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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World Heritage Site: Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island View

I can’t imagine there are many places on Earth quite as magical as Lord Howe Island (LHI). On our flight to Sydney from Los Angeles, we were the only two people making the connecting flight to LHI. Most Americans have never heard of the island, and most Australians outside of New South Wales haven’t either. Only 350 people live on the island and only 400 tourists can be there at time. At times, you can have a whole beach to yourself.

There are very few cars on the island and most people get around by bike. It’s a carefree way to live. After eating breakfast every day, we’d get our bathing suits on, put on our sunscreen and bike helmets and away we’d go for the day to go explore. And that’s truly what you do on this island is explore.

The first day we tackled Ned’s Beach (and every day after that) to go feed the fish. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but there were swarms of fish at the beach. There were colorful wrasses and parrotfish, sand mullets, kingfish and double headers. Two days in a row we saw a Galapagos reef shark, one of the fastest fish I’ve ever seen. For a $1 AUD you can buy fish feed out of the machine and hand feed the fish. We went to the south end of the beach to where the rocks were to find more colorful fish hiding under the reef rocks.

Swarms of fish

Ned's Beach

 

This is Ned, our parrotfish

We spent some time at Old Settlement Beach at high tide to try to find the sea turtles that come in. There was one paddling around by some snorkelers. I waded out into the water to go view first hand and be able to say I swam with a sea turtle. They are quite graceful, occasionally coming up for air with a pfffff sound as he exhales and inhales before sinking back down again.

Old Settlement Beach - people near the turtle

Our second day, we rode our bikes to the Middle Beach trailhead and took the trek through the trees, past the cows and down the cliff side to find ourselves standing over Middle Beach. Again, another pretty secluded beach full of coral, different types of shells and sea glass! I reminded Blake at the time something that my mom has told me to do when you find yourself in a beautiful place. Stop, bask in the beautiful place you are, and remind yourself that you are currently the only person on Earth taking in this view right now and experiencing it. It is an amazing thing to do.

Middle Beach

Another view of Middle Beach

We took our bikes at dusk one evening to go sit at Blinky Beach and drink our honeymooners’ champagne at ironically the beach with what the locals on the Lord Howe website call “champagne surf.” The sooty terns were nesting on the dune below our bench with their chicks; the parents occasionally flying high into the sky. The smell of the birds was a bit overwhelming on the walk down to the beach, but not so bad from above them on top of the dune.  As we drank our champagne, in front of us appeared the most amazing full rainbow I’ve ever seen, and behind us a sunset for the record books. The rainbow reached from the edge of the ocean all the way over to the cliff to our left.

Blinky Beach

A Lord Howe Island sunset

On another bike ride we found ourselves at Lovers Bay, clearly at high tide with a forceful wind that made my hair stand up straight. We sat on the rocks watching two kite surfers whipping over the waves. Once back on our bikes we went to the airstrip and watched a QantasLink airplane take off. This might sound mundane, but you’ll quickly learn that planes taking off and landing on the island is quite a spectacle as there is no air traffic control and the airstrip is only a kilometer long.

Lovers Bay

We hiked half way up Malabar trail one morning before only getting about half way and turning around. With Blake’s fear of heights, it was a bit close to the cliff edge, and with it being a bit “blowy” we decided to turn around. My goal was to be able to see the edge of island on the south end where Mt. Gower rises up out of the ocean and I was able to do that from only half way up.

Malabar Trail

Lord Howe is like no other place. With very few cars, and mainly bikes on the road, you start to recognize people as you travel around and have the urge to wave at everyone. As there is no crime on the island, there are no keys to the resort room doors, and the sheriff’s main job is to make sure you’re wearing your bike helmet. We wished we could have spent more time here experiencing the magic of it all as there were more beaches to see and more trails to hike. We will be back some day, and next time we’ll be there for a longer stay.

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Wow, this really happened?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the econom

View more of this story on NBC News.

I can’t believe after the government shut down all the parks that a Congressman would actually walk up to a park ranger and tell her she should be ashamed of herself.

The LA Times yesterday gave people a few ideas if you’re on vacation and find yourself locked out of a National Park. Visit the LA Times to see their ideas. Although, I’d highly suggest avoiding the casino idea, as that has nothing to do with nature or culture.

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Government Shut Down

It is a sad, sad time that all the National Parks have now closed due to the Government Shutdown. It is a shame that the people we have “hired” to run this country can’t seem to work together in order to make things works smoothly for the country. I hope for all the people traveling now to see the National Parks, that they will open up soon for you so you can see the wonder that they are. I know many of them are “bucket list” places to see. This is a beautiful time of year to be traveling to see all of the parks. Fingers crossed that they will once again, open up soon.

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Sesame Street and the National Parks

Love that Sesame Street finally partnered with the National Park System to push getting kids outside to enjoy the National Parks and the outdoors.  More kids to need to get outside and enjoy nature!

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Yosemite Nature Notes – One Day in Yosemite Video

This is one of the most beautiful videos I have ever seen done on Yosemite National Park. I love how they have everyone part of the video from the kitchen staff and waiters, to the tram driver, to the hard core hikers, artists and families. The father and son climbing duo even brought tears to my eyes near the end. Also the woman in the video had it spot on about the Redwood trees.

This is definitely on my list of places to go in the future.

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Spooky B&Bs!

Happy Halloween from Parks & Pancakes! Just in time for Halloween is a list of spooky B&Bs that would give you the creeps if you stayed there. I stayed at the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B supposedly haunted by the ghost, Rue. And let me tell you, it was a little hard to fall asleep that night. (I didn’t know it was haunted until AFTER we made the reservations.)

Ghosts are fascinating, I just don’t know if I could really stay in a haunted bed and breakfast. It would just give me the creeps. I want to be able to relax at night, not be up thinking I hear and see things!

Huffington Post lists their haunted bed and breakfasts.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch lists their haunted picks.

Both news sources were pulling their haunted spots from B&B Finder’s list of haunted B&Bs.

More B&Bs from Huffington Post. I’m sorry, but if a ghost kept taking the blankets and sheets off of me in the middle of the night, I would probably lose my mind.

 

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Bed and Breakfasts for fall colors

Are you looking to take a little adventure this fall and travel out East, or anywhere for that matter, to experience the colors? Don’t go without checking out the following 10 bed and breakfasts that the Huffington Post labeled as places to leaf peep from the porch.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bnbfindercom/taking-the-laidback-appro_b_1909706.html#slide=more252493

I wouldn’t mind kicking back at the Wildberry Lodge in North Carolina right about now or the ECCE Bed and Breakfast in New York. Both look gorgeous.

 

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