Hotel Watch

Hotel Watch: Southern Ocean Lodge Returns

At the bottom of the Land Down Under, just southwest of Adelaide—and just a few hundred miles north of Antarctica—Kangaroo Island is home to dramatic vistas and wild wonders like wallabies, sea lions, kangaroos, echidnas and some of the world’s smallest penguins. It’s often referred to as “Australia’s Galapagos.” Nearly four years after devastating bushfires ravaged the island and razed the Indagare-adored Southern Ocean Lodge to the ground, the property is reopening on December 6—and the island is more beautiful than ever. Read more below.

Billowing clouds of smoke against a neon-orange sky. Families, standing stoic or sobbing, as they evacuated their homes. A singed koala clinging to a firefighter’s jacket. Spectral trees in an apocalyptic forest. Kangaroos collapsed on the side of the road. Four years and a pandemic later, I can still remember crying as I scrolled through these images on my Instagram feed and rushed to donate to conservation initiatives online. Australia is still recovering from the 2019–2020 bushfires, which are now known as the “Black Summer” and the most destructive fires in Kangaroo Island’s recorded history. Over 520,000 acres of land, or nearly half the island (which is Australia’s third-largest), were burned, taking the lives of tens of thousands of wild and domestic animals, as well as the lives of two people, and countless homes, businesses, livelihoods and nature reserves.

But Australia is a land of fierce resilience, and in the wake of the losses has come regrowth and regeneration. Fire, in fact, is a spark for new life. Naturalists are discovering the rebirth of previously dormant species, new conservation systems are being put into place and communities are rebuilding. And at the Indagare-adored luxury resort Southern Ocean Lodge, which reopens on December 6 after a 50-million-dollar restoration, some exciting additions will define this next generation, while preserving the original footprint and magic of the property. Southern Ocean Lodge is one of the jewels of the Baillie Lodges portfolio, which was founded in 2003 by James and Hayley Baillie and includes Longitude 131° at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island, Silky Oaks Lodge at the Daintree Rainforest and The Louise in the Barossa Valley, as well as Huka Lodge in New Zealand and Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge on Vancouver Island. Like its sister properties, it has also been celebrated for its modern and sustainable design (it is rainwater- and solar-reliant), fantastic local culinary offerings, guides and service, and proximity to such top exploration areas as Seal Bay Conservation Park, the Remarkable Rocks and Flinders Chase National Park.

The layout of the new Southern Ocean Lodge, fondly known as “SOL 2.0,” is true to the first, thanks to the involvement of the original architects, Max Pritchard and Andrew Gunner—but the 25 sandstone, local wood and glass-lined suites have been reoriented to give even better panoramic views of the windswept coast and the ocean. The sprawling new Ocean Pavilion suite offers maximum privacy in a removed location, with two living rooms with fireplaces, four king bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms (each with a bathtub and rain shower), and an outdoor terrace with an infinity pool and a plunge pool. The property’s iconic Great Room and its oft-photographed hanging fireplace have not changed, but a private dining space and wet-edge pool have been added, as well as a brand-new spa with three treatment rooms, a fitness center, sauna and plunge pools—and the pool has been expanded. Returning guests will be pleased to discover that “Sunshine,” the property’s beloved kangaroo sculpture by local artist Indiana James, has been restored and reinstated to his original post in the reception—where he is ready to welcome you back. Reservations for Southern Ocean Lodge opened to guests in May. To inquire about booking a trip, email

Tune in to Melissa Biggs Bradley's Passport to Everywhere podcast on SiriusXM or listen here for an exclusive interview on SOL 2.0 with James and Hayley Baillie, airing December 14.

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