This review of Capella Lodge in Lord Howe Island is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
On approach to Lord Howe, a two-hour flight from Sydney, our Dash 8 pilot shows his true colours: reliable yet somewhat sneaky. He does an impromptu lap of the island, perhaps knowing that I need a suitable distraction before landing on its tiny airstrip.
One sandal on the tarmac, and our friendly hosts Mark and Libby greet us. Leaving our luggage to be claimed, we’re led to a waiting vehicle to head south to Capella Lodge.
To our left is a belt of undulating green, the island’s golf course; on the other side two towering pine trees overlook Lovers Bay. I am mesmerised by the world’s most southerly coral reef lagoon, with its turquoise and shades of blue upon blue. Suggesting that it beckons for a dip, Mr Smith agrees on ‘the sort prefixed by the word skinny’.
Not 25 minutes after landing we’re enjoying a freshly squeezed watermelon, orange and pineapple juice on Capella’s main terrace. It affords an uninterrupted view of twin peaks Mount Lidgbird and the taller Mount Gower along with spectacular ocean vistas. Chic day-beds and deckchairs near a plunge pool make this the place to begin our long overdue escape. While we wait for our room to be readied we’re invited to breakfast in this serene setting. A maximum of only 20 guests stay at the lodge at any one time, and we meet two other couples – one duo here for their honeymoon, the other returning for the twelfth time.
While I’m relieved there is wireless access for the odd business check, there’s no mobile reception. Capella Lodge politely insists that our metropolitan instincts take a break. The team here is super-friendly and gives first-name, impeccably timed service. They possess a delightful ability to anticipate our ‘wouldn’t it be niceto’s’, before we have even been able to articulate them.
Upon entering our room, a Lagoon Loft, the first thing to catch my eye is a tray of mini lemon meringue tarts. There’s a generous pile of plush pillows in duck blue, cream and cool stripes, wooden furniture, and boat portholes mounted on the white, panelled walls. Fresh South Pacific air seeps through the timber louvre door and windows. Upstairs there’s the all-important king-size bed facing huge glass doors that open to an outdoor deck with day-bed and mountain views. A red lighthouse lamp created by Mambo artist Bruce Goold keeps a watchful post in the corner. It’s just one of the many pieces of artwork and fabric commissioned for the chill-out zones of Capella.
We’re the first guests to enjoy the newly refurbished basalt stone bathroom, replete with bespoke Capella Lodge products (by Small Indulgences), including a heady lavender and mint hand wash. Our fridge is full of San Pellegrino, fruit juices and soft drinks, all complimentary. I’m most pleased with the selection of T bar teas, while Mr Smith is happy to introduce his iPod to the Bose sound system.
Keen to explore the World Heritage-listed island, we’re offered the use of a new electric buggy. Everyone waves as we pass by. There are many titles LHI can claim but we can’t fathom unfriendly ever being one of them. As we head out, a woodhen (a species saved from near extinction, which is only found here) plays ‘chicken’ with our vehicle, sprinting across the road. With a blanket 25 kilometre per hour speed limit on the island, he’s convinced we’re not going to run him over.
On Libby’s recommendation we walk along Malabar Hill before heading down to Neds Beach for a spot of beachcombing and scrambling across the rocks. We’re still talking about hand-feeding a school of giant kingfish here. They swim without fear around our knees, greedily snapping bits of bread we’ve brought from the lodge. Steve Irwin would have been proud.
At dinner Mr Smith opts for grilled Yamba cuttlefish, green lentils, capers, saffron and garlic aïoli, while I treat myself to a local yellowtail kingfish ceviche with tomato and lemon myrtle oil to start. Suppressing a slight pang of guilt, we hope we haven’t just taken a bite of one of our recent Nemo friends’ relatives. The main course arrives and our bellies are subjected to another round of decadent dining. Feeling a little tipsy, Mr Smith suggests we repair to the adjacent Kentia Lounge. A room dedicated to board games and reading, it’s also home to a teak wall and open fireplace. Tonight it’s our private space to polish off our shared desserts: hazelnut torte with espresso cream and a farmhouse cheese plate.
The next day we set off on Capella bikes with a packed gourmet lunch. It’s been some time since I’ve felt salty sea air on my face and let it knot my hair without a care. Despite overcast weather we tackle the challenging hike up to Goat House Cave. Capella Spa’s post-climb feet therapy is a suitable reward for the effort. Using LI’TYA products, it starts with a soak and finishes with a foot mask of Tasmanian kelp and native pepperberry applied as warm basalt stones are placed between your toes. Mr Smith and I also acquaint ourselves with the hot tub, used equally for relaxing weary muscles and inveigling intimacy.
Returning to our room we quietly implore the weatherman to allow us a snorkel in the morning. He must have been in the mood to meet our wishes – freakish winds prevent any planes from coming in to or taking off from Lord Howe. Stranded, we surrender to paradise for an extra day.