Separated from the Australian mainland about 9000 years ago, Kangaroo Island remains one of the most unspoilt natural wonders of the world. You’ll find seals basking on quiet beaches; koalas munching on gum trees; echidnas wandering in search of insects; and kangaroos, goannas, wallabies, penguins and birds at just about every turn.
One third of the island is protected as conservation and national parks, and half the island has never been cleared of native vegetation. You can walk among huge weather-sculptured granite boulders at Remarkable Rocks and roll down the white sand dunes of Little Sahara. Dodge the wildlife as you hike through bushland. Stretch out in your own secret spot along the island’s 480 kilometres of coastline. And retire to your own lighthouse keeper’s cottage for the night.
Kangaroo Island is a 30-minute flight south from Adelaide, or less than two-and-a-half hours by car and ferry. Kangaroo Island Sealink runs ferries between Cape Jervis (90 minutes’ drive south of Adelaide) and Penneshaw.
At 150 kilometres long and 55 kilometres wide, the island is Australia’s third largest. It has four town centres: Kingscote, Penneshaw, Parndana and American River. A coach service runs twice daily between Kingscote, American River and Penneshaw to connect with ferry services (but bookings are necessary). There’s a major sealed road right around the island, but many smaller roads are narrow, unsealed and edged with scrub. Driving by day or night, take it easy and allow for slower speeds when calculating travel times.
Luxury Accommodation on Kangaroo Island
Discover the beauty of this remarkable region, all while experiencing absolute luxury at Southen Ocean Lodge. Floating atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of coast, the lodge commands peerless views of the wild Southern Ocean and pristine Kangaroo Island wilderness.
Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island
Marvel at Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, just two of the many amazing land formations within the 33,000-hectare Flinders Chase National Park. There’s also the 1909 Cape du Couedic lighthouse and wildlife aplenty, including kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and the endangered Cape Barren geese. Start with a visit to the fabulous Flinders Chase Visitor Centre.
Join Little Penguins on their nightly procession from the waters around Kingscote and Penneshaw to cosy seaside burrows. The friendly folk of the Kangaroo Island Marine Centre in Kingscote run nightly tours, and will also show you around their illuminating saltwater aquariums, containing a huge variety of island marine life including seahorses, cuttlefish and reef fish.
Kangaroo Island Indulgence
Take your tastebuds on tour through the island’s growing range of gourmet produce: from award-winning sheep milk cheeses at the Island Pure Sheep Dairy to pure Ligurian honey and olive oil. Watch free cooking demonstrations at the Fish gourmet seafood shop in Penneshaw every Thursday; select your own live lobster at Ferguson’s in Kingscote; or grab a freshwater crayfish at Andermel Marron near Vivonne Bay. Taste the boutique wines of this young wine region at the Sunset Winery Cellar Door or the Dudley Wines beside Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, before tucking into the finest local produce at one of many great restaurants and cafes. Grab a copy of the Kangaroo Island Food and Wine Guide and eat your way across the island.
Seal Bay Conservation Park, Kangaroo Island
Walk among the nation’s third largest and most accessible colony of Australian Sea-Lions as these creatures doze in the sun after lengthy fishing forays in the Southern Ocean. Various tours are available at the hugely popular Seal Bay Conservation Park: you can join a park ranger for a guided walk on the beach, or take a self-guided tour on the more accessible boardwalk.
See the Light House at Kangaroo Island
Envelop yourself in the island’s history with a tour of its spectacular lighthouses. Dating back to 1852, Cape Willoughby is South Australia’s oldest lighthouse: you can tour it daily. At Cape Borda, tour the lighthouse and museum before exploring the old landing site and lightkeeper’s cemetery. And at Weirs Cove, get an insight into the lifestyle of early lighthouse keepers at Cape du Couedic, as you wander among the remains of the jetty, water tank and storerooms.
Clifford’s Honey Farm
Savour the sweetness of Clifford’s Honey Farm, where Kangaroo Island’s own population of Ligurian bees (the only pure strain in the world) produces 10,000 kilograms of delectable honey each year. The bees were imported in 12 hives from the Italian province of Liguria in the 1880s, and remain protected from other breeds of bee by the island’s isolation.
Take a sand board and ride the razorback sand ridges of Little Sahara, a series of spectacular sand dunes that rise out of bushland in the centre of the island.
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery
Delight in clever bush technology at Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, now the only commercial distillery of its kind in South Australia. Take a guided tour, see how traditional bush products (like solvent, stain remover and insect repellent) are made and discover relics from the 1930s, when 40 eucalyptus stills employed 600 people across the island.
Kangaroo Island Caving
Sympathize with the poor horse that discovered Kelly Hill Caves in 1881 by accidentally falling into one, as you tour this beautiful cave system of caverns and sinkholes. The caves are lit using ground breaking fibre-optic “white light” technology, which allows visitors to see the stunning natural colours. Showcase tours run daily, but the more daring can also book an adventure caving tour for a deeper look into this underground world of ornate calcite formations.
Flinders Chase wilderness
Kangaroo Island is a treasury of wildlife animals, and the wildlife within Flinders Chase National Park are particularly well represented. Visitors may see kangaroos, emus, koalas, wallabies, platypus and possums appear in the bush at night. The large rock formations of Kangaroo Island, known as the Remarkable Rocks, formed into their exceptional shape gradually by wind and wave erosion. Nearby these formations is Admiral’s Arch, a shaved-off in an arch shape, where the New Zealand fur seals can often be spotted sunning themselves.
Head for the bush
If you want to leave the mundane world behind you and go for a long bush walk among prolific flora and fauna, Kangaroo Island is the perfect setting. The special thing about it is that because of its isolation from the mainland, much of Kangaroo Island woodland and coastline is pristine with abundant flora and fauna, offering a rare bushwalking, camping and wildlife-spotting experience.
For the fit and prepared Kangaroo Island offers a great number of walking possibilities. There’s plenty of room for it – Kangaroo Island is 155 kilometres long, up to 55 kilometres wide and covers 4,500 square kilometres. Much of this, in fact 30 per cent, is national park.
Camping is permitted in designated areas within the 21 national parks, and in approved local government areas. Here you can camp and take walks to appreciate beautiful coastline and wildlife where it should be – in the wild.
Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill National Park offer fine walking and hiking trails – your sojourns here can be short or overnight. On your wanderings you may glimpse delightful fur seals, wallabies and possums, and some walkers have been known to glimpse the elusive platypus, and echidnas.
Guided walks are also extremely rewarding on Kangaroo Island. You can take one into the Kelly Hill Caves, or if you are more adventurous, you can organise a more in-depth caving experience. You can also take a guided walk through the seal colony at Seal Bay, and take a longer walk at your own pace along Bales Beach.
Seal Bay wildlife sanctuary
Kangaroo Island was part of the Australian mainland until sea levels rose 10,000 years ago. Now, its isolation means it is a safe home to abundant, undisturbed wildlife. One of the best examples of this is Seal Bay, a colony of around 600 rare sea lions. The population here, on the south coast of Kangaroo Island, is believed to represent ten per cent of their kind in all the world. These mammals use the beach as an important resting break and breeding haven between foraging expeditions. Their breaks, of around three days at a time, must be undisturbed as they are essential for their survival.
Here at this beach they are both protected and showcased to travellers. While fishing and swimming are prohibited here, visitors are offered guided tours walking among the sea lions as they loll in the sun on the beach. You can get as close as six metres to these fascinating mammals – take a camera!
For a bit of solitude try nearby Bales Beach, also in the Seal Bay Conservation Park, where you can go for a long walk on a beautiful beach, and stop for a picnic at Bales Cottage Picnic Area.
They are not the only examples of carefree wildlife on the 450 kilometres of coastline on Kangaroo Island. Head for Flinders Chase National Park on the western end of the island, which encompasses many kilometres of rugged coastline and bush, sheltering many New Zealand fur seals, more sea lions, sea eagles and osprey, and bush kangaroos, wallabies, possums, echidnas, goannas, platypuses and sleepy koalas.
Kangaroo Island is just 30 minutes by air from Adelaide or a pleasant, 45-minute ferry ride from the mainland. The island’s isolation has allowed all sorts of native animals to flourish, protected from feral predators and blights.
Set in clean, ultramarine seas, Australia’s third-largest island was discovered in 1802 by English sea captain Matthew Flinders, who never travelled without his cat, Trim. Flinders and Trim found Kangaroo Island uninhabited, although stone tools discovered since indicate that people lived there about 10,000 years ago.
Today, activities include wildlife observation, birdwatching, wetland wading, adventure caving, snorkelling, scuba diving, farm visits, fishing and aerial sightseeing. Areas to be explored include Flinders Chase National Park, a 74,000 hectare wilderness, home to kangaroos, wallabies, possums, goannas, echidnas, koalas, platypus, fur seals and many birds, including rare Cape Barren geese.
Accommodation highlights include historic lighthouses and LifeTime Private Retreats, with three secluded hideaways offering total pampering and amazing coastal views. The island’s imposing Ozone Seafront Hotel fronts the beach and backs onto the main street of Kingscote town. Built in 1907 with equipment ferried from the mainland, the hotel burned to the ground 11 years later. Only the walls – made of locally quarried stone – were left standing. The owner died the week after the fire and his ghost is said to haunt room 16. The hotel was rebuilt in 1920 and has recently been completely renovated. You can also watch fairy penguins returning to their burrows on a night tour run by the Kangaroo Island Marine Centre.
Walk with sea lions
Kangaroo Island, a wilderness refuge with a unusual past off the coast of South Australia, is the best place in Australia to view sea lions. Seal Bay Conservation Park on the island is home to a population of up to 600 Australian sea lions, which can be observed at close quarters on ranger-guided tours. Seal Bay is 40 minutes away from Kangaroo Island’s main town, Kingscote. The conservation park was proclaimed in 1972 to help protect the Australian sea lion in its natural habitat.
Kangaroo Island, believed to have been inhabited by Aborigines as far back as 10,000 years ago, was discovered by Europeans in 1802 when English captain Matthew Flinders was navigating the southern coast of Australia. It was settled later that century by sealers, escaped convicts and runaway sailors, who sought refuge on the food-rich island.
The island is a lot quieter now, but no less fascinating. National Parks and Wildlife South Australia (NPWSA) rangers guide tours along Seal Bay beach, where you can encounter sea lions resting after their long fishing trips. A boardwalk enables visitors to view the animals at a safe distance with minimal disturbance. There’s a visitor centre as well.
One part of Seal Bay Conservation Park, Bales Bay, is a delightful beach with sheltered barbecue facilities. Not far away you’ll find Little Sahara, with its incredible inland sand dunes. Part of this geological monument lies within the reserve and forms some of the largest inland sand dune systems on Kangaroo Island.
Wildflowers above, diving below
The beautiful by wild landscapes of Kangaroo Island offer plenty of activity – in and out of the ocean. Take time and feel the true nature. In Kangaroo Island, the more you stay, the more you can experience the activities. Original flora and fauna remain abundant, cliffs and beaches are unsullied, and many roads are deliberately left unsealed.
Diving off the unspoiled beaches and rock shelves of KI is particularly popular in the warmer, summer months. See sea dragon, sea lions, fur seals and swim with dolphins in a pristine wilderness area with spectacular views.
4WD tours, fishing, horse riding, the bush walking are other popular land-lover activities on KI. Accommodation styles include motels, B&Bs, cottages along the seashore neighborhoods. Campsite and farmstays are also available, but need to be planned ahead.
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island and a haven of unspoiled parks, reserves, beaches, dramatic coastal cliffs and isolated beaches.
Many local farmers have turned their hand to niche food and wine production, and cafes and restaurants are keen to promote local fare. The Kangaroo Island wine region has around a dozen wine producers and two cellar doors (others open by appointment), with main varieties including Chardonnay and Riesling. Choose your own lobster at Ferguson’s in Kingscote. Taste honey from what is believed to be the last population of pure Ligurian bees in the world. And enjoy marron (a delicious freshwater crustacean), sheep cheeses and yoghurt from a dairy where you can watch sheep being milked.
The island is popular for four-wheel drive touring, self-drive and cycling with accommodation in delightful lighthouse cottages, small motels, bed and breakfasts, and camping grounds. Join a personalised tour with a local who has given up farming for tourism. The fishing and diving are excellent with established tour operators.
Koalas have also flourished. You only need to look up to see one curled up and sleepy in a fork of branches. The island is a sanctuary for kangaroos, wallabies, possums, bandicoots, goannas, dolphins, echidnas, platypus, a multitude of birds and a large colony of rare sea lions which frolic at Seal Bay oblivious to human presence. Cute little penguins come ashore every evening and the majestic southern right whale arrives in winter to mate and breed. The landscape is unusual with creeping sands, lagoons, caves and the amazing Remarkable Rocks sculptured for centuries by wind and rain.
Nearest Airport: Kingscote