Lying just off the coast of South Australia you can find Kangaroo Island, which is surprisingly Australia’s third largest island! Kangaroo Island, or better known to locals as KI, is the ultimate destination for untouched natural beauties and holds an abundant amount of wildlife.
Many travellers truly underestimate the size of the island thinking a day is satisfactory to see everything, but 24 hours on the island is no where near as much time as you need to see everything the 155 kilometre island offers.
From pristine coastal views to decadent wineries, KI has a lot to offer and something for every type of traveller to enjoy.
One thing you quickly learn about Kangaroo Island is that the names of places are quite deceiving at times; for example, Seal Bay is home to sea lions rather than seals, and the island itself is well known for its abundance of wallabies rather than kangaroos!
How to get to Kangaroo Island:
There are three methods on how travellers can reach the beautiful island;
↠ Ferry – arguably the most popular option, SeaLink ferries operate daily getting you from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. The journey takes a mere 45 minutes and choosing this travelling method enables travellers to take their vehicles with them. NOTE: bookings are essential!
↠ Coach – mainland coach transfers are available from Adelaide and Goolwa to Cape Jervis where travellers will then hop on the SeaLink ferry to cross the waters of Backstairs Passage to KI.
↠ Air – a 30 minute flight will get you from Adelaide Airport to Kingscote Airport on the island (14 kilometres from the main town of Kingscote).
Getting around KI:
Unlike other popular destinations Kangaroo Island does not have any form of public transport or taxis on the island, therefore it is essential that if you are not bringing your own vehicle across that you organise either a hire car, book yourself a spot on a SeaLink coach, or book tours which include transport around the island.
When driving on the island it is of utmost importance that you remember the abundant wildlife present on KI and are aware of your surroundings to avoid the chance of hitting any of the many animals.
Although most of the main roads that connect the main towns are sealed there are many unsealed roads on the island too so it’s again important that you prepare yourself and your car for these road conditions.
As mentioned above, many travellers – myself included – underestimate the size of the island and think that it is much smaller than it really is. I had originally thought that a day would be more than enough to explore the island but boy was I mistaken! It takes roughly 2 hours to get from one side of the island to the other, and is therefore much bigger than originally imagined. The other thing to remember is that there aren’t roads all over the island, which can have an impact on your travel time as well.
What to do on KI:
Kangaroo Island is well known for its natural signature landmarks such as the Remarkable Rocks and its many lighthouses dotted around the coast, as well as its decadent produce from wines to honey, but overall the island is best known for being the place to be if you’re wanting to immerse yourself into untouched, peaceful nature.
There is honestly so much on offer to visitors that it can be a little over whelming on where to begin, and seeing as I only spent 2 days on the island it would be hard for me to tell you about EVERYTHING there is for you to do. Instead I will do a little itinerary of what I managed to do in those 2 days and the highlights of the trip!
While researching places to stay, how to get to the island, things to do, and what not (read about my travel prep here), I came across a travel package in an Infinity Holidays travel brochure for South Australia. The package included return ferry transport (including vehicle transport), 1 night accomodation at Ozone Hotel in Kingscote and breakfast for $288 per person. After some contemplating I decided this was our best option and booked it.
Check in for the hotel didn’t open until 2PM and since we were due to arrive in Penneshaw at 10:45AM, we were going to have some spare time up our sleeve and decided to do some exploring before making our way to Kingscote.
After a 30minute delay from departing Cape Jervis we didn’t end up getting to Penneshaw until 11:15AM, no biggie though as there was still plenty of time to go sightseeing.
KI is split into various regions and so we started by making our way from Penneshaw to Cape Willoughby (roughly 30 minutes from Penneshaw), to explore the Penneshaw and Dudley Peninsula region. The Cape Willoughby Lighthouse is one of the top destination spots for KI visitors as it was South Australia’s first lighthouse. For a $3pp donation you can explore the grounds beneath the lighthouse, embark on a brief 1.9km heritage hike to explore the original lightstation settlement. Alternatively explore inside the lighthouse itself on a 45minute guided tour (note: extra costs apply for the guided tour).
After a brief photo opportunity and explore of Cape Willoughby we made our way back towards Penneshaw (as there is only one main road linking these two spots) in order to continue on to American River (roughly 25minutes from Penneshaw).
American River is the smallest out of the seven regions and is a great spot for those wanting walking trails, or to do some bird watching. Although we only ended up driving through the town and not making any noteworthy pitstops.
Continuing on to Kingscote (approximately 45 minutes from Penneshaw) we made a brief stop at the local supermarket to grab some light snacks for lunch before checking in to our hotel, Aurora Ozone. After a quick food refuel and dropping our bags off in our executive suite we embarked on further explorations of the island and headed on up to Emu Bay (approximately 15 minutes from Kingscote); I’m told Emu Bay is a great destination for those wanting to camp on the island.
A main attraction at Emu Bay is the Emu Bay Lavender farm where visitors have the opportunity to view the produce in its different stages of growth as well as taste some goodies made with the lavender. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of thing you can continue on to the centre of the town and admire the beauty of KI coast and beaches along the pier.
While exploring this region we noticed on the map that I had obtained prior to arriving on KI that there was another lighthouse just north of the Bay of Shoals and we decided to explore it. After a great deal of adventuring we unfortunately could not locate where this particular lighthouse was and headed back to Kingscote instead.
At 5PM every evening a local known as the “Pelican Man” provides an entertaining and informative talk about pelicans and other sea birds before feeding them. Although there is no entry fee as such to enjoy this activity, it is considered rude if you don’t make a $5 (adult) or $3 (child) donation to the Pelican Man at the end of the show. The show goes for roughly 20-25minutes and is thoroughly enjoyable, so I would definitely recommend going to it if you find yourself in Kingscote around 5PM.
At the end of the pelican feeding we were informed that there was a bunch of New Zealand fur seals basking in the dusk light a mere 100metres away so of course we all rushed to catch a glimpse of them! They were incredibly tame allowing us to get relatively close to them without intruding their space too much; although cute to admire, to be honest, they’re a little boring when they’re just sleeping and lounging about on the rocks not really doing much.
By now it was almost time for dinner, so a quick pitstop back at the room for a quick change was made before heading to Zone Restaurant situated inside the Aurora Ozone Hotel. With a bistro vibe to it and a wonderful view overlooking the ocean it’s a highly sought after dinning location so bookings are recommended. (Keep your eyes peeled for little guests who occasionally make an appearance along the beach – during breakfast we were blessed by a dolphin casually swimming by). If that doesn’t take your fancy there are other options we were told of including a local pizza joint, Bella’s, and the hotel pub too.
The second day of exploring was all about the other side of KI, particularly the West End that incorporates Flinders Chase National Park.
Home to some phenomenal landmarks including the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, the National Park should definitely be on your to visit list when on KI. Don’t forget to make a brief stop at the Visitor Centre though to purchase your entry tickets (example prices include $9 concession and $11 adult for 1 day entry) to avoid getting a fine.
Due to the severe weather that hit South Australia last week a lot of the roads, including Playford Highway that leads to Cape Borda and West Bay Road towards Vennachar Point, within the park were closed as a result of flooding. Luckily this did not impact us too much as the main attractions we wanted to see where still accessible.
Our first stop was at the Remarkable Rocks, and it is truly easy to understand and see why it has been dubbed this name. It truly is a remarkable landmark and a top destination spot. The rocks themselves are the result of 500 million years of wind, waves, and weather erosion leaving behind granite boulders.
10 minutes drive away you can find Weirs Cove, a quick stop here will allow you to see a historic storehouse and the pulley used to transport the goods from down below to the top of the hill. Not far away lies the Admirals Arch and Cape du Couedic Lighthouse.
Unlike Cape Willoughby there is no fee to explore the grounds beneath the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse, and in my opinion this lighthouse is much more visually pleasing.
Admirals Arch is, just like the Remarkable Rocks, breathtaking! Walking down the zig-zag pathway and staircase to the Arch itself you will spot numerous fur seals casually lounging on the rocks – how high some of them manage to get is unbelievable!
Sculpted by the wind and sea, the Admirals Arch lives up to its name too as a magnificent archway.
How long you spend in the National Park is all of personal choice; as we had to make our way to the other side of the island back to Penneshaw in time for our ferry back to Cape Jervis, and considering it is approximately a 2 hour drive, we did not spend too long dawdling.
On the way back to Penneshaw we made a few stops including Vivonne Bay, and Little Sahara. The latter is an interesting pitstop where you can climb the sand dunes present, and for those wanting a bit more adventure, you can hire a board ($37 for 2 hours) to surf the dune – quad biking and paint balling is also available to do in this area.
Our final stop before reaching Penneshaw was at Seal Bay, which honestly, was the most disappointing part of the trip. There was a fee just to walk to the look out to catch a glimpse of the sea lions playing on the beach, a fee I was not happy to pay considering the amount of other entry fees we had already had to pay that day so we gave this one a miss and just continued our drive back to catch the ferry.
We ended up reaching Penneshaw relatively early compared to when we had expected to get there and rather than spending 2 hours in the town we opted to catch an earlier ferry back to Cape Jervis, which SeaLink was more than happy to accommodate for thankfully!
Tips for KI:
↠ Research, research, research – prior to embarking on this trip I would thoroughly suggest researching your options in regards to accomodation, tours, etc.
↠ Plan – if you’re short on time, like we were, I would suggest making a rough list of the places you wish to visit on the island and make a rough itinerary of when you’ll visit these places, being organised means you get to make the most out of your time.
↠ Grab a map – either pre-print a map of the island prior to arriving or grab one from the ferry terminals in Cape Jervis or Penneshaw, or alternatively stop in at the islands information centre in Penneshaw and grab a bunch of brochures.
↠ Don’t underestimate the size of the island! Although I think our itinerary was perfect for what we wanted to do, those who want a bit more of a cruisey time consider spending 2+ nights – even spend 1 night in Kingscote and explore that side of the island, and then spend the following night closer to Flinders Chase to explore that side the next day.
↠ Prepare to dig deep into your pockets – the island is surprisingly incredibly commercialised; one of the downfalls in my opinion. Almost everything to do on the island comes at a cost – I understand that it’s a tourist destination and the locals need to make an income but the prices of some of the entry fees or eating out was, in my opinion, ridiculous and frustrating.