‘KI’ to its friends – Kangaroo Island is fast developing an international reputation. Pristine beaches. Gorgeous food. Friendly people. Allow 3 days if you have it – or even longer.
You can do a tour. There are lots of options: one day tours, off the beaten track tours, adventure tours…. the list goes on. Sealink is the biggest tour operator and caters for all tastes. They also run the ferry, provide self drive packages, book all sort of on island activities (quad bike tours, helicopter rides, etc). Their website is a very good place to start. The Tourism Commission also has helpful information – and a good map. There is also a tourist information centre in Penneshaw – run by locals – with a useful website.
Here are our extra tips:
- Go by ferry (rather than flying) if you have the time. The trip itself is lovely and the water crossing only takes 45 minutes. If you are not taking a tour your can pick up a car in Adelaide, drive to Cape Jervis, and cross on the ferry. Or take the bus then ferry to ‘the island’ – then hire a car in Penneshaw. (There are limited car options available on the island though – so plan ahead.)
- Go to the beach. The beaches on the southern side of the island face the Southern Ocean and are wild and wonderful. Vivonne Bay has been voted the best beach in Australia. We also love Hanson Bay (near the exclusive Southern Ocean Lodge). And the beaches of d’Estree’s Bay are off the beaten track a bit (on a dirt road) and are great for camping. The beaches on the northern side of the island are more protected and gentler. Stokes Bay is gorgeous. So is Snellings Beach. And don’t overlook Hog Bay Beach right there at Penneshaw.
- To get a real sense of the two sides of the island, take a few minutes to visit the ‘neck’. Think of the island as a turtle (have a look at the map and you’ll get the idea). If you are near the turtle’s neck take a short detour each side. Start on the sheltered side. Then head south to Pennington Bay. There’s a view to Antarctica! After you have done that you can climb to the top of Prospect Hill and get an amazing view of both sides of the island – it’s only 512 steps!
- Taste the local treats: visit Clifford’s Honey Farm to taste Ligurian honey, found only on the island (try the honey icecream); KI whiting is unmissable; try the sheep’s milk cheeses at the Island Pure Sheep Dairy; sample Wild Gin at KI Spirits.
- KI also is also developing a wine industry. Dudley Wines near Penneshaw is worth a visit. Set high on a hill, with great views and good seafood (whiting pizza, bucket of prawns). As an extra treat you can buy a bucket of golf balls and belt them out into the valley. Sunset Wines and Chapman River Wines area also well worth a visit.
- See the critters – kangaroos, Tammar wallabies, echidnas, (sometimes huge!) sand goannas, koalas, rare birds, you name it! Remember that most Australian animals sensibly stay out of the heat so, despite the island’s name, you won’t see kangaroos bouncing around in the middle of the day. Sightings are more likely at dawn and dusk. (Be aware as you drive!) One great way to get a better look is to camp or hire a cabin at Western KI Caravan Park (near the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park). Kangaroos and other animals wander through the camp ground in the evenings. You can also go to Paul’s Place Wildlife Sanctuary near Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park near Parndana, or take the Koala Walk near Hanson Bay.
- Seal Bay is a must. Access to the beach is restricted so you can either have a look from the viewing platform, or pay extra and go with a guide down on to the beach. Definitely do the latter. The guides are great, you learn a lot.
- Also a must: Kangaroo Island Marine Adventure’s dolphin tour. Operated by local who knows these waters like the back of his hand. You gun along in an open boat, see (and sometimes swim with) dolphins, snorkel and swim. The tours operate out of Emu Bay but can pick up and drop off in Kingscote.
- Lots of good places to eat. It starts with Yankalilla Bakery pies and pasties on the ferry over (try the cheese and veg pasty). Then at Penneshaw – great pizza at Isola, high end seafood at Fish (although sadly it only opens seasonally). Lots of restaurants and café’s in Kingscote. Try oysters at the Ozone, casual pub dinners at ‘the Queenie’ (Queenscliffe Hotel), good food at Roger’s Deli (casual, much more than a deli) and Bella’s (slightly posher, Adelaide chef).
- And for the best take away fish and chips on the island: KI Fresh Seafoods – the fishmonger next to the service station on the way into Kingscote.
Finally, a few notes of caution. Take it very easy on the roads. Some of them are surfaced with ironstone gravel; it’s a bit like driving on ball bearings. Avoid snakes. ( I guess that goes without saying – but KI is home to one of the deadliest snakes in the world, the black tiger snake. Not nice!) And be sensible when swimming. The Southern Ocean is a wild thing.