Dune-top din­ing, drink­ing and dip­ping are on the menu at the new Lon­gi­tude 131° in the Red Cen­tre, writes HE­LEN AN­DER­SON.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - OCT -

Dune-top din­ing, drink­ing and dip­ping at the new Lon­gi­tude 131° in the

Red Cen­tre.

‘I will cross Aus­tralia or per­ish in the at­tempt,” de­clared Robert O’Hara Burke.

The boast he made be­fore lead­ing his transcon­ti­nen­tal ex­pe­di­tion in 1860 hangs among other Burke and Wills mem­o­ra­bilia on a wall of my tent at Lon­gi­tude 131°, a re­minder to be care­ful what you wish for (Burke ended up achiev­ing both pledges) and of the sin­gu­lar char­ac­ters and re­mark­able sto­ries forged in cen­tral Aus­tralia.

One of these is about Lon­gi­tude 131°, the lux­ury out­back camp with dress-cir­cle views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Opened in 2002 and dev­as­tated by bush­fire the fol­low­ing year, it was re­built and then re­born when luxe-lodge op­er­a­tors James and Hay­ley Bail­lie

took on a 30-year op­er­at­ing lease in Novem­ber 2013. They’ve in­vested around $11 mil­lion in the lodge since then, in­clud­ing $8 mil­lion in the lat­est re­design re­vealed in Au­gust. Al­most all el­e­ments of the lodge, apart from the awe-inspiring views of the rock-star for­ma­tions them­selves, have been restyled and up­graded since the Bail­lies ar­rived. “The des­ti­na­tion has re­ally come of age,” says James, “and we wanted Lon­gi­tude to set a new stan­dard of world-class experiential lux­ury.”

The project was un­der­taken with ar­chi­tect Max Pritchard, also re­spon­si­ble for Bail­lie Lodges’ South­ern Ocean Lodge on Kan­ga­roo Is­land. His work in­cludes the wide bal­conies fit­ted to guest tents in 2015, each with an EcoS­mart “camp­fire” and dou­ble daybed laid with a luxe swag for nights un­der the stars.

A new high-walled en­trance de­liv­ers guests to the cen­tral Dune House for their first full-frontal view of Uluru af­ter wind­ing past col­lec­tions of ce­ram­ics and paint­ings by In­dige­nous artists, com­mis­sioned by Hay­ley in tan­dem with art cen­tres in the Anangu Pit­jan­t­jat­jara Yankun­yt­jat­jara Lands. A new bar fea­tures 500 tiles hand-painted in spinifex pat­terns by artists from the Ern­abella com­mu­nity, and a new two-room spa, its de­sign in­spired by a wiltja, a tra­di­tional In­dige­nous shel­ter, fea­tures spears hand­crafted by Ern­abella men and birds woven from spinifex by the Tjanpi Weavers.

The swim­ming pool has been reimag­ined as a “con­tem­po­rary bil­l­abong”, with self-serve bar and an awning that spritzes daybed dwellers with a cool­ing mist in sum­mer. The out­door din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, called Ta­ble 131°, has been restyled around a cen­tral camp­fire. And The Dune Top, the high­est point on the prop­erty, has been re­mod­elled with decks, a cir­cu­lar plunge pool, a quartzite­topped bar (“I love a help-your­self out­door bar,” says James) and four pri­vate din­ing al­coves.

The height of out­back luxe is the new Dune Pavil­ion, a twobed­room suite wrapped around a deck with daybeds, EcoS­mart camp­fires and a cir­cu­lar plunge pool, rem­i­nis­cent of an out­back homestead wa­ter tank. In­side there’s cus­tom-de­signed fur­ni­ture and Aus­tralian black­wood join­ery, a drinks cab­i­net tai­lored to guest tastes, strik­ing works by artists from the Tjala Arts Cen­tre, and deep tubs with views. Bed­room al­lo­ca­tion will be tricky: one faces Uluru, the other Kata Tjuta.

Lon­gi­tude 131°’s new two-bed­room Dune Pavil­ion has dress-cir­cle views of Uluru.

Clockwise from top: the new bar in The Dune House; in­side the Dune Pavil­ion; aerial view of the Dune Top out­door bar and pool; Ade­laide de­signer Jon Goul­der’s Set­tler’s Chair; the deck and plunge pool at the Dune Pavil­ion.

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