Southern Ocean Lodge Kangaroo Island, South Australia
It doesn't look like safari country. The Southern Ocean, that
salty moat separating Kangaroo Island and Australia's south
coast from the Antarctic, is flinging frothy waves on to the
beach below my elegant cocoon at Southern Ocean Lodge.
A grey curtain of chilly rain blurs the rocky promontory
nearby. But this island is an ark, and more than two-by-twos
are here for the spotting. Wild things could be reason enough
to come, but this lodge is one, too. Nearly 300m long, and
just one suite wide along most of its length, the serpentine
lodge crowns a clifftop above Hanson Bay on Kangaroo's south
coast. Each of the 21 suites is ocean-facing, and vast blue
panoramas of sea and sky fill the view of each.
With private terraces, heated limestone underfoot, fine
linens on king-size beds, mini-fridges filled with soft
drinks and Champagne for the taking, music on command and
sitting areas with custom 'roo-themed accessories, these digs
are tenaciously top shelf.
Kelly Hill Conservation Park and the sprawling wildness of
Flinders Chase National Park snuggle up to South Ocean Lodge
and put animals within reach of tours planned for guests.
Island-born nature guide Brenda Hilder is keeping an eye on
the road and one on the roadside scrub as we roll on a
half-day excursion into Flinders Chase. She slows to a stop,
and I think I see why the Cape Barren goose is one of the
world's rarest geese.
Two of the pale-grey creatures are casually strolling on the
two-lane highway that carries much of the island's west-end
traffic. The tubby birds with lime-green beaks, pink legs and
black feet cast a sassy glance our way then pad reluctantly
off the asphalt.
Just beyond, two kangaroos hunched over in roadside grazing
straighten to inspect us. A species unique to the island,
they're smaller and more furry than their mainland cousins.
At the aptly named Remarkable Rocks, granite boulders
fantastically sculpted by wind and water, I scan the bushes
for a fairy wren, and the blue and black sprite I've long
wanted to see pops into view.
New Zealand fur seals snoozing at rocky Admiral's Arch and a
lucky sighting of the shy tammar wallaby are appetisers for
the bush picnic Hilder grills for us. Clearing our plates is
tempting, but it's always prudent to save room for meals at
The island 19km off the mainland is primarily agricultural,
and chef Tim Bourke taps its bounty in his new-every-day
His palette includes local sheep's-milk cheese and yoghurt,
crayfish, meats, fruits, shellfish, grains and honey from
prized Ligurian bees.
People who live and work on this 56km by 156km isle embrace
it with affection. "Here you have the bush and the coast,"
says lodge guide Jess Skewes. "You get the best of both
worlds."www.southernoceanlodge.com.au Tours or packages by
Exceptional Kangaroo Island, www.exceptionalkangarooisland.com.
Arkaba Station Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Retired national-park ranger Nick Bailey nods towards the
blue-green, snaggle-toothed mountains on the horizon. "All
the story of life on the planet is shown in the stones of the
Flinders Ranges," he says as his four-wheel-drive vehicle
carries me to Arkaba Station, a sheep ranch at the south edge
of the rocky chain north of Port Augusta, an hour's flight
Fossils of the oldest-known life forms - ediacara, seabed
dwellers Nick calls the "Mona Lisa of the planet" - were
found in the Flinders in 1946, and geologists continue to
study this ancient ocean bottom, now a plain of sparse grass
ribbed with unfathomably old mountains and erosion-carved
In this spectacular setting, Arkaba (ARE-kah-bah) is evidence
of more recent history. The iron-roofed, wide-verandahed
homestead built in 1851 is the heart of a 260sq km property
formerly owned by the pioneer Rasheed family and now a luxury
Four comfortable rooms in the thick-walled house and a
cottage across the lawn are open to the handful of guests for
whom open spaces can't be too wide. "Some people find it
eerie to be in this silence," says Dean Rasheed, who until
two years ago ran 8000 sheep on Arkaba.
"I'm used to it." A communal dinner table is set with
creative, savoury entrees, fresh breads and yummy desserts
from the open kitchen.
In the covered conversation area outdoors, guests are free to
choose among wine or water from the large refrigerator. A
lounge cossets with a fireplace and library, and the small
staff is caring without hovering. Activities such as hiking
and mountain-biking are offered each morning and afternoon.
Dean occasionally joins Arkaba's full-time guides, driving
guests along the narrow, rocky roads he and a helper cut
through the station in a programme to eradicate destructive
feral goats and rabbits. The 14-year effort won Arkaba three
national awards for land management.
We stop at the barnlike woolshed, constructed in 1858. Beams
from Oregon and corrugated-iron roofing from England weren't
beyond the pocketbook during that boom time for woolgrowers.
"Smoko" (midmorning tea) gave shearers a break from the
bleating of animals and click or whir of the shears.
Arkaba continues as a working sheep station, and each
September, shearers harvest the merino wool.
Euros, a smaller relative of kangaroos, thrive on this land
reclaimed from pests. They stand in our road, graze on scrub
and give us a once-over before bounding away.
We jump from the SUV and look up when I spot a huge shadow
heading towards us. A wedge-tailed eagle, Australia's largest
raptor, sails overhead, close enough for us to see the tan
epaulets on its chocolate-brown wings.
Birds and more birds, red gum trees wrinkled by centuries of
life, high points that spread a wide vista at our feet, a
hide-and-seek creek that's sometimes above ground, sometimes
below - I'm enthralled. I want to look closely at everything.
"Next time you come," Dean says with understanding, "I'm
going to set you up with a chair and smoko and just leave
you." Yes, please.
Park Station nearby at Wilpena Pound (www.rawnsleypark.com.au) also
Tourism Australia- www.australia.com
South Australia tourism - www.southaustralia.com
Northern Territory tourism - www.tourismnt.com.au