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Magical Marsupials

Kangaroo Island is a glorious place to unwind and reconnect with nature at some of Australia's best luxury eco lodges. 

Friendly Koala at Ecopia Lodge (c) Lisa Young

Kangaroo Island is like a sunbeam straight to the heart. The South Australian island, traditionally known as Karta Pintingga, is the best place in Australia to see native wildlife, as well as being at the forefront of sustainable luxury retreats.

The island, 55km wide and 155 km long, has a ferry port, the main towns and coastal wineries in the north and east, while in the south and west 200,000 acres are mostly covered by the wild and rugged Flinders Chase National Park.

My road trip started in Adelaide. From the luxury of the five-star Eos Hotel, I drove through the vineyards of the leafy Adelaide Hills, along what’s known as the Epicurean Way, home to some of South Australia’s best food, wine and scenery. My first stop was at the internationally renowned Bird in Hand Winery, which produces some of Australia’s finest wine.

A typical road on Kangaroo Island (c) Lisa Young

I spent the night ensconced in nature at the luxurious Sequoia Lodge atop Mount Lofty (Koala Mountain), in one of its 14 spacious adult-only suites. 

The next morning, I drove for an hour along the scenic Fleurieu Peninsula before catching the car ferry at Cape Jervis. A short, smooth crossing took me to the town of Penneshaw on green and vibrant Kangaroo Island.

Isolation from the mainland has turned the island into an animal sanctuary for kangaroos, tammar wallabies, koalas, echidnas, platypus, glossy black cockatoos and sea lions, to name a few, plus the world’s purest strain of Ligurian bees.

Around 40 per cent of the island is covered by national parks and conservation areas. No genetically modified grains are allowed to grow, making it one of the most unpolluted regions of the world.

Sequioa Lodge Adelaide Hills 

It’s hard to imagine that much of it was a burnt-out landscape not that long ago. Between November 2019 and January 2020, wildfires razed half of the island’s pristine environment.

Tens of thousands of animals died, properties were gutted and tourism stopped overnight. Remarkably, the island recovered relatively quickly and today it’s a fine example of habitat regeneration.


Southern Ocean Lodge SOL 2.0
One victim of the bush fires was Kangaroo Island’s showstopper, the Southern Ocean Lodge (SOL), a luxury retreat on Hanson Bay. Its 21 suites were burnt to the ground by a 100ft wall of flames.

But in December 2023, the lodge relaunched, literally rising from the ashes better than ever, and now SOL 2.0 sits on the same stunning clifftop as its predecessor, with 25 gorgeous one- and two-bedroom suites, and a new ultra-premium four-bedroom Ocean Pavilion suite. Overall, there’s capacity for 58 privileged guests to experience outstanding Australian eco-hospitality.

Southern Ocean Lodge

Ecopia Retreat

Next, I drove to Ecopia Retreat at the centre of the island, a 150-acre eco-luxury, off-grid private boutique retreat and active wildlife conservation project set amongst gum and eucalyptus trees.

Ecopia owners Yael and Rob Clements have maintained ECO certification in advanced ecotourism for over 20 years. Ecopia offers three luxuriously appointed rammed-earth solar-passive villas and a stunning three-bedroom residence.

Sustainable rammed earth is a recently revived ancient construction technique using compacted natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime or gravel. Along with the double-glazed windows, energy-efficient heating (woodfire) and cooling (eco air-conditioning), it regulates temperature, ensuring each property is cool during the summer and warm in winter.

Ecopia Lodge

Early morning and late afternoon are the best times for wildlife watching. From my deck, I watched kangaroos nibbling the grass growing between huge yucca plants that provide a habitat for echidnas and Rosenberg’s goanna, and bird life including rare black cockatoos perch in she-oak trees.

From a cluster of nearby gum trees, a loud koala mating call rang out, resembling a donkey braying. High up in the branches I spotted a large male koala. Then something moved on the ground: a small, heart-faced female koala trying to escape the clutches of the pursuing male.

While I was out exploring the island, my fridge was discreetly stocked with a professionally prepared self-cook dinner package, along with delicious local cheeses, fruit, bread, jams and South Australian wine. Everything’s organic when possible, and local island and regional food is prioritised.

I next drove along the South Coast Road towards Flinders Chase National Park, ducking into Vivonne Bay and Hanson Bay and by the entrance to Southern Ocean Lodge.

A major highlight was The Remarkables, a 500-million-year-old natural granite dome balanced on a cliff edge and Admirals Arch, a coastal formation shaped by the wind and waves, and home to a colony of long nosed fur seals.


Oceanview Eco Villas

I spent my last days at the eastern end of the island at Oceanview Eco Villas with owners Tim and Tamsin Wendt. Perched high above the shore of Nepean Bay are two beautiful, contemporary two-bedroomed villas set in 500 acres.

Each villa can host up to five people and is built with materials sourced in South Australia that work with the environment without having a negative impact on the natural surroundings.

Oceanview Eco Villas (c) Lisa Young

The decking around my villa resembles wood, but I was fascinated to learn it’s made from plastic milk containers. My bedroom’s thick pile carpet was made entirely from recycled synthetics, including recovered fishing nets, and has 20 per cent less CO2 emissions in their production than ordinary carpet.

The next day I traded my wheels for Tim’s 4x4 and we set off to explore places only locals know. We found koalas and endangered glossy black cockatoos among woodlands and, after clambering through a labyrinth of rocks, I emerged onto spectacular and secluded Stokes Bay beach where turquoise water laps the white sandy shore. This idyllic spot was nominated Australia’s top beach in 2023.

Back at the villa, a scratching noise outside my recycled jarrah wood door revealed Katy, a beautiful female rescue kangaroo; she lives in the wild, but most days visits guests at the villas. Sometimes wildlife is hard to find and sometimes marsupials turn up unexpectedly at your front door.

Kangaroo Island provides visitors with an authentic Aussie experience and is gifted with exceptional sustainable luxury accommodation, stunning beaches, spectacular food and wine, and it never disappoints when it comes to magical marsupial moments.



Southern Ocean Lodge:

Oceanview Eco Villas: