Olympic National Park – The Coast

There are three distinct parts of Olympic National Park: the coast, the rainforest and the mountains. The first part that we visited in August 2012 was the coast. We flew into the Seattle-Tacoma Airport and drove directly to Forks on the Olympic Peninsula. It was about a four-hour drive.

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Our first stop along the way was Ruby Beach. It was the first time we could really stretch our legs and get a break from the continuous, evergreen-lined highway scenery. It’s only a quarter mile hike down to a beautiful beach to see large sea stacks standing in the water. It was an overcast day and a little bit of drizzle, but it didn’t deter us from hiking around. The high tide seemed to be coming back in when we arrived so there were no tide pools. Unfortunately there was a dead sea otter on the beach, and even more unfortunate, the only one I would get to see on the entire trip. Nonetheless, it was very cool to look at him up close. We climbed around on the logs and rocks before heading on to our final destination of Forks.

The poor sea otter... at least he looks peaceful

The poor sea otter… at least he looks peaceful

Ruby Beach shoreline

Ruby Beach shoreline

Our second day we continued up the coast to reach Cape Flattery, the most northwesterly tip of the continental United States. From Forks it was a pretty drive on 101 to 113 to the scenic 112 Juan de Fuca Byway. There are great views along the way of the strait and you can see all the way to Canada. We pulled over at a roadside pull off near Sekiu to hike along one of the little beaches.

Welcome to Sekiu

Welcome to Sekiu

To get to Cape Flattery you enter the Makah Indian Reservation and need to get a recreational use permit to be on their land. You can either stop at the Makah Tribal Center, which I highly recommend NOT doing as that was by far the rudest man we met on the trip and they had no permits, and heading straight to the general store on the left hand side for a permit. It was a $10 registration fee in 2012. You’ll also pass the Neah Bay United States Coast Guard on the right, which is cool to see. I’ve never been to Alaska, but I picture it looking just like that with the hills, the bay and little fishing boats.

Neah Bay harbor

Neah Bay harbor

The road ends at Cape Flattery and it’s a .75 mile hike to the point. Along the trail there are four lookout points to stop at that offer amazing, colorful views of sea caves and wildlife.

Cape Flattery coastline

Cape Flattery coastline

To stand at the most northwestern point of the continental United States is an extremely weird feeling. To know you are at where the United States ends or begins (glass half empty or full?) makes you feel like you’ve accomplished some feat not many people get to experience. In the distance was Tatoosh Island and on another small, rocky island was a hoard of barking sea lions. It was well worth the hike and the registration fee.

The most northwestern tip of the continental US

The most northwestern tip of the continental US

From Cape Flattery we headed to Cape Alava in Ozette, the most western point of the continental United States. It’s a 3.1-mile hike along a wooded boardwalk from Lake Ozette. I highly recommend not getting there as the sun is on its way down as a 3.1-mile hike does take some time! Tide was so far out when we arrived at the Cape there wasn’t a lot to see and it stunk to high heavens of sulfur and rotten eggs. There wasn’t anything of interest in the tide pools, just kelp, seaweed and lots of flies. Maybe I caught Cape Alava on a bad day, but I have no desire to return. On the hike back about a mile out I thought I heard a woodpecker, then it sounded like a deep guttural growl and Blake and I got the hell out of there as fast as we could. Near the parking lot we saw a little boy and his dad who had hiked the three miles to Sand Point and saw lots of sea otters. I wish we had gone that route instead. However, I am glad to say I conquered the most western point of the United States.

Cape Alava - most western point of the continental US

Cape Alava – most western point of the continental US

Cape Alava trail through the woods

Cape Alava trail through the woods

On our third day we tried to find Rialto Beach and ended up at First Beach in La Push for sunset. Absolutely gorgeous at sunset. You can sit on the beach and take in the waves and surrounding views of the evergreen dotted hillsides or sit on the rocks with the rest of the photographers and try to capture the perfect sunset photo.

First Beach

First Beach

Beautiful sunset at First Beach

Beautiful sunset at First Beach

This was a perfect ending to our Olympic National Park coastal experience.

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Colette’s Bed and Breakfast

Colette's sign

Ah, Colette’s. This B&B will always hold a special place in my heart.

Located in Port Angeles, WA, Colette’s Bed and Breakfast is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the base of the Olympic National Park mountain range. It is truly gorgeous. To add to the beauty of it all are the amazing gardens weaving themselves around the property. The gardens were even featured in an issue of Fine Gardening magazine.

In August 2012, when we pulled into the property we found it entirely gated off to keep the deer out of the gardens. When we left the property four days later, the deer were actually lined up at the gate trying to get in. Lesson here is, keep the gate closed.

Can we come in?

Can we come in?

There are few places that I have been that have actually reduced me to tears upon arrival, but this was one of them. The view of the ocean, the gardens and the beautiful room was more than I could handle.

Beautiful grounds

Beautiful grounds

Carrie, a staff person, greeted us when we walked into the Great Room, which has huge, 40-foot windows that overlook the grounds, the ocean and the San Juan Islands in the distance. There are couches to relax in, movies to pick from and lots of books and brochures to read about the area. There is also the dining room where breakfast is served in the morning along with a cocktail and appetizer hour in the evening.

Great room and dining room

Great room and dining room

We stayed in the Azalea Suite, which had a great view of the ocean from the bed and a cozy little fireplace in the corner. There was also a nice bathroom with a big Jacuzzi tub for relaxing. (From the pictures on the website, they have changed their furniture at some point, whether before we got there or sometime since.)

Azalea Suite

Azalea Suite

View outside the Azalea Room

View outside the Azalea Room

Dae and Cliff run the B&B and they are truly sweet people who do a very nice job. They are there in the evening to serve wine and appetizers and help book dinner reservations and make recommendations. They serve a stellar breakfast in the morning and interact with guests. They are friendly people who love the area and are willing to help.

In fact, little to my knowledge, Dae had been in cahoots with Blake before our arrival to step up a perfect place for a proposal. She went out of her way to set up a private bench with a view of the ocean and completely decorated in ivy, daisies, yellow roses and blankets. Complete with a champagne bucket and glasses propped into the fence. (Hence now why Colette’s holds a special place in my heart.) They were excited for us, the other guests were excited to hear the news and it was a great experience. Dae and Cliff even took all the flowers afterwards while we were at dinner and put them leading up to our room door and around our room. In the morning, Dae went the extra mile and made heart-shaped biscuits to celebrate.

The Engagement Bench

The Engagement Bench

Breakfasts here were great. Our first morning we started with a poached pear, followed by a potato strata with squash in it and apple chicken sausage. To finish we had a fig with cheese inside.

Fig with cheese inside

Fig with cheese inside

Our second breakfast was a starter of orange slices , blueberries and some nuts, followed by smoked salmon on polenta with the heart-shaped cheese biscuits. We then finished with homemade mint ice cream because Dae said, “Why not have ice cream for breakfast?”

Smoked salmon on polenta with heart-shaped biscuits

Smoked salmon on polenta with heart-shaped biscuits

Our third breakfast consisted of starting with bananas, blueberries and raspberries followed by apple chicken sausage with a spinach quiche made with custard to make it fluffier. To finish we had a peach with crumble on top.

Spinach quiche and chicken sausage

Spinach quiche and chicken sausage

We ate at two good places for dinner during our stay there. The first was Sabai Thai in Port Angeles. It was delicious! Blake had garlic with beef and broccoli and I had Thai fried rice with beef. For dessert we shared coconut ice cream. The second place we ate at was the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim to celebrate our engagement. Blake had the meatloaf and mashed potatoes and I had the planked salmon. To finish with dessert we shared their chocolate flourless brownie dessert and ice cream. It too was really good food.

Mmm flourless chocolate brownie

Mmm flourless chocolate brownie

For activities in the area, we enjoyed visiting the lavender farms, especially Purple Haze where you can U-pick your own lavender, which I thought was a fantastic experience. Certainly don’t have that back in Illinois or Michigan. Purple Haze has a gift shop on site and also a larger one in the town of Sequim.

U-pick lavender farm!

U-pick lavender farm!

We also visited the Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the nation. It’s a five-mile hike out to the end of it, which I wish we could have done but were short on time. It was a really beautiful area with sea birds and sea lions. If you want a full list of animals you could possibly see there, visit here.

Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit

We also spent one day visiting Olympic National Park, which I will include our visit in another entry.

Our visit at Colette’s was sincerely enjoyable and relaxing. We even met Sharon the gardener who has been on the property since 2001 and designed and installed the whole garden. We thank Dae and Cliff for a wonderful stay and a memorable experience!

Me, Dae and Cliff

Cliff, me and Dae

Me and Sharon

Sharon and me

Colette’s Bed and Breakfast
339 Finn Hall Road
Port Angeles, WA 98362
Phone: 877-457-9777
Website: http://www.colettes.com

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Quillayute River Resort


Quillayute sign

Quillayute is listed in Trip Advisor under B&Bs and Inns in Forks, WA, and I wouldn’t quite consider this a B&B or an inn, but we really enjoyed our stay here in August 2012. (It is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for Forks!)

Looking  down to all the Quillayute suites

Looking down to all the Quillayute suites

There are five suites on the property that consist of an outdoor patio with two chairs and a grill, a kitchen, a sitting area with a fireplace, a bedroom and a bathroom. Since they don’t serve breakfast, Blake and I went into town to the local grocery store and picked up food for our next three days. We made dinner every night and drank wine, had cereal in the morning, and packed our lunch every day to take with us on our adventures. The kitchens are fully stocked with the appliances and tools that you would need to cook a meal. And while we had never cooked our own meals on vacation before, it was delightful!

Nice little kitchen with everything you need.

Nice little kitchen with everything you need.

The resort sits on the Quillayute River as the name suggests and is beautiful. In the morning we’d sit outside in our pajamas and watch bald eagles fly around and the local Native Americans fishing in the river for salmon. They also have a trail on the property so you can walk along the river. We found the tree swing and had a go at it. They also have beautiful gardens just outside the rooms. There was the occasional banana slug slinking along too.

View from the kitchen window

View from the kitchen window

Trail path on the property

Trail path on the property

Nearby are some famous beaches of Olympic National Park. We were also able to drive to the Hoh Rainforest, and Cape Flattery, the northwestern point of the continental United States.

Most northwestern point of the continental US

Most northwestern point of the continental US

We had an excellent and relaxing time at Quillayute and would definitely return again if we ever found ourselves in the area. I get the feeling it books fast, so I would recommend booking far in advance, especially in the summer.

Catching salmon on the Quillayute

Catching salmon on the Quillayute

Bald eagle in nearby trees

Bald eagle in nearby trees

Quillayute River Resort
473 Mora Rd.
Forks, WA 98331
Phone: 360.374.7447
Website: http://qriverresort.com/  (They have a river cam that is cool.)

Quillayute River Resort

Quillayute River Resort

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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


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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