Located a short distance off the coast of South Australia, near Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, known locally as KI, is home to powder-white beaches, a multitude of exotic wildlife and vast stocks of scrumptious local produce. KI was named after the numerous Western Grey Kangaroos that were found here when the British explorer Matthew Flinders, first landed on these shores. The island is home to a meagre 4,500 inhabitants, so you can look forward to having much of it for yourself while you’re here.
momondo caught up with Australian travel writer Dilvin Yasa, who shares her tips on what to see and do on Kangaroo Island (in addition to spotting Kangaroos, of course).
Hit the road
If you love to get out on the open road, Kangaroo Island’s 1,600 kilometres of scenic and mostly unsealed roads are replete with all manners of wildlife and native fauna. Hire a four-wheel drive car at the airport and hit the road! It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to drive from east to west and 45 minutes from north to south, so most of the island’s sights are easy to get to.
Vistas of soaring cliffs, tranquil bays, dense forests and endless sand dunes are but some of the many natural features you can admire, mostly in solitude as KI isn’t heavily populated. You will also find a wide range of hotels for all budget types.
Stop by Seal Bay Conservation Park
It’s not often you get an opportunity to get up close and personal with sea lions, but at this bay in the south of Kangaroo Island, you can watch them play in their natural environment not much more than a couple of metres away. Seal Bay is home to Australia’s third-largest colony of sea lions, who you will find sprawled along the beach or splashing around in the sea.
Options at the conservation park include taking a guided tour down to the beach (highly recommended), or if you’d rather watch from a distance, you can watch the seals from a specially constructed viewing platform.
Take a dip
As beautiful as Kangaroo Island is, fierce tidal conditions and occasional shark sightings mean that it’s not always the best place to take a dip. There are some places that are an exception to the rule, Vivonne Bay being one of them.
This safe harbour, located in the south of the island and close to Seal Bay, is the perfect reprieve on a hot day and a great place to fish, surf, sand-board or swim. If you forgot to pack a picnic, stop by Vivonne General Store for one of their savoury whiting burgers (a six-inch sub covered in Sesame seeds and filled with lettuce, cucumber, tartare sauce and battered fish fingers which technically isn’t a burger).
If you’d rather venture inland, grab your kayak and head up the Harriet river, just off Vivonne Bay.
Sample the local produce
KI is a budding foodie destination, thanks in part to its rich farming heritage. Drop by Island Pure for savoury cheese and other sheep dairy products, and treat your sweet tooth to an unrivalled organic honey experience at Island Beehive.
For beverages, get your fill at Kangaroo Island Spirits – an unusual micro-distillery where gins, vodkas and liqueurs with flavours such as honey and walnut may well end up enticing you to come back for a second round. Wine aficionados will also find plenty of local vineyards to sample – try Islander Estate for a taste of some of KI’s varied wine palette.
Visit Remarkable Rocks
Driving a fair distance to check out a pile of rocks may not sound that tempting. The Remarkable Rocks, located in Flinders Chase National Park on the south-east fringe of the island, however, do justice to their name and are worth the effort. This national park is also home to troops of Western Grey Kangaroos and vast seal colonies.
These 500-million-year-old formations have taken a beating from the wind and sea sprays over the years and lived to tell the tale. Drop by at sunrise or sunset, where you will find the rocks draped in the warm tones of the surrounding sky. Stay away from the ledge, however, where fatal accidents caused by freakish waves have been known to occur.
Do some more seal spotting
If the seals at Seal Bay Conservation Park don’t cut it for you – venture east to Admiral’s Arch, which you will find located in Cape du Couedic, Flinders Chase National Park. At this eccentric location, you can enjoy the luxury of watching seals swim and play in their natural environment, viewable through a rock arch masterfully sculpted by the wind and sea over time. On the other side of the portal, 7,000 or so New Zealand fur seals will be your entertainers for the day.
Go beneath the surface at Kelly Hill Conservation Park
Visiting a subterranean wonderland of underground caverns and plunging sinkholes probably isn’t for everyone – particularly if you start feeling sick at the mention that some of them dip a good nine kilometres below the earth. If you can conquer the claustrophobic feelings though, taking one of Kelly Hill’s guided tours of the magnificent limestone formation is a must.
The more adventurous types can test their mettle by crawling through an underground maze of smaller caverns.
Take a hike
If you’re the kind who’d rather leave your four-wheel drive car at your hotel and take to the island’s roads on foot, Kangaroo Island’s lush forests, cliff-top views and wetlands form the perfect backdrop for a hiker’s dream. The two-kilometre Cape du Couedic Coastal Cliff Walk is a visitor favourite though you will find countless trails of various lengths all across the island to cater for all fitness levels.
Download the Parks of Kangaroo Island booklet at tourkangarooisland.com.au for hiking route suggestions.