strong collection of South Australian wines are on offer and guests are wholeheartedly encouraged to enjoy them. I found myself at the bar where I could get creative with locally made gin, syrups and freshly squeezed lime.

It doesn't really matter which room you pick at Southern Ocean Lodge; they're all fabulous. Each of the twenty-one suites overlook the sweeping coastline and fuse the island's wilderness with unassuming luxury. 

The naturally furnished rooms are filled with designer touches, from limestone floors to deep bath tubs. An open mini bar, heated floors, sunken lounge and outdoor daybed had me stretching out in deep relaxation.

As part of the Baillie Lodges collection, Southern Ocean Lodge has an inherent belief and practice in sustainability. Commercial scale solar systems are in place and 99% of the 102 hectares purchased by Baillie Lodges on Kangaroo Island has been preserved in its native state for future generations and the wildlife.

My first expedition at Southern Ocean Lodge, a guided clifftop walk, took my group along a tiny, slightly terrifying but utterly jaw-dropping track along the southern cliff of Kangaroo Island. After a short 1.5km stroll, stopping at points to investigate native herbs and Iguanas, we arrived at a huge drop overlooking giant, smooth rock formations.

At 5:30pm I hopped aboard the bus to the popular Kangas and Kanapes experience. Guided slowly and quietly by expert staff, I found myself almost face to face with the native Kangaroo Island Kangaroos. It was a treat to be so close to the creatures in their natural habitat while sipping wine as the sun went down.

On my last day I join the "Wonders of Kangaroo Island" tour. It's Southern Ocean Lodge's signature experience and it is a spectacular introduction to life on the island.

First up our guide takes us by 4WD to the fur seal colony at Admirals Arch. The ferocious marine mammals fight and play with each other while occasionally diving in to crashing waves. They're incredibly fast and it's a marvel to see their strength as they try to dominate one another.

Our next stop is at the Remarkable Rocks, where there is much debate over their history and age. Predicted to be millions of years old, the curved and sharp rock formations tower over me and catch the light as it moves over the deep crevices.

We finish at a reserve with an abundance of koalas. Gum trees are filled with the sleepy marsupials and I get within inches of a mother embracing her baby. It's an intimate moment and I can't help but let out an "aww".

Back at the lodge watching the sunset, wine glass in hand, I sigh in awe of the marvelous landscape. My sojourn at Southern Ocean Lodge has given me a taste of the wilderness and as one of the few true luxury lodges in Australia, it feels like a once in a lifetime experience.

 

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: Untouched luxury.
ROOM PICK: Any but the top of the line Osprey Pavilion has uninterrupted panoramic views.
WIFI: Yes, but very patchy. Leave your laptop at home!
RATES: Nightly rates start at $1100 per person, twin share.
IN ROOM: King bed, writing desk, open mini bar, walk in robe, deep bath tub with bath salts, Australian made body products, rain shower, double sinks, turn down service.
MINI BAR: Welcome lamingtons, cheese, nougat, cookies, chocolates, wine, soft drinks, juices.
GETTING THERE: REX Airlines flies from Adelaide Airport to Kingscote three times daily. Southern Ocean Lodge takes care of the rest. Alternatively there is a 45 minute ferry from the mainland to the island for self drive excursions. http://www.rex.com.au/

I stayed as a guest of Southern Ocean Lodge.
http://southernoceanlodge.com.au/
 

THE PLAYFORD, ADELAIDE

It's been some time since I've been to Adelaide and I had heard it was no longer the sleepy town of days gone by but a rapidly changing cosmopolitan hub for food and sport.

So, what's happening in the hotel scene? I was looking for something different from the same old regulars and stumbled upon AccorHotel's boutique outlet, M Gallery. Their Adelaide property, The Playford, sits right in the hub of Adelaide's tourism centre and is a short stroll to the casino, river and restaurants.

Checking in to a grand entrance, the decor is warm and classic, with sweeping staircases and chandeliers dotted around the lobby.

My room, on the first floor, has direct access to a private courtyard. Sitting in the sun with the water fountain trickling in the background and sampling local wine from the Barossa Valley, it was the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

The rooms are classic, with plush furniture and heavy curtains. It's comfortable and the tiled floors provide some cold respite from Adelaide's heat. The bathroom, which has a shower over bath, is decked out in granite and stocked with Appelles amenities.

The downstairs restaurant is the heartbeat of the hotel. Adjoining the lounge, it serves up one of the better buffet breakfasts going around. Artisinal yoghurt, interesting varieties of fruit and coconut water is on hand for the fussiest of health freaks. Those with traditional taste buds will be pleased to find bacon, mushrooms and eggs that are fresh and full of flavour.

Dinner is a top notch affair, with The Playford restaurant being renowned for its elegant modern cuisine. Kingfish sashimi is delicately balanced with a citrus dressing and fennel. Less successful is the gnocchi gorgonzola with shards of brittle that cuts the mouth and is overpoweringly sweet.

The standout comes at the end with a traditional line of desserts and a chocolate experience plate. Milk, white and dark chocolate is tempered perfectly and various casings are filled with mousse and coulis, bursting with indulgence. I'd visit again just for that dish.

A few minutes walk and I could be at the cricket or the Elton John concert, without the hassle of traffic or finding a taxi. And on a weekend away to South Australia, The Playford seems the right spot to shack up.

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: Classically grand.
WIFI: Yes, complimentary.
RATES: Starting from $155 AUD. Breakfast packages available.
CHILDREN: Yes.
IN-ROOM: Shower over bath tub, TV, writing desk, arm chairs, king bed.
 

I stayed as a guest of AccorHotels and The Playford.