For travellers in search of a unique nature and wildlife adventure, Kangaroo Island is the ideal place to begin your voyage of discovery, with a wildlife scene that is one of the most diverse in Australia.
Although my two-day trip here was hardly adequate to discover all the stunning national and conservation parks – more than a third of the island is dedicated to national parks, I managed to experience some of the best that KI has to offer, such as witnessing the magnificent beauty of the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, walking amongst a colony of endangered Australian sea lions at the Seal Bay Conservation Park, swimming with wild dolphins, as well as slurping fresh oysters straight from the sea.
Having read so much about this place before I arrived, I was extremely thrilled and excited to discover all the wonders this island have to offer.
From Adelaide, travellers can get to Kangaroo Island either by ferry or air. For my visit, I chose the latter, and flew via REX (Regional Express Airline), which took only 25 minutes.
Upon arrival at Kingscote airport, I received a warm welcome from one of the guides from Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours – Mr Grant, who whisked me into his sturdy and rugged Land Rover, and we set out on our journey.
Seal Bay Conservation Park
Our first stop of the day was the Seal Bay Conservation Park, which is located just a 45-minute drive from the airport. Considered as one of KI’s premier attractions, Seal Bay is home to the third-largest colony of Australian sea lions in the world – there are no enclosures or cages here – visitors will be required to register for a guided beach tour at the Visitor Centre upon arrival, and one of the guides will take you to the heart of the wild colony, where you can not only walk amongst these endangered creatures, but see how they fish, surf, rest, interact with their pups and defend their territory.
Tour and boardwalk fees apply. All tours can be purchased at the visitor centre and are run at regular intervals from 9am. Seal Bay offers private extended Twilight Tours during South Australian daylight saving hours (additional fees apply, advanced bookings required).
Next up, we drove further down towards Little Sahara for some fun and action. Adventure seekers will definitely want to check out this part of the island, which features a system of naturally occurring coastal blowout dunes, covering nearly 200 ha. Visitors can rent either a sandboard or toboggan from the operator, located at the entrance of Little Sahara. Regardless of which equipment visitors pick, they are bound to get an adrenaline rush from surfing down one of the many sandy slopes – there are some of them that rise up to 230 ft above sea levels.
Little Sahara, which is privately owned, was heritage listed in the 1970’s to ensure its preservation for future generations.
Other fun activities that visitors can experience in the South Coast include kayaking on the Harriet River, paintballing, and even yabby and marron catching.
After a fun-filled morning, Grant drove us towards a private bush location where we had a most enjoyable BBQ lunch in a relaxed and natural environment. Grant cooked us a lovely marinated steak, which was grilled to perfection, and complimented by fresh salads, butter rolls, and local KI wines. The meal ended on a sweet note with a light yet refreshing dessert of pears poached in KI red wine, served with KI's unique sheep's milk yoghurt.
With tummies somewhat sated, we resumed our tour after lunch and headed towards Flinders Chase National Park, which is situated at the western end of the island.
Flinders Chase National Park
Famous for its wild, rugged and naturally beautiful landscape, Flinders Chase National Park is home to two of the island's most popular landmarks: the Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks. No visit to this island can be considered complete without witnessing the magnificent, weather-sculptured granite boulders of Remarkable Rocks, which have been in the making for 500 million years. And just a short 10-minute drive away, Admirals Arch is another stunning sight to behold featuring a spectacular archway uniquely sculpted by the wind and sea. As you explore this beautiful park, be prepared to encounter native wildlife - you will notice hundreds of long-nosed fur seals playing on the shore below.
The park is also home to the Cape du Couedic and Cape Borda light stations.
To end off the first day's touring, Grant dropped me off at Aurora Ozone Hotel – my overnight accommodation where I had a sumptuous dinner at the hotel's in-house restaurant Zone, and retreated for the night.
Apart from immersing in a variety of exotic wildlife experiences here, travellers, especially discerning foodies will also be pleased to known that this island offers a slew of gastronomic experiences.
Home to artisan food and wine producers, travellers can look forward to indulging their taste buds in an array of delicious foods and wines - slurp fresh oysters straight from the sea, nibble on handcrafted sheep’s milk cheeses, and savour Ligurian honey straight from the hive.
Clifford's Honey Farm
We started day two's touring with a visit to the renowned Clifford's Honey Farm, a long-running attraction on the island known for producing some of the world's finest honeys from various native plants. As KI is said to have the last remaining pure strain of ligurian bees, the honeys produced here are highly sought after. Upon arrival, one of the owners Bev showed us around the farm and gave us an in-depth explanation about the social structure of bees, how they communicate, and how honey is manufactured.
Thereafter, we got down to the most fun part: honey tasting. We tried a handful of different honeys: sugar gum honey, cup gum honey, mallee honey, and more, each with a distinctive flavour. As the honey flavours vary depend on the seasons, visitors can look forward to different flavours every time they visit.
Aside from honeys, visitors can also buy many other bee or honey related products including handmade beeswax candles, candies, lip balm, and more. Lastly, make sure you grab some honey ice cream on your way out – rich, creamy but not overly sweet, it is one of the best ice creams we've tasted in awhile.
Stomachs full but not filled, we soldiered on to Andermel Marron Farm and Marron Cafe for some of the island's prized freshwater crayfish.
Andermel Marron Farm and Marron Cafe
Before we settled in the cafe for lunch, we visited the holding shed, which is located right next to the cafe to see the marron up close. Here, we saw plenty of marron in various sizes that were kept in holding tanks, and we were also given a brief history on how marron was first introduced to the island. Originally from South West, Western Australia where they are indigenous, they were brought to the island more than 40 years ago, and have since bred and multiplied on KI. They were subsequently stocked into farm dams, and most recently, have been more intensively farmed by a few growers.
After the insightful introduction, we headed to the cafe and enjoyed some scrumptious marron paired with some Two Wheeler Creek Wines. The wines, which are produced from grapes grown on the farm, are truly exceptional, especially the whites – the sauvignon blanc in particular – which has been favourably compared with some top quality New Zealand sauvignon blancs. The reds, too, are equally impressive comprising cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.
Another must-visit for seafood lovers is the Oyster Farm Shop located at American River. Located on the wharf, visitors will find an array of freshly shucked local oysters here, alongside a range of KI's aquaculture and local sustainable seafood including locally sourced abalone, King George Whiting, marron, and more. These seafood are available on a seasonal basis. For those who plan to prepare their own seafood feast back at their own accommodation, be sure to grab one of the many 'Eat Like an Islander' recipe cards on offer.
While you're here, you might want to try and catch a glimpse of the endangered Glossy Black cockatoos, which can often be seen towards the northern end of the town, between the general store and post office. Other species of local birds that can often be spotted here include Cape Barren geese, various types of parrots and the ever-graceful pelican.
Before sending me off to the airport, Grant said that it would be unjust to leave without tasting a couple more exceptional local wines. And before I knew it, we were on our way to the Islander Estate. I was told that most of the local cellar doors are often hidden far off the main roads, so it definitely helps to have an experienced guide to drive you around, if not, be sure to grab a map and plan your tour carefully.
Located in the heart of Kangaroo Island, north of Parndana, on the gentle slops of Kohinoor Hills, Islander Estate Vineyard is owned by French winemaker Jacques Lurton. Established in 2000, Lurton fell in love with the island when he first visited in 1997 with his wife during their honeymoon. He saw that the climate here is similar to Bordeaux in south western France where he was raised, and that it is ideal for producing premium wines. He returned three years later and set up his own winery with most of the equipment shipped in from France. Since then, Islander Estate has quickly risen to become a five-star rated winery, awarded by Australia’s pre-eminent wine critic James Halliday.
We had planned on touring the vineyard when we visited, but the weather was not favourable, hence, we did a tour of the winery and barrel room, where we tasted a number of exceptional wines. The quality of the wines is no doubt reflective of the passionate owner, and hands-on approach used in all facets of their wine making process.
Although I only spent two days on KI, I managed to see and experience most of the major highlights of the island, thanks to a very knowledgeable and experienced guide. However, for travellers who have more time to spare, it is recommended to set aside at least five days to truly gain an appreciation for the people, environment, culture and geology of the island.
Sealink Kangaroo Island
The ferry operates from Cape Jervis, a 1.5-hour drive from Adelaide. You can either bring your own vehicle on the ferry or join one of the many transport options from Adelaide. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Kangaroo Island, and the joy of watching the island appear along the coastline from the ferry deck is indescribable. There are four departures daily, with additional services during peak periods.
A pleasant 30-minute flight from Adelaide Airport to Kingscote Airport on Kangaroo Island, with regular services available daily.
For those who choose the air option, do note that REX has a maximum of 15kg per person luggage allowance and 7kg hand/cabin luggage. There will be additional charge per kg for extra luggage; alternatively, REX offers the possibility to store excess luggage at the airport (only if you fly back to Adelaide with REX) at a small fee.