If you happen to be in South Australia and have a desire to see wildlife at its best, in an absolutely natural setting, do plan a visit to Kangaroo Island. It’s only a short road and ferry trip, 112 kilometres/70 miles, from Adelaide, making it a fabulous day trip or stopover. You can even fly there. The island, which is Australia’s third largest, teems with animal and bird life. But that’s not all there is by any stretch of the imagination. It also offers spectacular scenery, including rugged coastal cliffs, natural bushland, pristine beaches, and vineyards. If you decide to spend time here, there is plenty of accommodation available, ranging from guest houses to luxury lodges. So, why not get nature-hopping on Kangaroo Island, and make it an enriching part of your Australia vacation.
An Ecological Haven
Kangaroo Island is a very special place for wildlife. It is recognized as a sanctuary for endangered species. What wildlife will you experience? You’ll at least see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and sea lions, but you may also encounter dolphins, platypus, echidnas (a type of spiny ant eater), and goannas (monitor lizards). Birds? Definitely penguins but also pelicans, terns, curlews, plovers, rock parrots, cormorants, oyster catchers, and many other species too numerous to list here. Special mention must be given to the little penguin which is the smallest species of penguin. In Australia, they are often called fairy penguins.
Where Should You Go on Kangaroo Island?
Start with designated conservation and national parks that are available to explore. Seal Bay Conservation Park is home to the largest sea lion colony in Australia. These Australian sea lions are an endangered species and unique to South Australia. Viewing platforms allow you to be at close quarters, or you can walk on a beach where pups play, bulls fight for supremacy, and resting mothers suckle their young – all this amidst incredible scenery.
Flinders Chase National Park offers amazing wildlife experiences, as well as unusual wind blown rock formations that sit on top of a smooth granite dome called Remarkable Rocks. There is also Admirals Arch, under which the surf pounds and where fur seals play.
Underneath Kelly Hills Conservation Park lies an amazing maze of surprising caves with limestone stalagmite and stalactite formations. Above ground here, you can go hiking and enjoy the natural beauty of the park while having the opportunity to spot native wildlife.
Other Kangaroo Island Attractions
Kangaroo Island’s 540 kilometres/ 335 miles of coastline contains no fewer than 50 unique beaches, each with its own distinct charm. The best known is Vivonne Bay, with its pristine white sand and surfing waves. Two other notable beaches are Bales Beach, located near Seal Bay, and the more isolated, D’Estrees Bay, where pelicans can often outnumber people. The North Coast, on the other hand, offers the island’s safest swimming beaches. Emu Bay ranks among Kangaroo Island’s most popular beaches because of its easy access and clear waters.
Scuba diving? You can dive the wrecks of the Portland Maru, which went down off the island’s northwest coast in 1935, and Loch Vennachar, which sailed into the west coast cliffs in 1905, losing all 27 of their crew. Under the water you will find some of Australia’s best temperate-water diving, which will allow you to watch elusive sea-dragons, blue devils, and harlequin, flitting between towering coral walls and red, orange, and white sponges.
For the more energetic, you can trek the bushland, sandhills, and lagoons of Antechamber Bay/Chapman River, or canoe and camp along the way. Kangaroo Island’s parks offer a variety of walks and hikes. There are ten walks and seventeen hikes to choose from. Walks are short trails of generally less than three kilometres/2 miles. The walks give you the chance to observe both wildlife and exciting scenery. For serious trekkers, a range of treks can be undertaken along some sections of the coast around Flinders Chase National Park, Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area, and Cape Gantheaume Wilderness Protection Area.
Eating and Drinking Should Not Be Forgotten
Wine might not come to mind when considering this destination, but believe it or not, there are 30 wine growers and 12 wineries. Kangaroo Island is a relatively new wine region. Its wines are known for their strong varietal fruit flavours and intense colours, and a temperate climate ensures a long, slow ripening of the grapes. One can sample the wines at one of the island’s cellar doors or at the island’s restaurants. Of course, what goes with good wine is good food. What Kangaroo Island may lack in five-star fine dining establishments, it more than makes up for in intimate restaurants and delicious local ingredients.
If You Do Decide to Stay More Than a Day…..
The town of Kingscote would be a natural choice for an overnight stay. It is situated on the north east corner of the island, on the coast of Nepean Bay. It offers an extensive selection of cafés, restaurants, and shopping facilities. It also features the Hope Cottage Folk Museum, situated in a house built in the 1850s and today, one of the oldest homes on the island. It is surrounded by buildings that feature exhibits depicting the history of Kangaroo Island. The Kangaroo Island Art Gallery is in the centre of Kingscote and showcases a beautiful selection of diverse local art. All works displayed here can even be purchased. Want to be really different? Stay in a restored lighthouse keeper’s cottage at isolated Cape Willoughby on Dudley Peninsula.
A Decision to Be Made
Although there are day tours from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, having learned more about this beautiful destination, wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to spend a longer time here?