Works have already begun on the new Southern Ocean Lodge - dubbed SOL 2.0 - with owners James and Hayley Baillie determined to make the new structure even better.
Two years after Baillie Lodges' award-winning flagship property Southern Ocean Lodge was razed in the Kangaroo Island bushfires, company founders James and Hayley confirmed the rebuild of the globally celebrated luxury lodge is set to commence.
James and Hayley formally marked the start of building in a sod turning ceremony on Friday, Feb. 18 on the lodge's original site on KI's remote southwest coast, breaking the ground using a shovel retrieved from ashes.
The sod-turning event was attended by SA premier Steven Marshall, Southern Ocean Lodge managers John Hird and Alison Heath and architect Max Pritchard, a KI native.
The significant rebuild comes with the support of Baillie Lodges capital partner, US-based KSL Capital Partners.
Works are set to begin immediately, with the new-look Southern Ocean Lodge - dubbed 'SOL 2.0' - slated to open in the second half of 2023.
Investment in the project is forecast around $50 million, with up to 70 tradespeople engaged for the duration of the build.
Mr Ballie said the 5 million litre water supply and new regime of vegetation should protect the rebuilt structure from future fires.
It was a total shock to lose the lodge in the fires.
"It was like a losing a child. When Hayley and I first visited in October 2002, we came up with the name Southern Ocean Lodge," he said.
"So it was heartwrenching to lose the property but it quickly became about renewal and how we make it better."
Making it better was all about reestablishing the contacts who built the first lodge and who made it more than bricks and morter and who gave it a soul.
When reopened prices will be similar to the previous lodge with guests paying around $2000 a night, and between $6000 to $12,000 for the new Ocean Pavilion.
The new lay-out of the Southern Ocean Lodge 2.0 is being built on the footprint of the previous structure.
When the lodge reopens it will provide employment to more than 50 staff.
South Australian architects Max Pritchard Gunner have created innovative plans for SOL 2.0 that combine the timeless features of the original with grand new features designed to raise the bar of the Baillie Lodges' guest experience of the wildly beautiful island.
Included is a new ultra-premium suite, the 640 square metre Ocean Pavilion which follows the 'owner's residence' style pavilions across the portfolio and sits remotely offering expansive views of the Southern Ocean and private accommodation with up to four bedrooms and bathrooms, or a combination of two separate suites.
SOL 2.0 will largely maintain the original lodge footprint with luxurious guest suites easing along the coastline.
In a deft design maneuver, each of the suites has been reoriented to offer even better views of the ocean and coastal wilderness, where the eye was always drawn to the glorious sunrise, sea mists and thundering cobalt waves breaking on the shore.
The new orientation allows generous in and outdoor lounging as well as baths and Eco-Smart fireplaces for all suite categories, while a new location for the Southern Spa allows space for three treatment rooms, state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a sauna and temperature-controlled hot and cold plunge pools.
Environmental sustainability is core to the lodge's new design, with significant hybrid solar and battery infrastructure allowing the luxury lodge to continue to run off grid in its remote location while reducing diesel fuel consumption by more than 50 percent.
Investment in a larger reverse osmosis system sees the ability to use solar power to convert bore water to fresh water and storage capacity has been increased to 5.8million litres of potable water.
Rainsavers installed on each tank will increase rainwater harvesting to some 12000L of pure, drinkable rainwater from every millilitre that falls on the site.
Meanwhile, the team has already been clearing coastal mallee from a 20-metre wilderness buffer around the lodge and replanting the area with fire-retardant succulents and KI's own native juniper.
The new operation will once again be a champion of South Australian suppliers of food, drinks, furnishings, and artworks. A commitment to using exclusively local produce is a veritable boon to the regional economy whilst offering guests a genuine sense of place, a concept essential to the Baillie Lodges guest experience.
"It is a remarkable achievement from the entire team at Baillie Lodges to commit to bringing back an absolute icon of South Australian tourism. Rebuilding Southern Ocean Lodge - a truly world-class destination on Kangaroo Island - is not only an enormous show of confidence in how our state will strongly bounce back, but also in the future of tourism and business on the Island," Mr Marshall said.
"Tourism is worth over $270 million to Kangaroo Island - with one in every two jobs linked to tourism, so it is a massive shot in the arm today to see SOL 2.0 start to rise up and take shape."
Founder James Baillie said he was both relieved and excited to see the SOL 2.0 build commence.
"There's been a lot of work going on behind the scenes over these past two years and we are so pleased to have the band back together again, working with Max Pritchard on designs, Matthew Giltrap and Mat Daniel on the build and with the works of so many of the state's fine designers and artists like Khai Liew and Janine MacIntosh already commissioned for the property," Mr Baillie said
"We're extremely grateful to everyone who has helped and encouraged us to date, including the close KI community, Southern Ocean Lodge friends and former staff who've helped in our working bees and the South Australian government whose continued support for the project has been invaluable," he said.
"We're looking forward to putting this period behind us, and to wow guests once again with the wild beauty of KI. We hope SOL 2.0 will be a symbol of resilience and optimism for the future of Australian tourism."
Welcoming guests back will be "Sunshine", the well-loved kangaroo sculpture made by local artist Indiana James from a reclaimed combine harvester, fully restored to his former glory and reinstalled to his place in the lodge reception.
Kangaroo Island mayor Michael Pengilly welcomed the news of the SOL 2.0 rebuild.
"It's a very positive day for the future of this wonderful, world renowned lodge and we look forward to it opening and catering again for visitors from around the world as soon as possible," Mr Pengilly said.