Like a zoo without fences, the nation’s third-largest island, Kangaroo Island, is famous for prolific wildlife, dramatic coastal scenery and the kind of scrumptious fare you’d expect to be served up in South Australia – one of Australia’s 16 Ultimate Escapes
Nature-lovers are on cloud nine in Kangaroo Island. Surrounded by the crashing surf of the Southern Ocean, more than a third of the island is a national park or conservation area, with wildlife roaming freely.
Aside from the ubiquitous roos, wallabies, koalas and some 267 species of birds, coastal trails dotted with platforms offer a vantage point for spying New Zealand fur seals frolicking in the water and sea lions sunning themselves on beaches. No wonder the island is often referred to as Australia’s Galapagos.
While much of the 500-kilometre coastline is wild and windswept, Vivonne Bay, with its chalk-white sand and turquoise waters, is ideal for swimming, fishing, camping and surfing. More peaceful swimming can be found at Emu Bay, Island Beach and Hog Bay.
For the explorer, Flinders Chase National Park is brimming with wildlife, bushwalking trails and wind-sculpted rock formations such as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
Beyond its rugged charms, the island has plenty to please the stylish traveller. Kangaroo Island is a gourmand’s dream, serving up deliciously different local produce such as honey from pure-strain Ligurian bees, sheep’s cheese and seafood caught sustainably from the pristine waters. Marron – a freshwater crayfish – is a local specialty.
The Southern Ocean Lodge, a heavenly hideaway tucked into the southwest coast, is the ultimate in luxury lodging, showcasing fine cuisine and hypnotic ocean views. It’s one of the gems you’ll find on an island fast becoming Australia’s hottest holiday spot.
Luxury: chic clifftop retreat
Cantilevered over the rugged coastline of Hanson Bay, with a commanding panorama of the Southern Ocean, Southern Ocean Lodge is all about immersing yourself into the island’s natural beauty while indulging in all the creature comforts. Each package offered includes an itinerary of experiences – from naturalist-led sea lion encounters to pamper treatments at The Southern Spa. As the sun sets, nothing is quite as pleasurable as settling in to the sunken lounge with a glass of fine wine and admiring the crashing surf from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Food: feast for the isle
Food, glorious food! From seafood and artisan cheeses to native spices, yoghurt and wine, Kangaroo Island produces a veritable bonanza of culinary goodies, including specialities like pure Ligurian honey and marron – a freshwater crayfish. Oenophiles will be pleased to learn that KI is home to 18 wine labels, and the drops created at The Islander Estate, owned by Frenchman Jacques Lurton, are among the best. It’s easy to eat and drink your way around the island by following the Farm Gate and Cellar Door Trail, or time your visit to coincide with the annual Kangaroo Island FEASTival, a five-day gastronomic celebration. For a guided tour, join a Food Safari and let the experts curate a tailored epicurean journey. See: Exceptional Kangaroo Island; 08 8553 9119.
Adventure: board, bike and paddle
After all that leisurely beach strolling and long lunching, how about something to get your adrenaline pumping? If you fancy quad biking through open grassland and rolling sand dunes, an organised quad bike tour will take you through otherwise inaccessible areas of the island, allowing you to glimpse animals in their natural settings. Witness more wildlife while paddling along the Harriet River in a single or double kayak, or for some laughs (and tumbles), hire a sandboard or toboggan and hurtle down the dunes of Little Sahara. See: KI Outdoor Action; 08 8559 4296.
Wildlife: talk to the animals
Yes, there are kangaroos – in fact, Kangaroo Island even has its own subspecies of roo. But there are plenty of other furry and feathered critters to marvel at. Free of mainland predators, animals flourish on the island, resulting in a Noah’s Ark that includes tammar wallabies, echidnas, brushtail possums, sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, Australian and New Zealand fur seals and some 260 seabirds. You can observe these locals via a guided tour from the comfort of a luxury 4WD, which will transport you to the island’s best wildlife-spotting sites – from the dense forest of Flinders Chase to Admirals Arch, where you can coo over the colony of New Zealand fur seals, and Seal Bay Conservation Park, home to Australia’s third-largest colony of sea lions. See: Wilderness Tours; 08 8559 5033.
Family: swim with dolphins
The island’s underwater world is every bit as awe-inspiring as its life on land, and your family will never forget the thrill of swimming with dolphins – the ocean’s friendliest creatures. Suited to young marine lovers and adventurous kids, Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures’ (08 8553 3227) boat chugs from its HQ in Kingscote to the island’s most remote beaches, where you can experience a face-to-face frolic with pods of inquisitive and remarkably friendly bottlenose and common dolphins in their natural habitat. All interactions take place in shallow water and under strict guidelines from the Marine Mammal Interaction Policy. Bring an underwater camera for plenty of mind-blowing snaps of the fascinating underwater creatures and plants you encounter on this fantastic adventure tour.
Explore: an island odyssey
The Remarkable Rocks, a natural “modern art” masterpiece sculpted by wild winds live up to their name, balancing dramatically above the turbulent surf of the Southern Ocean. Join a guided 4WD expedition to experience the island’s other marvels, strolling among the tranquil bushland of Flinders Chase National Park, watching New Zealand fur seals in their colony at Cape du Couedic, climbing Prospect Hill to enjoy the views and even joining a park ranger on a tour of the historic Cape Willoughby lighthouse. See: KI Odysseys; 08 8553 0386.
Getting there: Flights to Kangaroo Island depart Adelaide daily and take around 30 minutes, while ferries from Cape Jervis take less than an hour. Hire vehicles from the airport, Kingscote or Penneshaw, or bring your own car across on the ferry.
Eating there: Foodies flock to the annual FEASTival; the rest of the year you can find artisan producers, cellar doors and boutique wineries, many with on-site restaurants. In Penneshaw and Kingscote, there’s a smattering of casual cafes, general stores and some of the best fish and chips in the country.
Staying there: From camp sites, lighthouse keeper’s cottages and self-contained beach houses, you can go rustic or splash out in five-star style on Kangaroo Island. Penneshaw, Kingscote and Parndana are the main townships with general stores and restaurants. Check out the options at tourkangarooisland.com.au