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Kangaroo Island, AustraliaJanuary 13, 2010 By: Lark Ellen Gould Travel Agent
Southern Ocean Lodge is set amid Kangaroo Island’s rocky scrublands and ocean cliffs
If your clients are looking for kangaroos in Australia, they’ll find them by the farmload at Kangaroo Island, a mere 8 miles from Adelaide’s coast. They’ll also find a bay full of sea lions, forests full of koalas and wallabies, an ornery echidna or two, dolphins and whales, pesky pelicans, Ligurian bees, contented sheep and 250 species of birds, including rosellas and Black Pearl cockatoos, that may not exist elsewhere.
It’s a veritable Darwinian Eden—often called the Australian Galapagos—where wineries and food producers show off the freshest of repasts and visitors immerse in nothing but pristine scenery when not enjoying the thrill of close encounters with the animals. There’s no nightlife to boast of on this 100-mile-long stretch of rough-hewn rocks, eucalyptus forests and scrubs. You might find 5,000 people here during the southern summer high season. And you won’t still find public transportation here. Cars can be rented on the island with plenty of notice (the roads here are sealed, and driving, even if on the left side, is easy as they tend to have plenty of signboards and are wide open) and tour companies abound to do the ferrying as well. Luxury and comforts remain intact through the raft of idyllic B&Bs, Euro-style cottage houses and upmarket resort options.
Still, the drumbeat of tourism remains a tap for now and visitors are treated to the sensation of having the whole island to themselves for divine encounters with nature, tastes and a star-spangled sky.
The highlight of this sojourn for anyone with champagne tastes and a pocketful of change is definitely a stay at Southern Ocean Lodge. It’s part sixth-grade science experiment, part safari lodge and part to the manor born. It’s barely visible against the unending backdrop of ocean cliffs and rocky scrublands it inhabits. But inside this 21-room lodge is a lavish layout with staff support at every turn and a private window onto nature from every vantage point. Floor-to-ceiling glass along corridors, guest-room walls and cavernous public areas ensure the beauty of Kangaroo Island is always within reach. Each guest room is named after a shipwreck somewhere off the coast and has exquisite interiors comprising cushiony sitting areas with views of the ocean, long desks with plenty of sockets, MP3 music input and complimentary Wi-Fi , rocky rainfall showers, large bathrooms and closet areas, outdoor terrace with daybed (suites have outdoor Jacuzzis), heated floors, complimentary bar and snacks, and use of recycled and natural materials wherever possible.
Rates include all meals—and they are amazing, light and saucy, and based on the island’s homegrown staples. They also include transfers to and from the airport near the main town of Kingscote, and guided adventures into the local wilderness. There is a two-day minimum to each stay and with good reason. Even two days is not enough time to take in the richness of the island.
The sights around the island range from the Cape Cassini Wilderness Retreat, marked by a lighthouse on the west end of the island and graced by rough and ready ecotravelers. There are a few solar-powered cottages that are plumbed by rainwater set against the sea and a 1,000-acre private reserve. Guides from Southern Ocean Lodge or private in-bound operators such as Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours take individuals and small groups to such spots as Seal Bay Conservation Park where hundreds of sea lions sun on the beach steps away from observing visitors. Many wildlife parks allow guests to get close to, if not cuddle, orphaned koalas and kangaroos. All kinds of Aussie wildlife are found in the island along the South Coast road. There are nocturnal tours to see penguins, meanderings to places like Koala Alley to see the marsupials sleeping or dining high in the gum trees. Visitors can stop at Island Beehive for a worthwhile tour of bee farming, honey collection and processing, and some amazing homemade honey-laced ice cream.
Near Kingscote, visitors can feed the pelicans that come to the wharf every evening at 5 p.m. on the dot; they can visit sheep farms selling fresh cheese that goes down like butter; they can visit some of the more than two dozen wineries in the region producing worthy Bordeaux-style wines with names like Pink Bay Rose and Shearing Shed Red. And they can watch dolphins, seals and whales arc and dive along a number of coves while enjoying a seaside lunch of Chardonnay, fresh King George whiting or fresh-water marrons—a local crayfish delicacy that tastes and looks like Atlantic lobster, prepared in spiced butter, all complemented with stories of living on the island by longtime resident guides.
And if they are looking for kangaroos, wallabies and joeys, they will find them nearly everywhere but especially at Edward’s Cottage, a shut-down shack with a sordid past. Southern Ocean Lodge organizes a nightly “kangaroos & canapés” experience at the cottage, just a five-minute drive from the resort. Guests can enjoy champagne libations and watch ’roos and rosellas from distances as close as the wildlife will allow. Rates at Southern Ocean Lodge start at $822 per person, per night, double (two minimum) or $1,234 for a single, all-inclusive. Contact Director of Operations Mat Daniel at 011-612-9918-4355.
Kangaroo Island has a variety of other options to consider for stays, including a well-recommended, travel agent-friendly bed-and-breakfast called Seascape Lodge on Emu Bay has coastal views, five-star quality rooms and meals lovingly prepared by gourmet owner Mandy Brown. Guests literally stay in the home of Mandy and Paul Brown, who are also happy to take them on nocturnal penguin hunts after dinner; or to town, or koala-tracking in the morning, and to and from the airport relatively close by. The Browns work with Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours to accommodate guests for full packaged experiences. Rates run around $540 for the room (there are three large rooms at this home, each with a private terrace), single or double, with breakfast and dinner. Call 011-618-8559-5033.
Kangaroo Island can be accessed by ferry or air. SeaLink operates two large vehicle and passenger ferries between Cape Jervis and Penneshaw with four departures daily (additional services during summer peak times). Traveling time is about 45 minutes. Fares run around $37 one way.
Regional Express (REX) operates the 30-minute flights—from the Main Terminal at Adelaide Airport to Kingscote Airport (KGC)—frequently. Fares run around $68 one way.
On Kangaroo Island, also known as the Australian Galapagos, visitors have close encounters with its wildlife