Convinced there’s nothing left to see of one Australia’s most magical islands? We beg to differ.
The bushfires of January 2020 might have devastated the western side of the island, but over towards the east coast, not only is it business as usual, it’s better than ever. Got a few days up your sleeve? Book at trip to Kangaroo Island and check out our following recommendations.
1. Stay at Hamilton & Dune
Haven’t heard of the island’s newest luxury destination? Give it a couple of months and Hamilton & Dune, a duo of private hire lodges overlooking picturesque Emu Bay, will be the place on everyone’s lips. Choose between architecturally designed Dune House, a chic, three-bedroom property where no detail has been overlooked, or Hamilton House, a property which can house larger groups but is a little less ‘designer’.
2. Check out Seal Bay Conservation Park
Much has been made about the devastation of local wildlife but the happenings on the pristine beach that makes up Seal Bay Conservation Park is the ultimate good news story: in this, Australia’s third largest sea lion colony, more than 225 seal pups have been born this season alone and no matter where you step, tens of proud mamas and papas bask in the sun, exhausted from all that procreating.
Take a guided tour down to the beach or opt for a self-guided stroll along the 800-metre boardwalk, just don’t miss out.
3. Dine at Emu Bay Lavender Farm
Picture long rows of lavender fields leading to a rustic farmgate café serving homemade lavender scones and size of plates and hand-made lavender ice-cream so good you’ll lick the bowl clean – even if you’re lactose intolerant.
Now imagine popping inside and loading up on plenty of local produce – aromatic body washes, lavender-filled heat pillows and ordering just one more serve of scone for the road. We’re not promising a visit to Emu Bay Lavender Farm is going to end well for those who gorge, but we guarantee a taste sensation in a fun setting.
4. Swim with wild dolphins
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of diving into the shallows to frolic and swim with pods of wild dolphins, look no further than Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures. Operator Andrew Neighbour is vehemently opposed to using baiting or propellers during his tours and oh how the dolphins respond to such courtesy.
Expect to swim and snorkel with anywhere between 20 – 50 wild dolphins at any one time and perhaps just as importantly, expect an affable host who makes the experience complete.
5. Go quad biking
Prefer your adventure activities to be land-based? Whether you’re into hooning through the wilderness on a quad bike, sandboarding dunes at Little Sahara or quietly kayaking through picturesque countryside, the team at Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action will not only look after you but leave you wondering why it is you didn’t take up that particular sport of choice all those years ago.
6. Enjoy Vivonne Bay
Disregard all the t-shirts and postcards depicting great whites at the local general store; while it’s true venturing out into the deep around these parts (particularly at dusk and at dawn) might give you an audience with Bruce and friends, the beach itself if often voted one of the best in the country.
Grab a whiting burger from the general store (they’re famous for it) and take it down to the sand. You might only be expecting to pop by, but it’s a rare person who doesn’t end up staying all day upon discovery.
7. Invest in the island’s craft beer and gin industry
What better place to embrace your spirituality than by popping by award-winning micro distillery, Kangaroo Island Spirits and enjoying a tasting tour of their quirky gin, vodka and liqueur flavours (anyone for honey and walnut?) If you prefer a cold one, Kangaroo Island Brewery, located just outside Kingscote, is the place to be.
Serving eight craft beers as well as a decent menu in a relaxed setting, there’s no better way to enjoy a sunny afternoon.
8. It’s a notable wine region
Look, we’re not being irresponsible in suggesting more alcoholic stops, but it would be rude to ignore the fact that the island was declared a wine region in 2001. Some of the biggest stars were affected by the bushfires true, but anyone still lusting after a bottle of The Islander Estate’s Investor Cabernet France can still pop by The Islander Estate’s cellar door or online.
9. It’s home to the most quintessentially Australian degustation experience
A relatively new addition to the island (three years young), there’s no place better to take an outside table and enjoy some of the finest KI produce at Sunset Food & Wine as you watch the sunset dip into the scorched earth. Add a few kangaroos to the picture and the odd birdsong and you have the degustation meal of a lifetime.
10. There’s no place better to enjoy a road trip
Love to get behind the wheel for an hour or two of outback car karaoke? Amateur chanteuses will be thrilled with the island’s 1,600 kilometres of scenic road – mostly unsealed – whipping its way past soaring cliffs, sand dunes and the ever-present wildlife.
It takes two hours and 20 minutes to drive east to west and 45 minutes north to south and yes, you will need a 4WD with powerful brakes (those kangaroos love to hop right out in front of your car when you least expect it).
11. A scenic ferry experience is included
Sure, there are quicker ways to get to Kangaroo Island than taking the Sealink Ferry from Cape Jervis (around one hour and forty minutes south of Adelaide), but airlines don’t touch the sides of what the ferry journey across to Penneshaw offers.
First, there’s the scenic drive through the Fleurieu Peninsula, and then there’s the wonderful people you meet during the crossing. The cherry on top? A post-ferry meal at Millie-Mae’s Pantry, a quaint café in a garden setting located right by the ferry terminal.
12. You can visit Raptor Domain
Untouched by bushfires, this popular island favourite continues to thrill kids and kidults with its famous birds of prey demonstrations. Visitors to Raptor Domain can expect one-hour shows featuring everything from wedge-tailed eagles to kookaburras and owls.
13. This is the place for food tours
Whether you’re after a quick food tour or one that takes up the whole day, Kangaroo Island is still in business.
For those who hunger after fresh seafood, The Oyster Farm Shop, located in American River, offers visitors a land-based tour (no trips out to their oyster leases just yet), combined with a shucking demonstration and tastings, while Kangaroo Island Odysseys takes the truly committed on a three day food, wine and wilderness tour.
14. Penneshaw Market Day
If you happen to be on the island of the first Sunday of the month any time from October to April, be sure to check out Penneshaw Market Day – an event that brings the whole town alive with a selection of regional foods, musical entertainment, community activities and artisan arts and crafts.
15. To support your fellow Australians
There’s no getting around the fact that our KI brothers and sisters are struggling. Fill up your petrol on the island and kit out your rented accommodation with items you’ve purchased from the local supermarket.
Head down to Kingscote gift shop and load up on souvenirs before popping in at every enterprise and dropping cash like a Rothschild. This is what community is all about. #bookthemout and get involved.