As published in the TasWeekend magazine for The Mercury newspaper on 3 October 2020 (full article here):
Fit for a King
On the remote west coast of the breathtakingly beautiful King Island lies a brand new luxury off-grid retreat where every little detail has been meticulously designed to create a relaxing and pampered experience that is truly out of this world.
On walking into Kittawa Lodge, the first thing you notice is how completely isolated you are on this breathtakingly beautiful, rugged, untouched stretch of King Island’s west coast.
The night we arrive, the waves, whipped up by the Roaring Forties, are crashing onto the rocky shore, a thunderstorm is brewing and it’s about to get really wild and woolly outside.
But that is not a problem as once inside the self-contained eco pod, which is one of three lodges cocooned in between the undulating sand dunes and grassy hills of the 39ha property, you immediately feel warm and snug.
This feeling of warmth once you step inside the lodge’s front door past the generous supply of neatly stacked firewood and pinecones is amplified by the freestanding French-designed fireplace which is thoughtfully set and ready to go with the strike of a match.
Watching the oncoming storm from the luxurious, yet cosy, open-plan living room behind the thick glass windows is strangely comforting and exhilarating at the same time.
The windows, which extend all the way up to the raked ceiling, are so expansive it feels as though there is nothing between you and the ocean or the uninhabited coastline. And, given the proximity to both, you get that feeling that right here, right now, you could be the only person on earth.
This, combined with the fact that the entire pod looks out to sea, means you are ideally positioned to watch and hear the natural world of diving kestrels and falcons, rustling bush grasses and an abundance of Bennetts wallabies grazing and playing in front of you. It is both refreshing and therapeutic.
Once inside the chalet you feel the pressures and fast pace of normal everyday life slide off your shoulders and you immediately feel relaxed. While you’re here, you’re on island time — King Island time.
Host and sea-changer Aaron Suine, a construction lawyer formerly of Paddington, Sydney, greets us at the door and proudly shows us around our accommodation, pointing out the many little touches he has carefully selected to fit out the pods. These feature everything from locally sourced artworks and luxurious sea-green bamboo linens and natural-coloured throws, to the piece that he is perhaps most proud of, a huge custom-made concrete bath tub.
This tub, which weighs 270kg and took four men to lift — which naturally heats as the sun hits it throughout the day — sits at the end of the pod closest to the sea and is positioned so close to the glass that once you’re immersed in its waters and the lights are dimmed, you could be convinced you are actually outside in the elements. The thing is, you’re not outside, though. In fact, you’re safely ensconced behind a thick wall of glass — which is a good thing, given the wild weather on our arrival on this occasion.
When I tell him I notice the ochre-coloured throw appears to be a nod to the orange-lichen coloured rocks that are dotted around the island, and the linens and silk floor rugs mirror the natural environment, Suine is delighted.
“When people notice those things, it’s just lovely that all the thought and effort that went into choosing every little element hasn’t been lost on guests,” he says. “When we were designing these spaces, someone said to me ‘they won’t care, they won’t notice those little things’ — but then when they walk through initially and pick up on those items we’ve chosen, it means so much. That 10 hours that went into researching that one piece wasn’t a total waste of time after all.”
Suine says that after he, and his organisational psychologist partner Nick Stead, purchased the property four years ago they spent a lot of time staying at other remote luxury lodges around Australia to gain inspiration both from a positive and negative perspective.
“We just really wanted to hone in on the guest experience,” Suine says.
“Our whole design philosophy was always founded on what I wanted the guests to feel. It wasn’t about what would look good in a magazine.
“I am very functional, so it needed to be functional and low maintenance because we also wanted to ensure the property was low-impact both in the construction phase and from an ongoing maintenance perspective.
“We wanted to create a space that was low-impact, low chemical and low-plastic, if not zero-plastic, going forward.”
And although this luxurious lodge is at the top end of the high end of Tasmanian tourism experiences, it still manages to fulfil the couple’s original aim of creating a property with a low carbon footprint. This is achieved by their use of such things as the Who Gives a Crap 100 per cent recycled toilet paper, biodegradable slippers and a centralised utility hub, hidden out of sight of the lodges. This hub houses a huge bank of solar panels and a massive rainwater tank that feeds fresh drinking water to the guests.
After showing us around, Suine is quick to let us know our stay at Kittawa can be as tailored as we want it to be. As in, he’s happy to let us completely do our own thing or we can opt for a more hands-on approach which includes the option of a four course dinner served in our lodge, a guided bird-watching or beef farm tour, or the most indulgent of all, a romantic bath immersion experience.
The latter involves the bath being drawn and filled with gorgeous smelling, bespoke bath salts and surrounded by natural foliage and honey wax candles.
We go half way in terms of the curated offerings and choose the four-course dinner in our room and a solo art house and golf course tour. The dinner does not disappoint and the salmon carpaccio topped with locally grown fennel, rocket and crispy salmon skin, homemade gnocchi with burnt butter and herbs, thick piece of sous vide, medium-rare King Island steak and finished with a delicious chocolate and hazelnut torte are all highlights in a standout meal.
The next day when we wake up in our super soft king-sized bed, the storm has subsided and the sun is shining, and as we chose not to close the blinds, we immediately see we are in for a perfect blue-sky day.
Entering the well-equipped and immaculately organised kitchen, you see the hosts have thought of everything. From high-quality knives, cutlery, crockery and pots and pans, as well as a food processor and coffee pod machine — I don’t think there’s anything more you could possibly want or need — especially if you want the option of self-catering. We also see there is a large range of local breakfast provisions on offer, from a generous packet of King Island bacon, fresh eggs and orange juice to homemade apricot jam and granola.
The accommodation is completely luxurious but at the same time Suine and Stead are also keen to promote as much of the community of King Island as possible, which includes using as much of the local produce as they can and showcasing hand selected artworks by local artists such as Dianne and Andrew Blake.
“Our mission is to create memorable experiences for our guests, as we welcome them into the Kittawa Lodge family,” Suine says.
“We aim to be the complete opposite of a generic hotel chain. We want to do the little things well, rather than the grand gestures…we want to provide an increasingly authentic service for an exclusive bunch of people who really want to get away from things.
“We’re not in this game to just give people a key and wish them a lovely stay, that’s not enough of a kick for us.”
And it’s the little touches like the handwritten note we find on our return from a jam-packed day of touring around the island that illustrates this desire perfectly. The note says they hoped we’d had a great day of adventure and inspiration on their Bass Strait isle and encouraged us to kick back and relax and enjoy the home-baked goodie they’d left us as a little surprise. On this occasion it was an Anzac biscuit made with King Island honey. It’s these little things that sets them apart from many other places we’ve stayed at. And we’ve stayed at some great places.
So if you want to stay in a location that’s private, remote, offgrid and yet offers the ultimate in luxury, this would be hard to go past.
Written by Kirsty Eade, who was hosted by Kittawa Lodge.