It’s the wild isle where dolphins are likely to escort your ferry to port and waddling echidnas are roadside reminders to drive carefully to avoid punctures. Kangaroo Island is not a secret – visitors come from around the world – but it holds its fair share of lesser known delights for those keen to explore. As well as its famous wildlife and wild landscapes, there is a vibrant food and wine scene and an innovative arts community thriving on their clean, green backdrop.
words by brad crouch
hey do things a little differently on Kangaroo Island. They call a bay where sea lions bask on the beach Seal Bay. They ban bees from visiting. They milk sheep. Their rocks are remarkable and there are so many koalas living on the island, they have to manage the population.
You can fly to KI or take the 45-minute SeaLink car ferry to Penneshaw from Cape Jervis, about 90 minutes south of Adelaide. The 2250sqkm island is home to abundant wildlife, from echidnas and koalas to Cape Barren geese and platypus as well as tammar wallabies, sea lions, fur seals, black cockatoos, goannas and, of course, KI kangaroos.
Stay in a lighthouse or super-luxe lodge, eat marron and fresh king george whiting while sipping local wines, and visit what a Sydney University study deemed Australia’s best beach – at Vivonne Bay.
Here is a thumbnail guide to fascinating attractions on a leisurely drive. But bear in mind when planning a driving trip, KI is Australia’s third largest island behind Tasmania and Melville Island:
At Penneshaw, where the SeaLink ferry docks, see pelicans feeding and possibly penguins, although the local population has taken a hit from fur seals. There are not many roads on KI, so you won’t have to worry too much about getting lost.
Head along the south coast to places like Seal Bay, where a large colony of sea lions makes its home. Rangers at the tourism information centre take visitors for a stroll to see the mammals on the beach, without disturbing them.
At nearby Hanson Bay, there are plenty of koalas in the trees, while at Vivonne Bay see the beach that the Sydney University research project looking at about 10,000 beaches found to be the best in the nation. Further along, Kelly Caves are a glimpse into the underworld and, at the far west of the island, is Flinders Chase National Park. This is about 110km west of KI’s main town of Kingscote.
The Flinders Chase features the spectacular Remarkable Rocks, colourful granite boulders and formations artfully sculpted by the elements. Nearby is the waterfront Admiral’s Arch limestone bridge formation, with stalactites dangling from the ceiling of this former cave. Boardwalks give safe access to check out the colony of New Zealand fur seals relaxing on rock slabs when not swimming in the challenging waters.
For more wildlife, visit Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, near Parndana, in the centre of the island and also Raptor Domain, where birds of prey that have been orphaned or injured showcase their skills.
At Clifford’s Honey Farm, near Kingscote, taste the product of the world’s last pure strain of Ligurian bees, including honey ice cream. KI’s isolation has maintained the purity of the local bees. Other bees, beehives, used beekeeping equipment, honey, pollen, beeswax or other hive products are restricted from entering the island.
More taste sensations await at Island Pure Sheep Dairy where you can see sheep being milked then enjoy delicious yoghurts and cheeses, such as haloumi, labneh, kefalotiri, manchego, ricotta and feta.
KI has its own Little Sahara desert dunes, a thriving local art culture, beautiful beaches for surfing, swimming and fishing, the Emu Bay Lavender farm, the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil distillery, half a dozen winery cellar doors and plenty more to explore.
Kangaroo Island Gateway Visitor
Information Centre phone 1800 811 080
or see tourkangarooisland.com.au
MUST SEE WHEN YOU VISIT
Named Australia’s best beach in a survey of 10,000 beaches by Sydney University’s Professor Andrew Short. About 60km from Kingscote, this is a slice of sandy paradise. A pristine sand beach with clear waters, though beware the undertow if swimming. A general store is nearby and the Vivonne Bay Conservation Park is at the western end of the bay.