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If you want to see Australia’s native wildlife in their natural habitat, a trip to Kangaroo Island is an absolute must. Just a half hour flight from the vineyard city of Adelaide, this island paradise has secluded beaches, spectacular sand dunes and a host of Aussie creatures like koalas, echidnas, rare sealions and – of course – kangaroos.
With so much to experience, it’s best to give yourself at least two days here. Flying in and out is easy, but for a real adventure hire a car in Adelaide and drive to the ferry terminal at Cape Jervis. This route takes you through McLaren Vale, known for its world-renowned wineries and Instagram-worthy beaches. Add one more night to your stay and sleep over at a vineyard hideaway or in a picture perfect beach hut.
Parts of Australia have been seriously impacted by bush fires and our thoughts are with all those affected. Whilst fires impacted parts of Kangaroo Island, there is still much to see and do on this island paradise which remains open for business. The friendly locals are waiting to welcome you and sharing their backyard.
For anyone wishing to assist in fundraising efforts for communities impacted by the bushfires, the South Australian Government launched the SA Bushfire Appeal. All money donated goes directly to those impacted by the fires, with the South Australian Government to absorb all administration costs.
Whether you drive or fly, don’t miss out on these incredible Kangaroo Island experiences:
Take an off-road road trip
Kangaroo Island is bigger than you think. At almost 100 miles long, it’s Australia’s third-largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island. To explore it fully, hire a car or book a guided tour with an experienced local who can share the island’s hidden gems. Try to hire a four-wheel drive if possible, as many of the roads are unsealed. As you trundle along on the red dirt roads you’ll come across hidden beaches and towering cliffs, thick gum forests and rolling sand dunes.
Walk among a colony of rare sealions
If you’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with rare sealions, this is your chance. Seal Bay Conservation Park has been home to an Australian sea lion population for thousands of years, and offers one of the most exceptional nature-based experiences in the world. The country’s third-largest sea lion colony can be spotted from the east end of Vivonne Bay to the southern tip of D’Estrees Bay. Guided tours are available and let you step onto the sand and walk among these majestic creatures. It’s also possible to take a self-guided amble along the 450m long boardwalk, passing breathtaking coastal scenery. Stop at the viewing platforms and watch the sealions frolic.
Sand board in Little Sahara
If you’ve already tried your hand at Australia’s favourite pastime – surfing – Kangaroo Island is the perfect place to try something a little different: sand boarding. The Little Sahara dune system covers around 2 square kilometres of the island, with some dunes reaching a whopping 70m above sea level. You can hire sand boards there, and toboggans are available if you’d rather sit down. Either way, you can’t beat the thrill of racing down the side of these huge dunes.
Dive and explore an underwater wonderland
The crystal clear waters around Kangaroo Island make it an excellent destination for snorkelling and scuba diving, especially if you want to spot the weird and wonderful leafy sea dragon – a type of seahorse native to Australia’s south and west coasts. As well as coral reefs, there are also shipwrecks to explore. The largest – and best for divers – is the Portland Maru, a massive steamer sitting 16m below sea level. The sponge and coral-encrusted hull is home to boarfish, blue devils and snapper. If diving is not your thing, join a cruise off the north-east coast and slip into the clear, protected waters where pods of wild dolphins call home. Enter their amazing world as they swim right up to you to say hello: it’s an experience you won’t forget.
Have a close encounter with Australia’s unique wildlife
There is a variety of wildlife and bird life on Kangaroo Island, from koalas, kangaroos and cute wallabies bouncing through the brush to massive Southern Right whales swimming past during winter (May to October). As well as keeping your eyes peeled as you potter around, drop in to the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park where you can enjoy special experiences like the chance to hold a koala and hand feed a ‘roo.
Relax on a beach all to yourself
The peaceful north coast of Kangaroo Island is where you’ll find Emu Bay. One of the most popular beaches on the island, people flock here to bask on the long sandy shore and swim in the calm, clear waters. Because there’s only a small handful of holiday homes nearby, and no shops or hotels, the beach is never too crowded – even during the height of summer. Head a little further along the coast to Snellings Beach for rock fishing, and Stokes Bay where you can take a dip in the natural rock-enclosed swimming pool.
Eat, drink and be merry
Adventuring on Kangaroo Island is hungry (and thirsty) work. Luckily there’s plenty of local, seasonal and artisanal food to try like zingy sheep cheese, organic honey and freshly caught seafood. One of the best places to try the latter is at The Oyster Farm Shop, an unassuming looking shack serving delicious oysters, marron, abalone and King George whiting. Wash it down with a glass of something local – the island was declared a wine region in 2001. If wine isn’t your thing you can sip local craft beer from The Kangaroo Island Brewery or pick up a small-batch gin made from local botanicals at Kangaroo Island Spirits.
How to get to Kangaroo Island
There are several ferries from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island’s main town, running throughout the day and evening. The ferry only takes 45 minutes and has free Wi-Fi and a coffee shop.
It’s easy to drive down to Cape Jervis from Adelaide – this should take about 90 minutes. On your way down you’ll pass through the vineyards of McLaren Vale, so stop off for some lunch at a cellar door on your way to the ferry terminal.
Alternatively you can take a short flight to Kangaroo Island. It’s just a 30 minute flight from Adelaide to Kingscote where you can pick up a hire car on arrival or join a small group tour for a few days.
Where to stay on Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is full of experiences so you’ll need more than a day to explore it fully. Luckily there are plenty of places to stay on the island – from cosy B&B’s and campsites to hotels, retreats and luxury safari tents.
Budget – Kangaroo Island Cabins
Set on 20 acres, Kangaroo Island Cabins offer self-contained accommodation just 5 minutes’ drive from pelican feeding in Kingscote. All cabins have a patio, cooking facilities and flat-screen TV. Ideally located 15 minutes to Emu Bay and 45 minutes to Seal Bay. Guests enjoy wide open spaces, home to a variety of Australian wildlife.
Mid-range – Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge
This hotel overlooks American River Bay and is a great base for bird lovers – it’s 27km from Pelican Lagoon and 39km from Penneshaw Penguin Centre. Every room has a flat screen TV, microwave and mini fridge and if you pay a bit extra you get a balcony with a view across the bay or the hotel swimming pool.
Alternatively, stay at the Seafront Holiday Park in Penneshaw in an eco-friendly safari tent, set amongst native gums with ocean views. Each tent has a different theme designed to be environmentally sustainable and features a private three metre deck, en-suite bathroom and a queen bed.
Luxury – Sea Dragon Lodge and Villas
Contemporary, eco-friendly, luxury Kangaroo Island accommodation, set on a spectacular 250-acre seafront estate with ocean views. Wildlife encounters at the doorstep, including kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and goannas, with dolphins regularly visiting the private beach. Home-cooked meals feature local Kangaroo Island produce – lamb from local sheep farms and seafood from local fishermen, washed down with premium Island wine and beer.
When it comes to having a real Aussie adventure, it’s hard to beat Kangaroo Island. And, because it’s just a stone’s throw from Adelaide and the winelands, it’s an easy addition to any South Australia itinerary.
For further info on all things South Australia head over to southaustralia.com