Kangaroo Island

‘KI’ to its friends – Kangaroo Island is, not surprisingly, developing an international reputation.  Pristine environment. World class produce.  Genuine country hospitality.  We recommend you allow at least 3 days, longer if you have it.

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) so their website is a very good place to start. 

But we recommend taking a car.  You can pick up  hire car in Adelaide, drive to Cape Jervis (allow 2 hours), and cross on the ferry (about 45 minutes on the water).  Or take the bus then ferry to ‘the island’ – and hire a car in Penneshaw.  (There are limited car options available on the island though – so if you take this second option you will need to book ahead.)  It is not cheap but it is worth it – and it is a quintessentially South Australian holiday.   

For info on the island before you go – the Tourism Commission has helpful  information (including brochures, maps and self drive itineraries). There is also a tourist information centre in Penneshaw – run by locals – with a useful  website.

Here are our extra tips:

  • Stop in Penneshaw to stock up at the very good local IGA supermarket and grab a coffee at Fat Beagle Cafe.
  • Head 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 out of your Penneshaw to Kingscote drive 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!
  • KI is developing a wine industry.  Dudley Wines near Penneshaw is a great place to start.  It has an outstanding cellar door with truly stunning views across Backstair’s Passage. You can taste wine for free, or buy a glass, or stay for a meal. As an extra treat you can buy a bucket of golf balls and belt them out into the valley. There are lots of other wineries to visit as you explore the island.
  • Sunset Wines is THE place to eat near Penneshaw.  Outstanding food, using local ingredients.   ​It was the first restaurant on Kangaroo Island to be awarded one Chef Hat from the Australian Good Food Guide. so book!  FISH is also good (but not open all year around.)
  • In Kingscote eat at the Cactus Cafe; visit Clifford’s Honey Farm to taste famous Ligurian honey, found only on the island (try the honey icecream); and pick up fish and chips at the Caltex Petrol station (also the best place on the island to buy KI’s famous fresh whiting).
  • Sample Wild Gin at KI Spirits.  Actually sample all their gins.  And their vodkas.  And their liqueurs.  It is a little ‘cellar door’ but totally free, incredibly friendly – and completely first class. Highly recommended.
  • While you are there pop in to the nearby KI Brewery  Rustic charm, tasting flights of locally made beer, fireplace blazing in winter, with a small range of well priced food on offer.
  • 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.
  • 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.  If you have time (and the funds – it’s not cheap) definitely do the latter. The guides are great, you learn a lot.  And because it a proper research station (not just a tourist stop) the money goes back in to supporting the seal colony.
  • And right near Seal Bay, the unmissable Raptor Domain.  Birds of prey, up close and personal.  They run a number of shows every day.  You MUST go.
  • You can also see wildlife at Paul’s Place Wildlife Sanctuary near Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island Wildlife  Park near Parndana, or take the Koala Walk near Hanson Bay.
  • 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.

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.