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Travel Inspiration

The most exclusive Kangaroo Island wildlife experience awaits you at Ecopia Retreat

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This is a story that begins 20 years before it begins. A story of conservation, care and consideration for the landscape. It’s also a story about family. A family started, raised and strengthened by this place.

This place is an island off an island. A place that’s been called Australia’s Galapagos. This is Ecopia Retreat on Kangaroo Island.

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Flying over to Kangaroo Island on the short hop from Adelaide, the thing that surprises most is the seemingly endless fields of green. Farmland, on land cleared 200 years ago when Europeans first dug their settlement fingers into the land. But on a 60-hectare patch in the middle of the island, just 25 minutes’ drive from Kingscote airport a native utopia awaits.

Rob and Yael Clements have had a long and strong connection to Kangaroo Island, with South Australian-born Rob’s love for the island sparked over 20 years ago. During his time as a university student, a fishing trip to Kangaroo Island with a local friend started a love affair that saw Rob move to the island, purchasing land and developing it, and later making the property a permanent home base with Yael in 2016.

It was through Rob’s passion for rammed earth building – and total have-a-go attitude – that saw them build their first villa for guests, opening in 2018.

Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island
Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island

Villa Ada offered travellers to Kangaroo Island an entirely new style of luxury. The kind of luxury that combines quality, consciously sourced decor with a front-row seat to the majesty of their own private wildlife conservation.

Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury

Villa May followed soon afterwards – the two couples-only villas named after their two daughters – and this time a major accessible consideration was included, with Rob building a boardwalk from the car park to the villa’s deck, easily accessible by wheelchair users.

Suddenly they found themselves hosting guests from all over the world. Travellers who would book in with the intention to explore the island then find they couldn’t pull themselves away.

One special couple recently returned to Ecopia, travelling all the way from Sweden to stay for the third time! And this time they stayed for two weeks, immersing themselves in Ecopia’s unique nature and wildlife experience.

Sam Bloom at Ecopia Retreat, Kangaroo Island
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Ecopia-Wildlife-1

It’s pretty hard to compete with a setting that sees you face-to-face with native Australian wildlife – walking amongst the ancient yaccas (grass trees) where Kangaroo Island kangaroos and wallabies proliferate, especially at dawn and dusk. It’s not uncommon for an echidna or two to cross your path as you explore the property, with a rare stand of virgin native forest and winter creeks leading to the Eleanor River.

The chorus of birdsong signals the coming of dawn and the squawks of endangered glossy black cockatoos are ever present throughout the daylight hours. Koalas can be spotted in the towering eucalypts, while goannas sprawl on sun-drenched rocks and black swans and their cygnets float on the lagoon. In short, it’s a birdwatcher’s and photographer’s dream.

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Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury villa

The rammed earth walls of the villas are as organic and beautiful as the nature wonderland beyond, but expansive windows across two sides of the villa help to make you feel connected, even when you’re luxuriating by the fire inside or laying in your king bed. In keeping with the minimal footprint approach, the sites and orientation of the villas was based on the lay of the land and vegetation, ensuring not one plant was disturbed in the building process.

Because they are completely off-grid, every consideration of eco, thermal design was made. Power is drawn from solar panels on the roof, while rainwater tanks supply the water – enough to fill the gorgeous deep bath which looks out to the bushland beyond without guilt more than once during your stay. A wood-burning fireplace quickly turns the villa into a toasty cocoon while ventilation and the thick earth walls keep things cool in the summer months.

Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury
Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury
Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury

Deep thought was also given to the impact of every practical detail, from lighting, right down to the energy efficiency of each appliance. It’s why you won’t find a microwave inside, and the coffee machine switches itself off after nine minutes to conserve power.

What you will find however, is a personally curated bounty of local island produce in your welcome hamper and a bottle of Kangaroo Island wine. Rohr Remedies products are stocked in the bathrooms, infused with Australian bush medicines sourced via an ethical supply chain with Indigenous landowners, while beautiful eco-friendly yoga mats and blankets and conscious-living books provide for every indoor comfort.

Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury
Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury

After years of living and working with Indigenous communities in northern Australia, Rob and Yael have a respect for the environment firmly rooted in the understanding of Indigenous land management. Behind the villas and throughout the property, you can witness the result of over 15 years of regeneration, through their dedication to planting thousands of trees. “The respect for the land that we feel – that we’re responsible for looking after it – links in with everything,” says Yael.

Far enough away not to be visible from the villas, the three-bedroom Residence – the first accommodation built on the property – became increasingly popular with families wanting to experience Ecopia. The outdoor bath on the deck outside the master bedroom is a particular drawcard. The demand led them to undertake their next biggest building challenge during 2023, unveiling the new two-bedroom loft space called The Rise.

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A soaring vision of colorbond, timber and glass, The Rise offers a modern oasis amid nature’s bounty. With polished concrete floors, a spacious chef’s kitchen, a private deck overlooking native grass trees, and an outdoor stone bath surrounded by gum trees, it’s a haven for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Two cosy bedrooms are accessed via a spiral staircase, providing all the privacy you need, but you’ll likely spend your time downstairs relaxing on the daybed by the large double-glazed windows, or on the deck, close to the ‘action’ you came for. The natural bushland The Rise is nestled into is a ‘hot spot’ for koala spotting, so if lucky enough, you could be having a bath under the canopy of the trees, while watching a sleepy koala above you! Positioned to face east, The Rise offers breathtaking sunrise and moonrise views, making it a perfect retreat for nature enthusiasts and romantic getaways alike.

Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury
Ecopia Retreat Kangaroo Island eco luxury

You might have a plan when you journey to Ecopia Retreat, but once you drive across the small causeway at the entrance to the property, you enter a wildlife lover’s heaven where you’ll tune into nature’s rhythm and find it hard to tear yourself away.

If you do decide to venture out, Seal Bay Conservation Park is a stone’s throw from Ecopia, and the property is only 45 minutes’ drive from Flinders Chase National Park – practically next door on an island of this size – while the turquoise waters of Vivonne Bay is just 20 minutes away. (Be sure to stop for a whiting burger from the Vivonne Bay General Store when you go.)

Back at your retreat, surrender to the beauty, turn your ears to nature, and feel your breathing slow. In an increasingly busy and built-up world, that places like this exist is as comforting as a great big hug.

Photography Quentin Chester, Stirling West, Jenn Simpson, Cam Bloom, @takeus_withyou, Ashley Blenkinsop, Bec Willox, Rhyy Gaskin

Celeste Mitchell

Travel journalist and Life Unhurried co-founder, Celeste Mitchell, has managed to fuse her love of travel and telling stories for 20 years, and is regularly published in Escape, Travel + Luxury, and Australian Traveller, among others. While once she would have easily flitted across the globe several times in a month, these days she favours a much slower pace of exploration (having two kids under three will do that to you, too).

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