Sleeping Bulldog Bed and Breakfast

Blake and I stayed at the Sleeping Bulldog in August 2012 during our trip to Washington. The Sleeping Bulldog is located in the Jackson Place neighborhood of Seattle, WA.

The Sleeping Bulldog

We drove into Seattle from Port Angeles. While we could have loaded our car on to a ferry and gone that way; I instead navigated us into the city without taking a ferry and found the B&B. Sleeping Bulldog is located up on a hill, as most things seem to be in Seattle, and there was adequate parking in front for us. If you have issues with stairs, this is not the place to stay, as you have to hike up quite a few stairs just to get to the front door.

Randall, one of the two owners, greeted us at the front door. He gave us a tour of the house and made us feel quite welcome. There is a computer to use if you need to check your email on the first floor. Upstairs there is a closet full of DVDs you can borrow to watch in your room and popcorn for a snack. You can also make tea when you want.

New Orleans Room

We stayed in the New Orleans room, which faces the front of the house and is, I believe, the largest room. It has a wonderful skyline view of Seattle and a little deck that we sat out on one night and watched the sun set over the sound and the mountains. The room has a king-sized bed with Comphy Co. sheets (my favorite), a fireplace and a little sitting area. The bathroom has a Jacuzzi tub and a separate shower.

New Orleans sitting area

New Orleans bathroom

Breakfast was a big affair with lots of food. I would say this is where my biggest criticism would be of Sleeping Bulldog. I like when B&B owners announce what they are serving as they present it to you. That way you know what you are eating and aren’t guessing. While their food was good, I just like to know exactly what it is. The other thing is that I think Korby and Randal needed to find a balance in what they were serving. They served a lot of food at breakfast and some of it was overly sweet compared to the other things. Perhaps in the two years since we have been there they have found that perfect balance.

Our first morning we were served a poached pear, a slice of chocolate poundcake, a big piece of sausage and then two slices of a spinach quiche. I also had a blueberry smoothie. The second morning we started with some sort of bakery good similar to a spice cake, a fruit parfait consisting of cream, nuts and a very sweet red fruit, and then an egg bake with sausage, fresh eggs from their chickens and cheese, tomatoes and spices.

For dinner options in the area, we walked a mile and a half to Piecora’s in the Capitol Hill district, which closed in April 2014. It was good pizza and it is sad to hear that they retired. However on 12th Avenue on the way back to the B&B there were a lot of cool restaurants and bars. The second night we went to Cheeky Café close to the B&B. We thought the food was pretty good. They had a little something for everyone.

If you don’t mind walking Seattle, Sleeping Bulldog is a good option. It’s far enough out of the city center that it’s quiet at night, but close enough for a good hike into town to see all the sites. (There are also buses in the area.) If we venture back to Seattle, and I hope that we do since it was what I had always been looking for — a city with mountains AND water, we’ll highly consider staying at the Sleeping Bulldog.

View at night from our room's deck

Sleeping Bulldog Bed and Breakfast
816 19th Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98144
Phone: 206.325.0202
Website: http://www.sleepingbulldog.com

Minnie and Mojo - the Sleeping Bulldogs

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TouVelle House Bed and Breakfast

The TouVelle House

In June 2011, we had the pleasure of staying at the TouVelle House Bed and Breakfast. TouVelle is located in Jacksonville, OR, which is a quaint little town in southern Oregon that, with the help of its storefronts, looks like it is out of an old western movie. This is due in part to there being over 100 buildings in town from the gold rush era that are now on the National Register of Historic Places, and the town itself has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

In downtown Jacksonville

Upon arrival to what we thought was the B&B, we knocked on the wrong door. We were knocking on the house next door, which belonged to the hosts Gary and Tim Balfour. (Since our time there, ownership has switched to Shawn and Jamie Kerr in January 2014, with Gary and Tim helping them on the side.) We had called in advance asking Gary if we could check in three and half hours early, and he was kind of enough to let us come.

Once I entered the house, the only thing I could notice was how magnificently clean it smelled. The inn is a 3-story Craftsman style home that has beautiful, shiny woodwork. On the living room table was even a photo book that Tim and Gary had put together documenting all of the work they had put into the house. It was fascinating.

TouVelle living room

We stayed on the third floor of the house in the Crater Lake room. Ironically we stayed in this room after having been to Crater Lake days before and not being able to see it due to fog and snow. The furniture in the room is Mission style and the walls are adorned with Crater Lake mementos. The window looks out to the front of the house into the large oak tree giving you the feeling of being in a tree house. The bathroom was nice and looked out over the solar heated pool, but due to the eaves, the shower was a tad short for Blake’s height (6 feet). The queen-sized bed has luxurious linens and lots of down so you sink right into heaven for a good night’s rest.

Crater Lake Room

View out of the Crater Lake Room

We were able to poke our head into many of the other rooms (they have six) and if I had my choice again I may look into staying in the Elizabeth TouVelle room because of the rain showerhead and the space. The Judge’s Chamber room is located on the first floor if mobility issues are a problem.  The Adirondack Suite, also on the third floor, I found a little tight and only had a bathtub. (I love me a bath, but it’s not for everyone.) There are also mini fridges on every level for guests to use, and cookies are served during the day.

The B&B had a pool in back with a sauna and had a sprawling lawn and garden in front with a few lawn games and plenty of sitting areas. It was quite lovely. They are only located a few blocks from town, which makes for a quick walk to get dinner or do a little shopping.

Pool in the back

Beautiful gardens out front

Up the road are a few wineries that we stopped at. We went to John Michael Champagne Cellars off Humbug Creek Rd., which I thought had lovely wines and great views of the vineyards and mountains.

View from John Michael Champagne Cellars

And we also went to LongSword Winery, which was awesome. The food was reasonably priced at $5 and we sat and watched paragliders and hang gliders land only a few feet away. After having just been in the Napa Valley area, I found the Applegate Valley Wine Trail region to be much more relaxed and cheaper.  Tasting fees are only $5.

Paraglider landing at LongSword

A good afternoon

Up a road closer to the B&B is the Jacksonville Cemetery. A tad spooky at dusk, for sure, but it is definitely worth a visit. Some of the headstones date back to the 1850s and were separated into sections depending on who you were. It was lovely with all the large trees and easy to walk around. We also saw deer on our way up the road.

Views from the cemetery at sunset

Ok, a little creepy...

But most importantly, was the breakfast during our stay. We only stayed one night because we were flying out of Medford the next morning, and therefore only enjoyed one breakfast. It consisted of banana bread, strawberries in plain yogurt and a broccoli and cheese soufflé with fingerling potatoes. It was all very tasty. But if you didn’t want to eat that, you could have told Gary and he would have allowed you to pick something else. I like that flexibility in some B&B owners.

Souffle and potatoes

Our stay there was short but very enjoyable. If I ever find myself back in that area again, and I hope I do as I need to see Crater Lake in all its glory, I would highly consider staying at TouVelle. If you are flying out of the Medford Airport and looking for other options other than an airport hotel, I would also highly recommend TouVelle as the airport is only eight miles away.

TouVelle House Bed and Breakfast
455 North Oregon Street, PO Box 1891
Jacksonville, OR 97530, USA
Phone:  541-899-8938
Website: http://www.touvellehouse.com

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Redwood National Park

When I told people Blake and I were headed to the Redwood National Park as part of our vacation in 2011, the typical reaction was, “Ohh I’ve always wanted to see them!” And now, after having seen them, I insist that it is a must-see place while you’re on this planet. Pictures of the giants give you pause to think that a tree could really be so large. But pictures can’t possibly come close to giving this national park justice. You need to see it, to believe it.

When we entered the north end of the park in June 2011 on our road trip, the giant trees suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere. As I peered out the car window looking at the massive tree trunks, I was left breathless. It didn’t seem possible that something in nature could grow to be so large and immense.

Entering the park and seeing the trees

But, it wasn’t until the next day that we were really able to have a true Redwood experience. Luck be have it, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway had reopened that morning, after having been closed for repairs, and we were able to drive into the forest. Again, it was hard not to let out the oohs and aahs as we drove the curvy road past the trees and trailhead markings. We decided to pull over at one of the trailheads to stop and hike.

First hike of the day - tad chilly out!

A few guidebooks mention a strange phenomenon that happens when you finally exit the car. You immediately start talking in whispers as if not to wake the trees. It is absolutely silent except for bugs buzzing and birds chirping. Blake and I tried talking in our normal voices and it sounded like we were yelling.

How can a tree be so big??

After pulling on some warmer clothes, we headed down the trail, giddy at how big the trees were, and came across a man meditating in the middle of the trail. I couldn’t imagine a better place to do it, myself. We took the trail for a while along Prairie Creek and came across a tree that looked like it had been struck by lightning at some point. Except when a Redwood has been blown to bits by Mother Nature, the “splinters” of wood look about the size of your normal Maple Tree. It was amazing.

Redwood that had been hit by lightning

Redwood splinters

As there was more to see, we returned to the car and headed to Big Tree. Big Tree is just as its name says, a colossal tree. It is 304 feet tall (approximately a 30-story, tall building) and has a diameter of 21.6 feet. It’s branches look like large trees coming out of the sides and is estimated to be about 1,500 years old. You can’t even see the top of it. From there we took the Cathedral of Trees trails and looked for the last of the blooming spring rhododendrons.

Big Tree

We then got back in our car and took it to Elk Meadow. There we could see Roosevelt Elk, the largest subspecies of elk in North America. We observed the female elk and the baby elk that they keep protected in the forest fringe. A ranger was there making sure visitors stayed a safe distance from the elk. Although, it’s amazing how senseless people can be with wild animals, despite a ranger being there.

Roosevelt Elk in the distance

We then drove a little further down the byway to Lady Bird Johnson Memorial Grove for a one-hour hike. It was an awesome hike. The trail was built for the Redwood National Park’s dedication ceremony. In 1969 Lady Bird famously said, “One of my most unforgettable memories of the past years is walking through the Redwoods last November – seeing the lovely shafts of light filtering through the trees so far above, feeling the majesty and silence of that forest, and watching a salmon rise in one of those swift streams – all our problems seemed to fall into perspective and I think every one of us walked out more serene and happier.”

At the Ladybird Johnson Grove

Inside a tree

There were lots of trees to climb inside along the trail. The sunlight streaming through the trees was beautiful and it made it hard to imagine what the forest could possibly look like on a cloudy day.

Sun filtering through the trees

From there we ventured to the Klamath Tour Thru Tree and paid $5 to try to drive through a tree. There are only three of these kinds of trees on the North Coast and they are all privately owned. If you have anything bigger than a compact car you will not fit through this tree and I wouldn’t waste your $5, except if you just want to witness people try. We squeaked through in our rental car after two tries and were proud of this accomplishment. I can now say I’ve driven through a tree.

Tour Thru Tree

See - we did it! Barely...

On the road again we went to the Trees of Mystery. It’s a kitschy tourist trap. I wasn’t sure why I should pay to see Redwoods when I had just seen them up the road for free. If you want to perhaps take the gondola ride up through the trees then maybe that might be worth it. However, there is a huge Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in the parking lot that talk to you, which is slightly creepy but humorous at the same time and makes for a good photo op. (That part is free.)

Paul Bunyan

Babe

Later in the day for sunset, we ventured up the road from where we were staying at the Requa Inn to the Klamath River Overlook. I’d say we hiked down the 1/2 mile to the lower overlook, but we actually ran to make sure we caught the sun setting and dipping down into the ocean. It was gorgeous. (We really wanted to see a Pacific Ocean sunset as we didn’t get to catch one in Oregon the summer prior.) We hiked back up the trail after the sunset and it was quite dark. If you choose to hike down there for sunset, know it’s about 1/2 mile back up in the dark.

Pacific Coast sunset

Sun down - rays still shooting up

Made it back up in the dark!

If we had had more time, where do I wish we could have gone? I would have loved to have seen Fern Canyon, which is a canyon with 30-foot walls covered in ferns and a creek running through it. I wish we had also had time for the Bald Hills Road, a road 17 miles one way into the high prairie landscape. I am sure it would have treated us to some awesome views. But we’ll go next time we are back!

And the end of the day, to stand amongst the Redwoods is one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had. Our faces were glowing from what we called our Redwood Facials. We assumed it was from the clean, fresh air and an increase of oxygen and moisture that makes your face feel freshly washed.

Our Redwood Facials

This beautiful national park is definitely on our list for a repeat visit.

Mother Nature at her best

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Flinders Chase National Park

Part of the Wonders of KI tour at Southern Ocean Lodge includes a visit to Flinders Chase National Park to see much of what it has to offer. Our first stop was at the Cape du Couedic lighthouse. A short walk down a boardwalk lets you view a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

Cape du Couedic lighthouse

It was a cloudy and very windy day, but the grey made all the colors of the lichen pop on the cliffs. As we stopped to take it all in, it was fascinating to view the seals from above swimming in water that wasn’t at a place like an aquarium or Sea World. They look relaxed and free as they twirled around like torpedoes. A big threat to the New Zealand fur seal is Great White sharks, and while I didn’t really want to see a fur seal get eaten by a shark, it certainly would have been an awesome sight.

Vast views from Flinders Chase and a fur seal colony

At one point in time fur seals were widely hunted and quite endangered, but today their numbers are coming back. And despite being a nuisance to commercial fisherman, they are protected. Occasionally people will also find at Cape du Couedic a rogue leopard or elephant seal that has swum all the way from Antarctica.

A happy fur seal

Traveling further down the boardwalk, we reached Admirals Arch, a gigantic rock formation carved out over time by weather and erosion. Underneath the arch the fur seals rested on the smooth rocks. As we stopped to observe, Mary, our guide, continued to educate us about the area and the fur seals.

Hard to get Admirals Arch all in one picture

A few seals under Admirals Arch

We made our way back to the lodge van to continue on to our next location. Mary asked if any of the three of us would like tea at the next stop because she had it in the trunk. I wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, because in America people don’t normally offer tea on tours. But sure enough, as we pulled into the next stop, she pulled out a huge picnic basket and while we toured the site, she set up pastries and tea! (Can we stop here and note how exciting it was to be in a country that values breakfast tea as much as I do?)

Road to Remarkable Rocks

So, the next stop was the Remarkable Rocks. The roads are windy and hilly in Flinders Chase and breathtakingly beautiful. There is nothing but outback as far as you can see. (And if you venture on to Pinterest, a famous road in Flinders Chase pops up a lot I’ve noticed. I made sure to take a picture of it.)

The famous Pinterest road

Mary educated us on the Remarkable Rocks, warned us on not to get too close to the edge for likelihood of slipping off if they are wet, and sent us on our way while she made tea. The three of us made our way to the rocks, which are gigantic granite boulders balanced on what appears to be an even bigger granite rock. The orange looking rust on the rocks was lichen. It all looked a bit like it came from the moon.

The Remarkable Rocks

The rocks were immense.

The rocks were distorted into all sorts of shapes.

Walking around the rocks you could see while people have met their end by getting too close to the edge. A slippery surface along with the curved edge could be deadly. I made sure to keep my nervous self at a safe distance.

As close as I got!

When we were done taking our pictures and exploring, we returned to Mary who had the picnic set up. Again the flies were a bit fierce, but still it was all very enjoyable to be drinking tea and eating pastries in a national park.

Mary's Remarkable Rocks picnic

Morning tea at the rocks

This was the end of our delightful journey and Mary took us back to the lodge in time for lunch.

*To note, despite being on our honeymoon, Blake was not with me on this part of the journey as he returned to the lodge after the koalas. Southern Ocean Lodge was kind enough to come pick him up after he felt ill from the rough off-roading. But don’t feel too bad, I returned to the lodge to find him, feeling better and viewing dolphins swimming in Hanson Bay through a telescope. Hardly a rough morning. :)

Thank you to Jo and Brad, the other SOL guests on the journey with me, who were sweet enough to make sure I had enough pictures of myself enjoying all the sites! And to Mary, for pulling over every time I was sheepish and wanted to take a picture of the beautiful scenery.

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Southern Ocean Lodge: The Tours

Four complimentary tours are included when you stay at Southern Ocean Lodge. These tours are supposed to give you a personal view of what the island has to offer and include seeing the wonderful flora and fauna on Kangaroo Island.

The first tour we were able to go on was the Coastal Clifftop Trek with Al, the same staff member who had picked us up at the Kingscote airport. The trek starts at the back door of the lodge and takes you along the limestone cliffs of Hanson Bay. Along the way Al taught us about the vegetation, which was quite fascinating, as I would say the majority of it, if not all of it, is not found back in the United States.

The trek took us along the edge of the cliff to the point.

Occasionally, Al stopped to let the group take a “sniff” of the plants. Some of the plants we came across were rosemary, pigface and many varieties of melaluca. Many of the plants we came across were in our meals back at the lodge during our stay. We viewed large boulders in the ocean that were 450 million years old, came across a goanna digging for food and saw many types of seabirds.

450 million year old boulders

It was a bit “blowy” on top of the cliff and the flies were annoying. In fact, not many people mention the flies in Trip Advisor reviews, so it wasn’t something I was expecting. But be forewarned, the flies are pretty bad. You’ll learn the Aussie Salute pretty quickly. The salute consists of, according to Wikipedia, the waving of one’s hand in front of the face at regular intervals in order to prevent bush flies from landing on it, or entering one’s nose or mouth.

Notice the flies on the back of the guy's shirt

The second tour we took was Kangaroos & Canapés, or as lovingly called by the staff, Roos and Booze.  Our tour started with a ride from the lodge at dusk to a historic island property called Grassdale. Along the way, Al gave us the history of the area and how Kangaroo Island inherited the property from a woman who owned a former sheep station. The road was a bit bumpy there but we finally pulled into a clearing where there was the little house the woman who donated the property used to live.

Grassdale house

Al led us out of the van and out into a wide-open area where the kangaroos were grazing. I believe the kangaroo equivalent would be our white-tailed deer. As a group, we got quite close to the animals but not enough to spook them. Al educated us about the animals and we were then allowed to wander around.

Nature is amazing

The females were smaller than I thought they might be, but some of the males were massive. Watching them bounce is astounding as their tails act like pendulums to keep them stable. They also struck me as very human like. In fact, Kangaroo Island got its name from the sailors who came across the island and saw what looked like Aborigines standing on a cliff. It turns out it was just a mob of kangaroos.

We like to call him the Beast

A female kangaroo

They make very little noise and will occasionally look up to see who you are and then go right back to eating the grass. The kangaroos also seemed just as annoyed by the flies as we were.

Annoying flies

Back at the little house, the SOL staff had set up a table with snacks and wine. It was a bit surreal to be drinking champagne and standing amongst hopping kangaroos.

 

Champagne and Roos

On our way back to the lodge, we came across a mom and her joey. The joey was a bit too big to fit back in the pouch, but stuck his head in as he was frightened by the van.

Mom and Joey

The third tour we took was the Wonders of KI. This tour started at 9 a.m. and left from the lodge. Mary, a native from the island, picked us up and first drove on back roads to see if we could see kangaroos on our way to see the koalas. We came across a family of kangaroos that hopped in front of the van and did a standoff with us before continuing on. We also saw enormous termite hills and a plant that only grows one centimeter per year, thus making it thousands of years old.

Kangaroo Island plant

We then made it to the koala area where we walked a short trail looking high into the trees for little, round, grey fuzzballs.  We found a few who were sleeping, but found a mom holding her baby near the visitor center. Because a koala is a marsupial like a kangaroo it too has a pouch; however, her pouch opens backwards towards her hind legs rather than her head.

Mom and baby Koala - baby's head is on the right

There were also geese that had lime green beaks, red legs and black feet. Much different than the bland Canadian geese we see at home.

Kangaroo Island goose

We then continued on to Flinders Chase National Park. Please see a separate entry solely on that experience.

The fourth tour included at SOL was Seal Bay. Braunwyn was our guide for the morning at Seal Bay. The conservation area boasts being the home to Australia’s third largest colony of Australian sea lions.

Our guide drove us about 45 minutes or so to get to Seal Bay. Along the way she told us about Australian Sea Lions and what we could expect when we arrived. Once there, we started in the visitor center where we learned about the skeletal body of a sea lion and about their fur. The group then headed down the path to a private access point. In the sand dunes we saw a sleeping sea lion and learned that because of their hip joints, sea lions can very easily climb the dunes. Once we headed down the stairs there was a gigantic male and female sleeping together below the grates.

Australian Sea Lion sleeping in the dunes

Braunwyn took us on to the beach and told us to stay close to her and to not get close to the animals. We walked up and down the beach listening to her talk more about the animals and taking in their daily activities. We witnessed mothers taking their pups down the dunes and into the water for swimming lessons and males battling each other. To note, Australian sea lions are much quieter than their cousin the California sea lion who barks.

Sea lion mom and her pup

Seal yoga

Sea lions battling

The only downfall was that I was hoping to see the fairy penguins. There were no penguins on the beach. However, a nice treat at the end of the tour was that we got cupcakes to hold us over until lunch.

While the cost of staying at SOL is extreme, the included tour element of the stay is definitely an added bonus. During your stay at SOL, do not pass up on going on the tours. They take very small groups out, except for maybe the Roos and Booze tour, and make you feel like you’re part of your very own private tour of KI.

The lodge does offer a variety of other tours at a cost. I found the price of these tours to be a little steep, but a bonus if you’re looking to do more than what is offered for free.

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Southern Ocean Lodge: The Spa

View of the SOL Spa from the cliff top walk

While Blake and I decided to take our honeymoon just over a month after our wedding, a relaxing morning at the spa was definitely needed after 14 months of planning a wedding.

Back in Chicago we had printed out the spa menu to pick what treatments we wanted to do when we arrived at SOL. We had read online that the spa can book fast, so best that you have your appointments booked ahead of time before arriving.

They have a few treatments geared toward men specifically, so Blake chose the Remarkable Man, named after the Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park. His treatment included starting in a steam room to detoxify and relax, followed by a Bay of Shoals mineral salt back exfoliation and then a back and scalp massage. To finish, a gentle face cleanse with exfoliation and a facial massage.

I was torn on what to choose, but decided to treat myself to the Ligurian Honey and Almond Wrap. The treatment begins with a Bay of Shoals mineral salt exfoliation, followed by a blend of ground almonds, honey and warm water applied to the body. You are then wrapped in a warm cloth and left to relax. You then rinse off in the rainwater shower and enjoy a massage with essential oils and lavender mist.

Our morning at the spa started at 10:30. Two women welcomed us and told us to change into robes for our treatments. We were then told we could sit in a little lounge room with each other before we started. The lounge room, like everything else at the lodge, looked out over the expanse of the ocean. Blake was then led to the steam room to start and I was taken to my treatment room.

SOL spa lounge

My spa therapist started with an Aboriginal smoke ceremony while my feet soaked in a bowl of water to clear the past and bring my mind and spirit into the present. I then discussed with her any problems areas I had that she could concentrate on during the massage. I was first exfoliated and then slathered with almonds and honey and then, like the description said, wrapped in a warm cocoon of towels and sheets. When my cocoon time was over, she came back in to unwrap me and at one point I felt like I was laying on the table naked, however the towel had become so chilly it only gave the illusion of being bare. Nothing about it was uncomfortable, just a funny sensation. I then rinsed off in the famous rain shower that is advertised in many of SOL’s photos; a woman standing naked in front of two windows showering. Which is exactly what I did. Liberating knowing nothing is out there but wallabies and whales.

SOL spa treatment room with rain shower

Once the treatments were over Blake and I met back in the lounge to drink the spa tea, which can only be had, as we found out later, at the spa. It is delicious and relaxing. We laid back in the lounge chairs, drinking tea, soaking in the amazing view and giggled like schoolgirls over our spa treatments. I then wrote in the guestbook and we changed to continue with the rest of our day.

While the treatments are certainly not cheap, they are luxurious. And if you have the funds to treat yourself to one while staying at SOL it will be another added delight to your trip.

A remarkable man :)

All relaxed and done with the spa!

 

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Southern Ocean Lodge: The Food

SOL Dining Room

The food of SOL needs it’s own section because it is spectacular. Reading the Trip Advisor reviews before arriving had me a little hesitant as most were raving but a few were less so. Some people had comments that they weren’t served enough food, and while after being there I could see that being the case for some people, it was enough for me. The menu is changed every day, however there is an optional “classics” menu that doesn’t change if you are looking for more basic food like a hamburger or steak. We never ordered off of that unless we wanted a side of French fries or mashed potatoes to go with our main meal. (And I would not deter anyone from eating those, as they were delicious too.)

Don't be ashamed to get the fries if need be, they're good

SOL uses local, South Australian, fresh organic ingredients, some of which are right outside their door. Neither Blake or I are genuinely adventurous eaters, but as they say when in Rome… and we were not disappointed. The first night we tried Kangaroo Island freshwater marron tail, an Australian crayfish that kind of looks like a piece of lobster.  The entrée was wild caught coorong mulloway, an Australian fish that can grow up to 2m in length and tastes delicious, but I wouldn’t want to meet him in the water…ever. For dessert they served, three lodge-made waffle cones with ice cream.

Freshwater marron tail

Lodge-made waffle cones and ice cream

Over the next three days we tried more kingfish, barramundi, venison, a salad of heirloom tomatoes and herbs, ligurian honey ice cream with frozen milk and bee pollen, flowers, brassica (a vegetable), and limestone coast 9+ wagyu beef that we were promised would be the best beef we ever had. It was.

Colorful salads

Eating at SOL is part of the exotic experience of staying there. Blake and I had promised each other that anytime they offered us a drink, we’d say yes (it was our honeymoon after all) and that we would try new things. We were never disappointed.

Heirloom tomato salad with flowers

In fact, in trying new things, Sally, a staff member, even created a new cocktail for us. So special in fact we were able to name it. If you go, ask for the R&B Malibu. It even includes Kangaroo Island gin. Sally was kind enough to have them ready for us after a long day of sightseeing and at our dinner table.

R&B Malibu courtesy of Sally

At the end of our stay there, staff had stockpiled the menus for both lunch and dinner for me to bring home. I will not be able to find most of the things here in Chicago that I ate there, but looking back over the menus brings me back to a place of happiness.

When we eventually went back to Sydney we treated ourselves to a dinner at the nicest restaurant in Sydney, Aria. It was paltry in comparison. Save yourself the trip and head straight to SOL instead.

The view from dinner at SOL

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Southern Ocean Lodge

The Southern Ocean Lodge was kind enough to extend to me a journalist rate for two nights. Thank you to James Baillie and the managers John and Alison for giving me the opportunity to stay at your lodge to experience everything you have to offer.

Southern Ocean Lodge (SOL) on Kangaroo Island is the epitome of luxury. It’s almost a wonder you don’t hear about it more often. However, let’s keep it that way, because it truly is a gem.

When researching our options for Kangaroo Island there were a few bed and breakfasts and a few places where we could stay that were absolutely gorgeous but you needed to cook your own food. (Not necessarily something we wanted to do on our honeymoon.) When it came down to having to pick between Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island and Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, because we couldn’t afford both, we weighed our options. We finally decided on SOL because the rate included all of our meals, all alcoholic beverages and four tours. We have never looked back.

Arriving at the Kingscote Airport

Upon arriving at the Kingscote Airport on KI after one of the most harrowing and shortest flights I’ve ever been on, I was happy to be on land. Al and Renee picked us up in the SOL van, gave us washcloths and waters and drove us 50 minutes to the lodge. Along the way Al gave us a history of the area. While Blake was still woozy from the plane ride and now a bumpy car ride, I enjoyed the view and looked at the map while Al narrated.

We pulled into a rocky back road for the last little bit to the lodge and pulled up to the gates. The lodge staff buzzed us in and the gates swung open. We drove past huge bushes and trees up a steep road and were greeted by our first sign of wildlife – a goanna! He resembled an iguana.

The SOL welcoming committee - a goanna

Once inside the lodge, the expanse of windows that look out over the Southern Ocean are breathtaking.  Helen, a staff member, took us down to the comfy chairs by the windows to go over our itinerary for the four nights we would be staying there. We were treated to delicious salmon sandwiches and glasses of champagne.

The interior of Southern Ocean Lodge

An itinerary has been set up for each guest before they arrive, but by no means does a guest need to follow it if they don’t want to. Everything that has been offered is only a suggestion.  We had set-up spa appointments months in advance and even those had been added to our schedule too.

Our SOL itinerary

Helen took us down to our room for the next little tour. The lodge is built into a cliffside that runs on a decline; therefore the rooms run along a steep slope. If you do have mobility issues, I would highly suggest requesting a room closer to the main room. Forgetting a wallet or something in your room when you are near the end of the hallway, like we were, can be a hike.

The long hallway to the rooms

Our Flinders Suite room was beautiful. Every detail has been thought about and every room has a view of the ocean. Our bed overlooked a sunken lounge area, which the bathroom opened up to. If you needed privacy, you could close a sliding door. The shower had two showerheads and no door and was completely open so you could enjoy the ocean while bathing. The walk-in closet had an in-suite bar, which is stocked daily at no cost, and there was also room for suitcases, and drawers with backpacks you could use during your stay. Outside was a terrace with a daybed. Because the lodge slopes down, you have complete privacy except for maybe a passing wallaby.

SOL Flinders Chase Suite

Flinders Chase suite bathroom

A few doors down from our room was a door that led outside to a long, wood plank path down to the beach. In two areas outside of the lodge are tables set out on the edge of the cliff to sit and enjoy the views. Knowing that Antarctica is the next land mass out there in the ocean is a bit mind boggling. Knowing that may be as close as I ever get to it was every bit as exciting too.

Cliffside seating

Inside the lodge are seating areas around a fireplace that rotates from the ceiling and the dining room with again, more views of the ocean. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. Inside the sunken lounge area is an enormous open bar fit for royalty. Anything you want, you take. If you want staff to mix you a drink, they’ll do that too. They also have an amazing red wine cellar where you can do tastings and again, take a bottle to drink with dinner. I can’t think of another place to stay with that kind of freedom.

An open bar, my friends

Outside on the patio is more seating if the weather is nice and an infinity plunge pool that I made sure to at least put my feet in before we left.

Infinity plunge pool outside

It’s comfy, luxurious and the staff really attends to your every need. See the next few sections on food, tours and the spa.

Josiah was our server for the majority of our meals during our stay at SOL. He took care of our every need and was great!

Southern Ocean Lodge
Hanson Bay Road
Kingscote, SA 5223 Australia
Phone: (61) 08 8559 7347
Website: http://southernoceanlodge.com.au

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Pinetrees Lodge

Pinetrees Lodge is one of the oldest family businesses in Australia. The sixth generation of the original family, Dani Rourke and her husband Luke Hanson, are now running the lodge.

Luke picked us up at the Lord Howe Airport when we arrived. He was kind enough to grab our bags and load them into the van. And since we arrived one day late, due to our flight being canceled the day before, he drove us as far south as we could go on the island to see the sites before taking us to the lodge.

Once we pulled into the lodge, we were told to just drop our bags by the grass tennis court, they’d take them to the room later, and come join them for lunch on the covered patio. Lunch is set up every day outside with salads and make your own sandwiches, or they will pack you a lunch to take with you for the day, or deliver you a BBQ in a cooler to have a famous “Australian barbie” at one of the beaches.

Exhausted from traveling but happy to have arrived

We had salads and beef sandwiches for lunch and complimentary champagne to welcome us and start the beginning of our honeymoon. After lunch, staff showed us to our room. Blake and I have to admit, that while planning for this huge trip down under we had to cut costs where we could, and were a bit wary of the accommodations at Pinetrees as there were few pictures of the rooms and bathrooms. However, we were pleasantly surprised at what we walked into when we entered the Palm Room.

Palm Room

Bathroom in the Palm Room - very basic

The beds (we had two, although only used one) were comfy, it was spacious, and we had a platter of food and a bottle of champagne set up and waiting for us. The bathroom was quite basic, certainly not fancy at all, and the faucet water was best for a quick brush of your teeth and a shower. A spigot outside the room was where the best drinking water was to fill up a carafe in the room. Certainly the rooms at Pinetrees were not designed so you could spend the day in them. Your sole instinct upon arriving on such a beautiful island is to explore as much of it as possible in the short time that you are there.

Our stay at Pinetrees reminded me a bit of summer camp, except with way better food. Each morning and night our names were on a table to reserve our spot. Breakfast consisted of three options, but also had a breakfast bar with juices, toast and cereals. Dinner was a more extravagant affair with a four-course meal. We’d begin with a soup, then a choice of entrée with a vegetable, dessert and then a cheese hour.

Our first night there was the famous fish fry. To start the meal we had sushi. Staff carried out two of the biggest platters of sushi I’ve ever seen. After that, they began the actual fish fry portion and you were able to choose whether you wanted fried or grilled Kingfish, a local specialty.

Famous Fish Fry

Outside of the food, the reason why Pinetrees feels like summer camp is because of how easy going everything is. There are no room keys for you room. They don’t plan activities for you, which they say works for them, however I find a little strange. They provide you all the brochures and tell you to use the phone if you want to take a tour. They list all the tide times and the weather for the day on a bulletin board. One morning, a woman walked around seeing if anyone wanted to sign up for spa treatments.

It’s relaxing, it’s comfortable, the air smells good, the sun shines. You can go to the Boatshed in the evening for cocktail hour. Inside the Boatshed is a refrigerator fully stocked with beverages and on a table is sign-up sheet where you list what you have taken and they’ll bill you upon check out. It’s a nice place to meet other guests and sit and watch the sun set or to visit late at night to watch the stars.

The Pinetree Boatshed in the background

View from the Boatshed

If you’re looking for a nice resort that is a bit friendlier on the pocket, more so than places like Capella or Arajilla, then Pinetrees would be a great pick. Included in your stay is breakfast, lunch, tea hour with pastries and dinner. Alcoholic beverages are not included, but are available for purchase and not too badly priced. You cannot go wrong with Pinetrees. It may not have the luxury of some of the other resorts, but it does offer its own unique charm, and certainly good food.

Pinetrees Resort

Lord Howe Island NSW 2898, Australia

Phone: 02 6563 2177

Website: http://www.pinetrees.com.au

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Capella Lodge

While we didn’t get the chance to stay here, Capella was kind enough to extend the offer to us to join them for lunch and a site inspection of their property. We greatly thank Libby, their manager, and James Baillie, the owner, for extending this experience to us.

Entrance to Capella

There are places you find on the Web that the view looks too good to be true, but at Capella, upon arrival at their lodge, the view is the same as what is depicted online, if not far better. We entered the lodge through their arbor and then into the living area, which opened into a sitting area near a fireplace, a large dining area and the bar. In front of us was a magnificent view of both Mt. Lidgbird and Mt. Gower rising out of the ocean to a surreal height of almost 3,000 feet.

The view

Despite the luxuriousness of this place, Blake and I never felt like we were out of our comfort realm. All the furniture had the feel of a really nice beach house. Capella made us feel relaxed, especially as their friendly staff catered to us. In fact, the lodge totes itself as being Lord Howe’s luxury beach house.

Dining area

Each day at Capella the menu changes for all meals. However they offer a classics menu that doesn’t change in case you’re in the mood for something a bit more the norm. Included in the tariff here are a gourmet breakfast, sunset drinks and canapés, a three-course dinner with selected wines and all non-alcoholic beverages. Lunch is not included but is available at the restaurant or as a picnic or a BBQ to enjoy somewhere on the island.

For lunch, I enjoyed the beef tenderloin burger with Brie, sundried tomato, caramelized onion and a side of hand cut chips. The burger was huge, and the meat I found to be a little tough as I ended up cutting it all up with a knife and fork since it was so big. But the chips were quite good. Blake enjoyed the local fish special of kingfish, which came with polenta. It was also very tasty, mainly because the fish is so fresh on the island. They also brought out a small serving of their gnocchi with provincial vegetables, toasted almonds and curd to try. Neither one of us had had gnocchi quite that good before; the cheesiness of them was delicious. They also served us wine with lunch and tea afterwards.

Beef tenderloin sandwich

Kingfish and polenta

When we finished lunch, we started our tour of the lodge. Capella consists of nine different rooms. We were shown two different rooms, as guests occupied the others. The first room we saw was the Capella Suite. The views were just as stunning as they were in the dining area. A one-level room, the suite has a nice bathroom with an oversized shower. Outside is an expansive private deck with a cozy day bed and sun lounge. The other room was the Lagoon Loft, a two-level room with a living area downstairs and a sleeping area upstairs. Again, amazing views, private decks on both levels and a bathroom with a rainshower.

Lagoon Loft view

We continued on our tour to the spa. The spa was a very nice, but small, space with one treatment room and a small locker room with a bathroom. The spa will be expanded upon in the coming year to include a bigger treatment area. The bathroom with the shower is nice for guests who need to check out early, but still would like to explore the island more before being transported to the airport to catch their flight. Go snorkeling in the morning, come back for a shower and on to the airport! They also have a small hot tub outside, near the spa, that reminded me a bit of a deep wine barrel. The stars at night from there are supposed to be amazing.

Back to the dining area and up a small flight of stairs is another lounge area with a fireplace and more amazing views of the lagoon and the deck below with a small plunge pool off the dining room. Enjoy sunset cocktails there later in the day, snuggle up with a good book or just relax and watch the waves.

Upper lounge area

Libby was kind enough to take us back to where we were staying, but extended another visit for the next day to come back to join her for cocktails. We couldn’t resist the offer! The very next day, Libby picked us up at our resort and took us back to Capella. Each day they have a specialty cocktail to enjoy during sunset. Ours was muddled grapes and was quite delicious. The canapés consisted of lamb belly with coriander flowers on a small square of toast, and kingfish belly with mandarin served on a spoon. Both were absolutely delightful.

Monty Python sunset

We watched the sunset, which Libby said sometimes is a bit Monty Python-ish with the clouds, enjoyed our cocktails and found it a bit hard to leave.

Also included in a stay at Capella is island airport transfers, daily housekeeping and evening turndown service, beach towels, bath robes, pillow selection, premium brand toiletries, backpacks, snorkeling gear, lagoon canoes, movies, books and games, internet kiosk, and adult mountain bikes. Capella will help set up tours for you with local tour companies and transport you around the island as they are a bit far south. If you are lucky enough to say in the Makambo Loft you can enjoy a private deck plunge spa. Even luckier to stay in the Lidgbird Pavilion, your stay will include a complimentary electric golf buggy, an in-suite bar and a private plunge pool.

We definitely plan on returning to Lord Howe some day and will highly consider basking in the peaceful luxury of Capella.

Enjoying life

 

Capella Lodge

Lagoon Road

Lord Howe Island, NSW 2898

Phone (North America): 931-924-5253

Website: http://lordhowe.com

 

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