Hayley Baillie, Founder and Creative Director of Baillie Lodges, talks to Luxury Travel about her lifelong love of travel adventures and how she travels responsibly.
LT: What did you learn about the world through travel as a child?
I was very fortunate to have been born into a family where travel was a way of showing us how we were part of a global community. My dad, entrepreneur Dick Smith, was — and still is — dedicated to travel and adventures. When I was a child, we frequently travelled as a family to Lord Howe Island, and it remains a favourite destination now that my sister and I have our own families.
LT: What’s your idea of a perfect holiday?
I’m a keen diver — in fact, our whole family has their dive certification now, so anywhere we can dive to experience the sub-marine world is my pick, especially our own Great Barrier Reef. I’m a passionate underwater photographer so a reef with abundant marine life and clear waters is just perfect for me!
LT: What are some of your favourite travel memories?
I’m lucky to travel a lot for both work and pleasure — on solo trips or with girlfriends and often with my husband and business partner, James, and our four boys. A bucket list experience with the family that gave us some of our best travel memories was exploring the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions. It was so well managed it was like seeing it through Charles Darwin’s eyes — exemplary sustainability in tourism.
A few years ago, we did the two-week, thousand-kilometre ‘Kimberley Ultimate’ adventure through the remote coastal Kimberley region of Western Australia. Our four boys were then aged between eight and 14 years and our time onboard expedition cruise ship, True North, was full of adventure, from waterfall swims and helicopter rides to fishing expeditions. One of my favourite escapes is to Aro Ha Wellness Retreat in New Zealand’s South Island. The mountains and valleys are just magnificent, perfect for hiking and then unwinding with yoga and good things to eat.
LT: How do you try to travel as sustainably and responsibly as possible?
Whether for business or leisure, I always do my research and choose to stay at accommodation that is demonstrably committed to environmental sustainability — and ideally, also to cultural sustainability.
I look for properties that sit comfortably in their natural environments and whose operations make a positive contribution to the community they operate in.
This might be a philosophy of working with local suppliers of food and beverages or local tour operators and social enterprises, so the traveller’s dollar goes back to support the host community. As tourism operators ourselves, we’re conscious that we need to look after the environments in which we do business, as the sustained wellbeing of the destination is a key part of the appeal for travellers.
LT: Within your Baillie Lodges portfolio, what’s a favourite room or view that always inspires or moves you?
I’d have to say the Great Room in Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island. The luxury lodge was Baillie Lodges’ flagship property on the island’s southwest coast, which James and I planned and created from scratch.
The lodge’s clever design meant that arriving guests would fly to the island and drive for an hour and walk through the great doors to first glimpse the vast, blue Southern Ocean for which the lodge was named.
It was a real moment of theatre, and that ‘a-ha’ moment never failed to take my breath away, no matter how many times I walked through those doors. It was a view that changed constantly. We lost Southern Ocean Lodge in the 2019/20 summer bushfires, but we’re very happy to be hands-on in the rebuild now underway. We’re calling the project SOL2.0.
LT: Tell us about an unforgettable dining moment?
There are lots — too many (!) — to mention, but I think a big part of my most unforgettable dining moments are the people I’ve been with. Recently James arranged an intimate dinner for my 50th birthday designed by our good friend Kylie Kwong at Lucky Kwong restaurant.
For years, one of my best dining memories was having chefs Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant come to cook, alongside then Southern Ocean Lodge chef Tim Bourke, for our first KI Food Safari. Watching this talented team in the kitchen and then sharing a meal full of wonderful island produce with them and our guests will always be a standout for me.
LT: What has been your best guided and most authentic travel experience so far?
At Longitude 131 we’ve worked to establish wonderful, mutually beneficial partnerships with some of the region’s First Nations arts centres. Taking a guided trip, around 280km, to the remote Aboriginal Arts Community at Ernabella in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and meeting the artists there is one of the most authentic experiences I’ve had.
As urban-dwelling Aussies, we rarely have the chance to meet our First Nations people living and working in their own communities, in this case creating artworks that would ensure the continuation of their culture and stories and strengthen connections between generations. For me it was very rewarding to see the artists earning their income directly via their own creations, that were also intrinsically entwined with their culture.
LT: What are the elements that make for inspiring hotel or lodge design and provide a wow factor for guests?
At Baillie Lodges we aim to both reflect and blend with the natural environments in which our lodges sit, with the overarching objective being to offer our guests a real sense of place. For example, at Silky Oaks Lodge in Tropical North Queensland’s Daintree, where we recently completed a significant refurbishment on the property, the interior finishes were designed to reflect the deep verdant hues of the landscape including the rainforest, and the pure waters of the Mossman River. We worked with the local First Nations Kuku Yalanji artists at the Yalanji Art Centre on commissions of ceramic tiles that represent the flora and fauna of the Daintree and align with the names of each suite. We wanted the rainforest and the river to take centre stage, so we used clean lines, contemporary furnishings, and open verandahs to really welcome the outside in.
Dark wood finishes allow the lush green of the rainforest, and the occasional brilliant blue of a Ulysses butterfly, to really pop. The contemporary vibe and luxurious appointments at Silky Oaks typify the sister lodges from our Baillie Lodges portfolio, where the location is the real star, and the lodge is designed to enhance guests’ interaction with it.
LT: On reflection, what did you come to appreciate most about what travel means to you following Australia’s recent lockdowns?
For all of us in the travel industry, the pandemic really brought into focus the importance of travel — of planning travel and looking forward to trips away with family and friends — as being so essential to our health and happiness. Whether it’s a camping trip or a road trip, a stay in a luxury lodge or an overseas adventure, travel is a break from the everyday and I think that break is a big part of what people missed in the pandemic.
I also think it was a chance to reconsider how we travel, who we travel with, how we spend our travel dollars; to think about travelling with good intentions, with purpose, and with consideration of the people and places we’re visiting. I think we’re now seeing a renewed focus on sustainability, both environmental and cultural.