Hayley & James Baillie
GUEST OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2017
The Baillie Lodges are known for their secluded locations, understated luxury and immersive experiences. Behind the Baillie Lodge brand are hoteliers Hayley and James Baillie, who met on Heron Island at a dive festival and four sons later (Finn, Jude, Beau and Caz) have put Australian luxury lodging on the map through their properties Southern Ocean Lodge, Capella Lodge and Longitude 131°. We chatted to Hayley and James for their take on travel as a family and the new renovation at Longitude 131°.
You’ve recently reinvented Longitude 131°. We think it was pretty special before, what were the key changes with this renovation?
We were so lucky to have the opportunity to bring Longitude 131° at Uluru-Kata Tjuta into the Baillie Lodges portfolio of luxury lodges. For us it was the Australian outback connection we were looking for. And Longitude 131° was a luxury design icon since it was originally designed by Sydney-based architect Phillip Cox and built in 2000.
We were determined that any changes to the property were sympathetic with the original. The first refurbishment in 2015 introduced balconies to the guest tents, and Indigenous artworks to the property, which we felt had been an obvious omission. This most recent renovation has brought the property to the international luxury standards of award-winning sister property Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island.
Key elements in this build include the new premium Dune Pavilion, the only accommodation to feature panoramic views of both World Heritage-listed natural icons Uluru and Kata Tjuta. There are also new guest lounging areas, the Dune Top with plunge pool, help-yourself bar and intimate dining alcoves, and the swimming pool has been re-modelled with contemporary daybeds, shelters and another help-yourself bar for handy refreshments throughout the day, but especially perfect for afternoon cocktails.
The guest hub, the Dune House has also had an overhaul, and now features a dramatic entrance via the red sand dunes, reception area, restaurant and convivial bar. Lastly we’ve introduced a dedicated spa to the offering, Spa Kinara (meaning moon in Indigenous Pitjantjara) which features two retreats or ‘wiltja’ and a menu of treatments using Indigenous and native beauty ingredients.
Why do you think it’s so important to teach travellers about Australian Indigenous culture?
An opportunity to learn about Australia’s Indigenous culture offers visitors a deeper understanding of – and connection to - the landscape and its heritage. For Longitude 131° guests from both Australia and overseas we see that the Indigenous creation stories told by our guides really bring the experience of the landscape to life. This cultural understanding, experienced in situ, is a rare opportunity for guest that also creates lasting, happy memories of the destination.
The Baillie Lodges are in some of the most remote and beautiful places in Australia and offer guests an immersive experience to that region. Are there other places around Australia that are on the horizon for Baillie Lodges?
We’re passionate about Australia and in particular about its incredible landscape – we’ve been lucky to travel, to some very remote, special locations and we’re always looking at the ways a luxury lodge could fit with, and showcase the environment. We’re very aware that clever, sustainable design can allow guests to experience a destination without treading too heavily on it. Preserving the natural landscapes in which we operate in turn preserves our luxury lodges – it’s an ongoing relationship.
It seems the Baillie’s are always travelling the world far and wide. Has there been anywhere in particular that has been a stand out recently?
It’s true we are very keen travellers and it’s not only a great pleasure but a great opportunity to learn, be inspired and come up with new ideas. I’d say our recent trip diving in the Raja Ampat in West Papua with our sons and a group of close friends was a standout, while trips to Shanghai are a favourite for Hayley, and for me New York is always an inspiration. We’re really trying to instill in our children that the world is a very small place, and that there’s lots to explore.
Has there been a recent hotel or lodge stay abroad that has really resonated with you as a guest? Is there a hotel brand that just always gets it right in your opinion?
Aman Tokyo and Amansara are recent highlights in our lodge stays overseas. The Aman resorts are our go-to for luxury lodges as the properties are always in incredible destinations, either in cities or in natural landscapes. The standout for us at Aman is the attention to detail from the personal service to design, dining and spa.
You travel often as a family. How important is it to travel with kids?
Travel is really a key part of who we are as a family and especially as we lead quite busy lives, as the boys grow up family holidays provide an ideal occasion to spend time together, and share very positive, special experience that we know will be the foundation for us as a family and for our sons as they move forward in the world.
Are there any places you recommend to travel with kids?
We’d always suggest nature-based experiences first up for kids – highlights for us have been the Great Barrier Reef off Lizard Island for my 50th birthday recently, as well as Lord Howe Island which is a long-time, multi-generational family favourite. City experiences are also important of course and we will take the boys to New York this summer as they’re a great age to take it all in.
Have there been any travel disasters?
Hayley’s ‘first world’ travel disaster was landing in New York for a cocktail party with Chris Hemsworth for Tourism Australia amid a city-closing snowstorm. The airline had lost her luggage, so Hayley led her own challenge to hit Fifth Avenue in the snow with just 60 minutes to come up with a new outfit, including shoes and hair-straightener. Needless to say, she made it!
What’s next for Baillie Lodges?
Having just relaunched Longitude 131° we are looking forward to seeing guests enjoy the new space. We’re also dedicated to maintaining and continuing to improve the guest experience at each of our lodges; Southern Ocean Lodge will turn 10 in March 2018, which is incredible in itself and demonstrates the beauty of timeless design, and we will also close Capella Lodge on Lord Howe mid-year for a refurbishment. On the horizon is Remarkable Lodge near Port Arthur on Tasmania’s east coast; another destination brimming with history and incredible natural experiences. Watch this space!
For further information on any of the Baillie Lodges please visit their website.