New $10 million Cleland nature-based experience unveiled

Sunday 28 November 2021
New $10 million Cleland nature-based experience unveiled


The Adelaide Hills are set to become home to a new world-class nature-based experience with plans unveiled today for a $10 million wilderness retreat to be nestled among the trees within Cleland Wildlife Park.

The team behind award-winning Mount Lofty House and new luxury lodge Sequoia, Mount Lofty Properties, have released plans for the wilderness retreat after securing $1 million funding through the Marshall Liberal Government’s Nature-Based Tourism Co-Investment Fund.

The project will include up to 19 low-impact one-bedroom private villas designed to blend in with the natural surrounds in a secluded section of Cleland Wildlife Park.

A guest area, that will include a restaurant and facilities for weddings and conferences, will also be built to accommodate both guests of the retreat and visitors to Cleland Wildlife Park.

The construction, design, and fitout will utilise predominantly local South Australian products and suppliers, with an expected 85 people being employed across all suppliers on the project. A further 65 staff are expected to be employed as part of the new development in ongoing roles.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said the Nature-Based Tourism Co-Investment Fund is a key part of the Marshall Liberal Government’s Parks 2025 strategy and record funding for the environment, helping businesses deliver sustainable, quality tourism experiences.

“We are investing record amounts to revitalise our parks, improve conservation, boost nature-based tourism and create jobs across the state,” Minister Speirs said.

“This project is a perfect example of how nature-based tourism can exist without impacting the natural environment visitors seek to experience.

“The new retreat will be built within the existing footprint of the Cleland Wildlife Park in the heart of the newly created Cleland National Park.

“Adelaide has been recognised as the most liveable city in Australia and third most in the world and projects such as this will only enhance this reputation.”

Minister Speirs compared the project to the Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra and the Wildlife Retreat at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

“Both of these ventures demonstrate a high level of success and sustainability and are tourism icons in their own right,” Minister Speirs said.

“A conservation dividend is an important component of the Nature-based Tourism Co-investment Fund and as part of the funding agreement Mount Lofty Properties will provide support for koala research through the not-for-profit organisation Koala Life, which is based at Cleland Wildlife Park, and a contribution to the Cleland Wildlife Park volunteers program.”

Mount Lofty Properties are wholly South Australian owned and specialise in boutique tourism and are responsible for the extensive redevelopment of Mount Lofty House, along with their new lodge Sequoia.

Owner of Mount Lofty Properties David Horbelt said he was delighted to be able to partner with the South Australian Government in bringing an immersive and transcendental wildlife experience to one of our state’s most treasured assets, Cleland Wildlife Park.

“The creation of a boutique retreat will bring a new level of international and interstate interest and visitation to the region.

“A large part of the retreat’s mandate will be to support Koala Life, the organisation based at Cleland Wildlife Park and tasked with the conservation of Australia’s koala population.

“The retreat will offer guests an unparalleled journey of discovery focused on the abundant nature in the region including the conservation efforts at Cleland to preserve the future of the koala.

“The intimate experience will connect guests with some of Australia’s most iconic and treasured wildlife, along with opportunity to connect with the wildlife eco-system located in the state’s most coveted nature park setting.”

“Our suites will be sustainably designed to sit light on the land in harmony with the natural landscape.”

The State Government will partner with Mount Lofty Properties providing $1 million for the project through the Nature-Based Tourism Co-Investment Fund for infrastructure to support the construction of the retreat such as access improvements and wastewater management.

Nature-Based Tourism Co-Investment Fund applicants can seek grants from $20,000 to $1 million and are expected to contribute at least half of the total financial costs of their project.

The Fund will remain open until June 2022 or until the $5 million SA Government investment is exhausted.

In recognition of its importance to tourism as an international destination, the adjoining Cleland Conservation Park is also set to be upgraded to become a national park.

As part of this transition, consultation is now open on the Cleland National Park draft management plan until 25 January 2022 through the YourSAy website

Fast Facts:

  • Open to guests by April 2023
  • 19 low-impact, one-bedroom villas
  • Will include a guest area, with a restaurant and function facilities
  • Mount Lofty Properties will contribute to a conservation dividend which will include support for koala research through the not-for-profit organisation Koala Life, which is based at Cleland Wildlife Park, and other Cleland Wildlife Park projects
  • The Nature-Based Tourism Co-Investment Fund investment will be used to support the delivery of the retreat by enabling the construction of infrastructure such as access improvements and waste-water management