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EXPERT REVIEW On Australia’s own Galapagos Island, the country’s most luxurious boutique property is also one of its greenest


Overall eco rating

On a remote point of one of Australia’s largest islands, Kangaroo Island – hailed as the country’s answer to the Galapagos Islands, due to the abundance of wildlife – Southern Ocean Lodge has turned challenges into advantages by fostering the development of local artisanal food production and implementing a range of award-winning eco-practices.

  • Southern Ocean Lodge’s eco-friendly architecture cleverly takes advantage of the island’s natural weather patterns.
  • The Lodge was built from organic local and in many cases recycled materials.
  • A solar farm provides most of the property’s hot water and around 20% of its power.
  • A number of eco-friendly measures have been adopted aimed at reducing its footprint, from using ‘eco-smart’ fires to provide heating to using low wattage, energy saver light bulbs throughout the property.
  • Rainfall is an issue on Kangaroo Island and huge rainwater tanks have been included to collect every drop from the roofs and the Lodge is mandated to install low use fittings with the intent of being independent 9 years out of 10.
  • The lodge lies in a sensitive location between two National Parks and with rare birds nesting nearby but a good management plan is in place to minimise encroachment
  • The lodge’s chefs have played a pro-active role by working closely with local producers to develop more sustainable, artisanal food production on the island.
  • Wherever possible, the kitchen only uses local seasonal produce or regional produce, and follows sustainable practices, such as nose-to-tail preparation, in the kitchen, minimising waste and reducing their footprint.
  • The Lodge minimizes other waste as much as possible, undertaking extensive recycling and composting.
  • Only eco-friendly, biodegradable chemicals are used for cleaning, and LI’TYA, an organic, eco-friendly, indigenous Australian range of products, is used in the spa and bathrooms.

  • Due to Southern Ocean Lodge’s isolation on an island that is already relatively remote, some supplies, including food, are still transported from the mainland, but this is a problem for the wider island, not only the lodge.
  • There are limited choices for guests to travel to the lodge.


While Southern Ocean Lodge employs some local staff, it is still forced to use staff from the mainland or overseas due to the isolation of the property and the island. It makes up for this with its dedication to sustainable practices.

  • The commitment to eco-principles is most evident in the chefs’ commitment to using local, organic, seasonal produce, and adopting sustainable food practices, such as nose-to-tail and ocean/farm to plate cuisine.
  • Once on the island, most staff live in staff accommodation within walking distance of the Lodge
  • Optional 'Behind the scenes' tours, naturalist talks and walks and other materials (e.g. daily energy use displayed behind bar) used to educate guests on green issues
  • Sponsors local schools, sports teams and charities including helping develop green supply via a local agriculture college that develops sustainable fishing methods and supplies a range of foodstuffs

  • Many of the lodge’s staff have travelled to Kangaroo Island from the mainland or overseas, due to the challenges of employing local staff on an island where distances are great.

Animals & nature

Kangaroo Island is hailed as Australia’s version of the Galapagos Islands due to the untamed, pristine environment and abundance of flora and fauna on the island. Southern Ocean Lodge encourages a respect for this special environment, through its array of excellent nature-based activities, lead by educated and knowledgeable guides, offered to guests.

The Lodge also takes management of the impact on the surrounding ecosystem seriously in the design and operation.

  • Australia’s Galapagos Island, Kangaroo Island has a pristine, untamed environment that is maintained by its passionate eco-minded residents.
  • There is an abundance of flora and fauna on the island – seals, sea lions, dolphins, penguins, koalas, wallabies, and of course kangaroos.
  • The lodge lies between 2 National Parks and encumbrances have been arranged on surrounding land preventing further development in the wildlife corridor
  • The lodge's management plan includes buffer zones, ongoing monitoring, revegetation, boardwalks and signs and other information to direct guests
  • The Lodge offers its guests a long list of activities, lead by educated and knowledgeable guides, intended to inspire a respect and love for the island’s natural assets, clean environment, and fauna and flora, including treks, hikes and tours, and innovated activities, such as ‘Kangas and Canapes’, sundowners with the kangaroos.
  • PETA assessment of the cruelty-free credentials of cleaning products and toiletries to come

  • Historically, natural vegetation was cleared to enable the establishment of farms on the island, however, the National Parks body is doing work to replant natural vegetation.

Environment & buildings

Southern Ocean Lodge was built on sound environmental practices – from its clever design to its construction materials – and has adopted an impressive range of eco-friendly measures, from its use of solar power, water conservation and extensive recycling to its fostering of sustainable food production on the island.

  • The architecture and interiors of Southern Ocean Lodge were designed to takes advantage of the island’s natural weather patterns – louvered windows, more commonly found in Australia’s northern tropics, ensures wonderful cool breezes in summer, while glazing captures the warmth of the sun and stores heat in winter. When necessary, ‘eco-smart’ fires fueled by ethanol heat public spaces and fireplaces in suites.
  • Power and hot water is largely provided by a solar farm of some 220+ panels – some visible to guests from the breezeway that leads to the suites, others on the roof and visible from the spa up on the hill – designed to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The power is cleverly used and conserved when not in use, thanks to a building management system that shuts down power during off-peak periods. Low wattage, energy saver light bulbs are used throughout the property. Daily statistics of savings made are provided on clipboard above the bar to show guests that the property is serious about its eco-commitment.
  • The lodge itself was built from organic local materials, including limestone from the island and recycled timber, while local art and sculptures decorate public spaces and guest rooms.
  • Water is harvested from all roof surfaces at Southern Ocean Lodge and stored in tanks with a total capacity in excess of 1.5 million litres. A key aim is to have the property rainwater self-sufficient nine out of ten years. The property has installed accredited bathroom and shower fittings to ensure efficient systems for guests to minimise their water usage.
  • Chefs deserve credit for their integral role in fostering the development of artisanal food production on the island by collaborating with local farmers (named as 'Local Heroes' on menus) and sourcing as much local produce as possible from small scale, artisanal producers who follow sustainable practices. If the produce they need is unavailable on Kangaroo Island, they obtain it elsewhere from South Australia, keeping it regional.
  • In the kitchen, the chefs also follow sustainable practices, using the whole product, including every part of animals used, to ensure there is minimal waste, and changing the menus daily according to the availability of fresh produce, rather than flying in produce to suit their menus. 
  • As waste disposal is a challenge for the island – there are no waste processing facilities on the island so waste is carried across to the mainland – Southern Ocean Lodge minimizes its waste as much as possible and undertakes extensive recycling, separating glass, plastic, paper, aluminium, and other garbage, and composing natural organic waste.
  • Biodegradable chemicals are used for cleaning and LI’TYA, an organic, eco-friendly, indigenous Australian range of products is used in the spa and bathrooms.
  • Guests are encouraged to use the mountain bikes provided

  • Due to Southern Ocean Lodge’s isolation on an island that is already relatively remote (the very thing that makes Southern Ocean Lodge and Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island most appealing), some supplies still need to be transported from the mainland, but other properties and residents on the island are in the same boat.
  • Vehicles reliant on fuel – transported from the mainland – carry guests the considerable distance from the airport to the lodge, due to the lack of other transport options.

Reviewed by Lara Dunston and Tim Starley-Grainger


Overall luxury rating*

Undoubtedly one of Australia's most magnificent hotels, you're bowled over even before you walk through the door, courtesy its dramatic setting and architecture.

Inside you'll find spacious split-level guestrooms, sweeping public spaces with wide-angle ocean vistas, Michelin-quality food, free champagne-filled mini-bars, impeccable service and superb attention to detail.

The scene

Kangaroo Island, off the mainland's southern coast near Adelaide, has dubbed itself the Australian Galapagos because of its huge numbers and variety of animals.

Perched on a clifftop on the island's southern side, this 21-suite design hotel makes the most of its unique position with enviable ocean views from every aspect. When not watching whales and dolphins through the glass wall of your sunken lounge, you’ll spend your time exploring the island, spotting wallabies, penguins, koalas and kangaroos or splashing around beaches filled with sea lions and fur seals.

Guests here range from 30-something foodie couples to retired entrepreneurs, and Southern Ocean Lodge encourages mingling via small-group tours and social events, like daily cocktails in the bar in the Great Room. But the vast public spaces ensure that guests always have all the privacy they want.

  • On the southern side of Kangaroo Island, Australia's third-largest island, filled with wallabies, penguins, koalas, kangaroos and more.
  • Situated atop a cliff, the hotel makes the most of those ocean views, with whale-watching and dolphin-spotting possible from every guestroom and public area.
  • Soak up wide-angle views of the island's cliffs and the wild Southern Ocean from the hotel's colossal Great Room.
  • Guests who enjoy socializing have plenty of opportunities to mingle, whether it on small-group tours, activities such as ‘Kangas and Canapes’ or at the daily complimentary cocktails served at the bar in the Great Room – a bar that guests are encouraged to help themselves to.
  • For guests seeking some privacy, such as couples here for romance, there are plenty of areas in the colossal Great Room to escape to, whether it’s to curl up with a good book around the fireplace or sip a quiet glass of wine while ogling those ocean views.
  • Management and staff are adept at handling the kind of guests the lodge attracts, knowing when to pick up a glass of wine and participate in conversations, and when to discreetly send a couple of glasses of bubbly over to the couple canoodling in a quiet corner.
  • Although it's an island, it's easily accessible via airplane or frequent ferries.

  • The scene is serene, so party animals should look elsewhere.
  • The sea on the southern side of Kangaroo Island, where Southern Ocean Lodge is located, is cold and wild, and usually suitable only for strong swimmers.

The style

Architecturally, Southern Ocean Lodge impresses. It manages to feel huge inside, while appearing practically invisible on the outside, almost like an ocean wave skirting along the clifftop.

Interiors make the most of the never-ending views, keeping the style minimal. The 21 split-level suites have exquisite attention to detail, and stunning, vast public spaces, all light-filled with clean lines, natural textures and neutral colours that don’t compete with the breathtaking views of the bush landscape and wild Southern Ocean outside. Creative Australian cuisine that wouldn’t be out of place at one of Sydney’s best fine dining restaurants, mini-bars full of complimentary wine, champagne and snacks, beautiful Li’Tya bathroom products, impeccable service, and superb attention to detail complete the picture.

  • Pared-back, light-filled guestrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and are decorated in light, natural materials and colours – cream, beige, slate grey, chocolate – that don’t compete with the scenery.
  • All 21 of the hotel's suites are split-level and super spacious, with big bedrooms, walk-in dressing rooms, enormous bathrooms and sitting areas that are probably bigger than your one at home.
  • The attention to detail is impressive: excellent coffee makers and teapots, along with a wide range of teas; mini-bars crammed with complimentary wine, beer, champagne and snacks (all local or regional); two backpacks tucked away in a drawer for guest use so you don’t need to bring your own.
  • I love the Li'Tya bathroom and beauty products, including bath salts so heavenly they competed with the bathroom's ocean views.
  • Heated floors and soft throw rugs will keep you warm and cosy in winter.
  • Plenty of reading materials (shelves crammed with books and a coffee table spread with magazines), CDs and iPod docking stations to keep you entertained if you don't fancy leaving your suite.

  • The hotel's long, sweeping design means it can be a trek - and an uphill one at that - to get from the guestrooms up to the public areas.
  • The open shower without a door won’t suit those who like some privacy.

The facilities

Despite having just 21 rooms, facilities are more akin to those in big city five-stars, including a fine restaurant and bar, enormous public spaces, a good spa, and mountain bikes, not to mention its 'backyard’ with all those walking, hiking and wildlife spotting opportunities.

  • The Contemporary Australian cuisine in the restaurant is truly noteworthy, and it's open all day for meals, coffee and snacks. I love that the focus is on fresh, local, seasonal produce - dishes taste of the garden and sea.
  • You'll never go thirsty. Guests are welcome to help themselves to beverages from the central bar or grab wine from the cellar, while bar staff can pour you bubbly and whip up cocktails - at no extra charge. Rates are all-inclusive.
  • The Great Room is a colossal space divided into two sections - one section has plenty of sofas and a central fireplace, and the other section has comfy seating and coffee tables scattered with newspapers and magazines, where guests going on activities can wait for their guide or transport if they're heading home
  • There’s a small library with a computer.
  • A shop off the lobby stocks everything from gorgeous flowing kaftans and warm hiking jackets to the backpacks and beauty products that are in your rooms.
  • Therapists in the compact, ocean-view spa offer indigenous-inspired treatments using bush plants and native ingredients.
  • The lodge is set among natural bushland and skirted by the Southern Ocean, so there are plenty of hiking and walking opportunities, and a white-sand beach is a short walk away for those who fancy an icy swim.

  • The ‘swimming pool’ is tiny, little more than a plunge pool, and sun loungers are very public, in full view of guests relaxing in the Great Room, bar and restaurant.
  • While there is free Wi-Fi in the rooms and public spaces, it can be excruciatingly slow at times, although this is not the fault of the lodge, but to do with the isolated location.
  • Apart from treatment rooms, the only offering in the spa is a steam room, so it's not a place you could spend all day unless you're planning on a full day of treatments.

We love

  • The clean contemporary lines and minimalist style of the rooms don’t distract from the breathtaking views.
  • The exquisite attention to detail in the rooms – everything has been thought of and if there’s something missing, let staff know and they’ll see that’s fixed.
  • The complimentary mini bars, jam-packed with Kangaroo Island and South Australian produce, from the local wines to cookies and candies.
  • The friendly hands-on managers and warm and welcoming staff who provide impeccable service.
  • Evening cocktails where delicious canapés and a cocktail of the day is served, or if you choose, you can do a tasting of Kangaroo Island wines or spirits, all enjoyed while gazing at the glorious Southern Ocean views.
  • The wonderful creative Contemporary Australian cuisine, served with well-matched local wines, that has guests continually looking forward to their next meal.
  • The all-inclusive concept, with all meals, drinks and activities included in the price.

You might not love

  • More traditional types might find the friendliness of staff a bit much.
  • Keys aren’t typically used, which can create issues for guests when it comes to travel insurance and ensuring privacy. If you're concerned, look for a key in your desk drawer or use the in-room safe.
  • The short set menus won’t suit guests who prefer a wide range of dishes to choose from, however, just ask and the kitchen will make you something, from simple to gourmet.

Reviewed by Lara Dunston http://grantourismotravels.com/

Southern Ocean Lodge

Hanson Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia 5223

+61 2 9918 4355

Standard room rates from AU$1,980



"I won't be surprised if you already know about Southern Ocean Lodge, given it has won just about every travel gong going since it opened in 2008. Why will be particularly clear if your billet is the exhilirating Osprey Suite, with its peerless glass-walled views over the pounding surf" Vanity Fair

"If you took everything that's great about Australian travel - wilderness, wildlife, beaches, seasonal produce - and concentrated those elements in one location, you'd have Kangaroo Island... as hard as it is to tear yourself away from the view, if you want to make the most of your time at Southern Ocean Lodge, you should get out and about" Australian Traveller

"From the moment you walk into the limestone-clad, open-plan lobby you are confronted by a wraparound screen of floor-to-ceiling glass to show off the setting, and the views from all 21 suites (all named after shipwrecks) are no less impressive" Daily Telegraph

"A sleek eco-retreat that reflects and focuses on the open landscape" Conde Nast Traveller Gold List 2011