Kangaroo Island tourism icon re-opens following devastating bushfires
Tourism in Kangaroo Island is marking a major milestone which is set to help drive international recovery, with the rebuilt $55 million Southern Ocean Lodge today opening to guests.
After almost four years in the planning, design and construction since it was razed in the 2020 bushfires, the new-look luxury accommodation on the south coast of Kangaroo Island will once again draw visitors from around the world.
The flagship property of Baillie Lodges, the new iteration of the globally acclaimed Southern Ocean Lodge holds almost the same footprint as the original. It features 23 guest suites each with a private deck and reoriented to open towards the south-east, taking in views of the Southern Ocean.
The re-creation of Southern Ocean Lodge has been led by the property’s original architect, South Australian Max Pritchard and his team. It includes all the features once loved by guests, combined with some new additions “designed for a new generation of travel to Kangaroo Island” with a greater focus on sustainability.
New to the property is the Ocean Pavilion, offering a single four-bedroom owner’s residence or two separate two-bedroom suites to create options for families and friends travelling together. The Great Room terrace now features a wet-edge pool, while new surrounds for the Southern Spa allow for three treatment rooms, a gymnasium, sauna, and hot and cold plunge pools.
More than 40 per cent of Kangaroo Island was impacted by the bushfires in January 2020, which happened just months before COVID restrictions took hold.
Tourism on Kangaroo Island has since made a remarkable recovery, with the region’s visitor expenditure hitting a record-high $294 million in the year to June 2023.
Kangaroo Island is a key drawcard for international visitors, with the region attracting the highest international visitor spend outside of Adelaide. In the 12 months to June 2023, $38 million was spent by international visitors in Kangaroo Island – making real inroads on its pre-COVID value of $53 million.
Tourism is a major employer on Kangaroo Island, with 35 per cent of jobs directly related to tourism.
It comes as Kangaroo Island’s cruise season has set sail, with three cruise ship visits in as many days this week.
The P&O Pacific Explorer called into Penneshaw yesterday, while the Silverseas’ Silver Whisper and the P&O Pacific Adventure visit today and tomorrow respectively – the first time to Kangaroo Island for both ships. The three back-to-back cruise visits will bring a combined up to 5,423 passengers and 2,326 crew to the island over the three days.
In total this cruise season, there are 31 scheduled cruise visits to Penneshaw, as well as 13 expedition ship visits across Kangaroo Island to destinations like American River and Antechamber Bay.
Last cruise season, Kangaroo Island welcomed 29 cruise visits, injecting more than $33 million to the region’s economy.
Minister for Tourism, Zoe Bettison said is was a terrific milestone for tourism in Kangaroo Island and the industry more generally, with the iconic Southern Ocean Lodge once again open to visitors.
"Kangaroo Island attracts the highest international tourism spend of any region outside of Adelaide, with latest data showing international visitors contributed $38 million to Kangaroo Island’s visitor economy," Minister Bettison said.
"With Southern Ocean Lodge already known as an international drawcard, its re-opening promises to boost international recovery even further.
"Kangaroo Island is also reaping the benefits of its cruise season, which is full steam ahead, as three back-to-back cruise ships call into Penneshaw in as many days – further boosting tourism in the region where 35 per cent of jobs are directly employed in the industry."
Baillie Lodges founder, James Baillie said they feel very fortunate to be able to present the new-look Southern Ocean Lodge to the world.
"Hayley and I had lived and breathed the original lodge from the concept and planning stages to its award-winning reality, celebrated for its timeless design," Mr Baillie said.
"With the benefit of hindsight and learning, we saw the chance to rebuild Southern Ocean Lodge as a special chance to return the property that seemed to touch so many guests over the years and with some considered additions to take her to a next generation traveler and a sustainable future.
"It’s a ‘full-circle moment’ for us and one that brings some closure to the past, as well as an optimistic look towards the future and an even more sustainable, leading experiential tourism offering for South Australia."
Baillie Lodges founder, Hayley Baillie said it has been wonderful to work with the original lodge’s local suppliers as well as discovering new entrants to the region, including food and beverage producers, artists and designers.
"We have a chance now to show the world the incredible depth and diversity of the regional Southern Australia and Kangaroo Island offering as its stands today and into the future, and we’re looking forward to working in rewarding partnerships with local communities once again," Ms Baillie said.
"We’ve been buoyed by the unwavering support of so many of our guests and the broader tourism industry for which we’re very grateful, and we’re thrilled to be bringing Southern Ocean Lodge back today."