Base your itinerary on where best to celebrate local seafood, artisan produce and wine with our guide to Kangaroo Island’s best restaurants, pubs and cafes.
It’s a strategic move to plot out a plan when it comes to where to eat and drink around Kangaroo Island before you arrive at the South Australian outpost so that you can make the most of its incredible bounty. Here are the best restaurants and watering holes.
The best cafes on Kangaroo Island
1. Millie Mae’s Pantry
The owner of Millie Mae’s Pantry Jan Ordway grew up on Kangaroo Island. And this charming café-slash-grocer was named in honour of Jan’s grandma (whose middle name was Mae) and great-grandmother (Millicent), who also called Kangaroo Island home. The café has been cobbled together using upcycled doors, corrugated iron and timber rescued from old sheds and farms and is a one-stop-shop for coffee and artisan island produce.
Millie Mae’s Pantry is a one-stop-shop for coffee and artisan island produce. (Image: Meaghan Coles)
2. Emu Bay Lavender Farm
Lavender has long been known as a calmative herb. What better way to inspire a relaxed road trip than by visiting Emu Bay Lavender Farm, located over the hill from Emu Bay. The farm is surrounded by lavender fields and there is an on-site cafe serving lavender scones with lavender jelly and pots of lavender tea. If you need to counter the effects of all that incidental aromatherapy, join barefoot locals queuing for caffeine at Beach Barista, located in Pennington Bay (only in summer).
Inspire a relaxed road trip by visiting Emu Bay Lavender Farm. (Image: South Australian Tourism Commission)
3. Deck Cafe
Don your fanciest flanno so you look the part when you head to the rustic Deck Café for breakfast. Enjoy a nip of coffee in the sunny courtyard where old oak barrels have been rolled out to accommodate towering stacks of pancakes. Start sweet and then move on to savoury seconds such as eggs Florentine with smoked salmon and spinach. BYO binoculars to spot rare birds coming in to land on the American River.
The best places for a seafood lunch on Kangaroo Island
4. The Rockpool Cafe
Enjoy a pre-prandial dip in the waters off Stokes Bay before heading back to The Rockpool Café for coffee and a mid-morning bakery treat. The Rockpool Café is only open in the warmer months, from September to May, and the presence of local ocean swimmers in various stages of undress will confirm you’re in the right place. Parents will appreciate the covered kids’ area replete with mud kitchen while they sit (as Maggie Beer did on a recent visit) enjoying fresh calamari and chips.
Head back to The Rockpool Café for coffee and a mid-morning bakery treat. (Image: The Rockpool Cafe)
5. Vivonne Bay General Store
The No. 1 reason to stop at Vivonne Bay General Store in Vivonne Bay is for the famed Kangaroo Island whiting burger, which is impeccably sourced and captures the essence and simplicity of island life. Kangaroo Island’s fisher folk are a brand unto themselves, and you’ll find them here picking up bait and fishing gear. Stock up on bread, milk and fuel before you set off into Flinders Chase National Park.
6. The Oyster Farm Shop
Kangaroo Island is your oyster when you stop off at the raw bar at The Oyster Farm Shop, regarded as one of the best things to do on the SA island. The no-frills farm gate in American River highlights how important the health of the waterway is to the quality of the oyster. Enjoy a crisp ale from Kangaroo Island Brewery and a ‘Harvest of the Day’ aqua platter featuring just-shucked oysters, marron, abalone and King George whiting. Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods inside the Caltex Service Station is also the real deal.
Kangaroo Island is your oyster when you stop off at the raw bar at The Oyster Farm Shop. (Image: Josie Withers)
The best places for dinner on Kangaroo Island
Reflections occupies an important place on the local food landscape, serving some of the local produce that has put the South Australian island on the map. Order a dish that gives you a sense of place and yields comfort such as the Kangaroo Island lamb shoulder served with preserved lemon, labna, honey-glazed carrots and pomegranate. And you can’t go wrong with a classic tiramisu whipped together with Kangaroo Island Honey.
Let Gastronomo surprise and delight you during a magical dining experience under the creaking canopy of a colossal fig tree. The private pop-up feast under the enchanted tree is one of the most memorable on Kangaroo Island. Impress your foodie following by documenting the wilderness dining experience on Insta and make a vow to return to sample The Feast, Gastronomo’s progressive epicurean adventure near Snellings Beach.
Let Gastronomo surprise and delight you. (Image: South Australian Tourism Commission)
Cactus has moved down Dauncey Street to larger premises to better accommodate its growing customer base. After time spent manning the pans at Southern Ocean Lodge, chef Louis Lark (whose family had Kangaroo Island Spirits) is in charge here and you won’t go wrong ordering the quesadilla stuffed with pulled pork and black bean salsa. The beef ramen noodle soup is another cult Cactus favourite.
You can’t go wrong with Cactus cult classics. (Image: Meaghan Coles)
The best pub meals on Kangaroo Island
10. The Penneshaw Hotel
‘The Penny’, aka The Penneshaw Hotel, has been killing it since it renovated its al fresco area with glass walls to protect it from the blustery winds roaring in from the Backstairs Package. The pub overlooks the passage, which features on the Kangaroo Island Shipwreck Trail, and it’s a short walk from here to the ferry wharf and waterfront. Pub food is the main event here, but the magic also lies in the wine list, which bounces between wineries on Kangaroo Island, and in SA and NZ.
11. The Zone Restaurant & Bar
Arrive at The Zone Restaurant & Bar inside the Aurora Ozone Hotel as the pink light of dusk starts to paint the roiling water in pretty, pearlescent hues. Located on the waterfront in Kingscote, the restaurant has a relaxed vibe thanks to those stunning views over Nepean Bay. Watch the sky until it becomes like a faded blue sheet and then hustle to the bar so you can be first in the queue to order a serve of battered King George whiting and chips.
12. The Kangaroo Island Brewery
From old-school to new school. The Kangaroo Island Brewery is an off-grid brewery located a few clicks out of Kingscote that is successfully stealing the limelight from some of the island’s wineries. Housed in a rustic shed cobbled together with recycled materials, you can enjoy a creative pour in this picturesque spot which specialises in hoppy IPAs and a stout made with charred local she oak. Cruise to the brewhouse on Friday and Sundays for pizza paired with amber ales.
The Kangaroo Island Brewery is an off-grid brewery located a few clicks out of Kingscote. (Image: Josie Withers)