Guide to Kangaroo Island
On a single island you can experience some of Australia's most memorable nature, wildlife, wine and seafood.
By Marc Llewellyn
Kangaroo Island, 13 kilometres (8 miles) off the coast of South Australia and 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide, is brimming with native animals, artisanal food, epic rock formations and even the world's best hotels, perched on the edge of the sea. There's enough to do here to fill your days, but don't forget to follow the local's leave and simply enjoy the fresh air, beautiful food and unique wildlife.
The beauty [of Kangaroo Island] is its isolation, escaping the crowds, disconnecting from technology. The lifestyle reflects that.
- Walk on the beach through a colony of sea lions
- Be surrounded by wildlife, pounding ocean and strange rock formations
- Stay at one of the world's top four hotels
How to get there
Kangaroo Island Sealink operates a daily ferry service from mainland South Australia to Penneshaw, a major town on Kangaroo Island. The ferry departs from the town of Cape Jervis, which is a 90-minute drive south of Adelaide (or take Sealink's shuttle bus service). Twice weekly flights also transfer passengers from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island with the airline Regional Express. The island is surprisingly large, being 155 kilometres (96 miles) long and 55 kilometres (35 miles) at its widest; you'll need at least a weekend to explore it. Several tour operators offer guided experiences and multi-day trips. You can take a car on the Sealink ferry or hire a car on the island.
Things to do and top attractions on Kangaroo Island
Walk among rare sea lions
The Seal Bay Conservation Park on Kangaroo Island's south coast is the only place in the world where you can walk among endangered Australian sea lions. You can walk along a 900-metre (2950-foot) wooden boardwalk on a Boardwalk Tour and see the animals on the sand and in the surf, or you can take a guided 45-minute Seal Bay Experience tour onto the beach itself. If you feel like taking to the water yourself, the safest swimming spots are off the north coast. Emu Bay, near Kingscote, is one of the most popular thanks to its clear waters and long shoreline. Stokes Bay offers a good camping spot and a sea pool enclosed by rocks.
Sip on spirits, wine and beer
Kangaroo Island is a gourmet destination known in particular for its freshly caught seafood, cheeses and wines. Drink craft beer at the Kangaroo Island Brewery, or sip within the cellar doors of the island’s wineries, including Dudley Wines, near Penneshaw, and Bay of Shoals Wines, near Kingscote. Kangaroo Island Spirits makes small batch, handcrafted Australian gin, vodka and liqueurs that you can taste at a rustic cellar door. For local eucalyptus products, try Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery.
Enjoy the incredible local produce
Kangaroo Island is overflowing with fresh produce. Pick up a breakfast of lavender scones at Emu Bay Lavender, then stop at Clifford's Honey for a souvenir of delectable local honey. Eat a lunch of seasonally available oysters, abalone, and King George whiting at the Oyster Farm Shop, in American River. Dine on local produce under a giant fig tree in a pop-up summer eatery called the Enchanted Fig Tree, near Stokes Bay. Another seafood hotspot is Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods and Takeaway at Kingscote. There are also farmers markets featuring local produce at Penneshaw, on the first Sunday of every month, and Kingscote, on the second and fourth Sunday of every month.
Spot wild koalas, kangaroos and more
Kangaroo Island is abundant in native Australian wildlife. You can find short-beaked echidnas and large goannas all over the island, and look out for troops of black swans around American River. There’s more birdlife to be seen at Kingscote Wharf. Here, dozens of pelicans gather at 5pm for their daily fill of fish. To spot koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, just follow the guides at Kangaroo Island Odysseys. Next, head out to sea on a cruise with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures or Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari, where seals, whales and bottlenose dolphins frolic along the coast.
See the island's Remarkable Rocks
On the western side of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National Park is a large natural sanctuary for many species of native Australian animals, like rare tammar wallabies and the elusive platypus. A major attraction here is Remarkable Rocks, a seaside collection of enormous orange-lichen-covered granite boulders carved into strange shapes by millions of years of rain, wind and waves. Another highlight is Admirals Arch, a distinctive stalactite-covered eroded rock bridge smashed by waves that sometimes plays host to basking New Zealand fur seals. Both attract tour groups and sightseers for their unusual looks, so be sure to bring your camera.
Visit a conservation park
Kangaroo Island is home to several conservation parks, which provide local wildlife with welcome sanctuary. Kangaroos and tammar wallabies are relatively common in several of the island's reserves, including Black Swamp in Flinders Chase National Park and Lathami Conservation Park. Several species of rare birds live on Kangaroo Island, including the critically endangered glossy black cockatoo, which lives nowhere else. Spot them in Lathami Conservation Park and Baudin Conservation Park. Beyond wildlife, you can mountain bike, bushwalk, or take a limestone cave tour at Kelly Hill Conservation Park.
Take a walk through the wilderness
A lot of Flinders Chase National Park is rugged wilderness, but it is accessible by normal cars and is cut by plenty of walking trails. One of the best is the 3.5-hour Ravine des Casoars Hike, which goes through a wooded valley to a remote sandy beach. Try to spot a platypus on the two-hour Platypus Waterholes Walk, or weave your way through remote bushland on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. There are four secluded campgrounds within the park, but you can also stay in charming lighthouse keeper’s quarters at Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. Wherever you stay, you’ll be surrounded by the steep cliffs and remote beaches that make the park so unique.