Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island. It lies about 20 kilometres off of the South Australian mainland. The nearest mainland town to the island is Cape Jervis, a small fishing and farming community about 120 kilometres south of Adelaide, the States capital. It is from here that a regular ferry service conveys visitors and locals across Backstairs Passage to and from Kangaroo Island.
The ferry docks at Penneshaw, a beautiful coastal town on the northern side of the Island. There is a range of accommodation here, including luxury apartments and holiday rentals. Little Penguins can be seen here at night as they return from their feeding grounds.
About 30 kilometres from Penneshaw, heading west, is the Town of American River. This is a popular fishing location and charter boats offer half or full day fishing charters into the waters of Backstairs Passage and along the northern Kangaroo Island coastline. King George Whiting, one of Australia’s best table fish, is the most popular target, along with snapper and squid.
Another 30 kilometres to the north-west is the largest town on Kangaroo Island, Kingscote. Set on the shores of Nepean Bay, it is the commercial hub of the Island. There is a large jetty, popular with anglers, along with a salt water swimming area. One of the local hotels offers nice views of the bay whilst savouring some of the local seafood. Accommodation varies from caravan parks to cabins, hotels and holiday rentals. South Australia’s earliest settlers arrived here and it was once considered as South Australia’s capital. Visitors can take a guided night tour around the rocks at the shore end of the jetty to observe the Little Penguins returning to their burrows for the night. They are quite comical birds to watch as they hop from rock to rock and then waddle into their hole.
The tiny holiday town of Emu Bay is 17 kilometres north- west of Kingscote. There is a long, white beach here and the sand is hard enough to drive on. A very popular spot with families in summer, the water is crystal clear, shallow and calm; ideal for young children.
About 75 kilometres west of Kingscote, along the Playford Highway you will come to Parndana; a small farming community with a general store and a few houses. Parndana is home to a very well run Wildlife Park featuring all of Australia’s favourite animals, including kangaroos, emus, koalas, wombats, various species of snakes and lizards and a large variety of native birds, including the impressive wedge-tailed eagle. Visitors are able to hold the koalas at set times during the day.
Just west of Kingscote, the South Coast Road branches off the Playford Highway and leads to the most popular of the Islands attractions.
Seal Bay is world renowned for its population of Australian Sea lions. A guided tour takes visitors onto the beach and amongst the resting seals. An alternative to this is to take the self- guided boardwalk tour, which allows splendid views of the beach and meanders through the low, vegetated dunes, a popular spot for the seals, especially if it is windy and cold on the beach. Quite often the seals will shelter under the boardwalk itself. There is an information centre and souvenir shop here too.
A little bit further along the South Coast Road is the Little Sahara, an area of large bare sand dunes in the middle of the densely vegetated coastal heath. Sand boarding is popular here and boards can be hired at Vivonne Bay, a short distance away.
Vivonne Bay is a beautiful little place, with a long, white, sandy beach. The beach is more of a surf beach and at times has nice little waves. Be aware of rips and undercurrents. It is also a popular fishing beach. The Australian Salmon, a good fighting fish, can be caught here. The rocks to the west of the town can be hazardous; with large waves a constant threat. Three tourists were recently washed of the rocks here. Two were rescued but the third drowned.
Keep heading west and you will arrive at the Flinders Chase National Park. There are excellent camping grounds here. This Park is home to Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, two remarkable natural rock formations. This is extremely rugged coastline here and several lives have been lost in both areas. Once again large seas have swept people off the rocks, so don’t venture to close to the ocean. The scenery, however, is spectacular. There are numerous picnic areas within this park and the local kangaroos have become so accustomed to the presence of people, that eating areas have been fenced off to stop over-zealous animals from stealing your lunch. Wild Koalas can often be seen here in the tall Eucalyptus trees.
The northern coastline is much more sheltered than the rugged south coast. Stokes Bay has a path through the limestone cliffs. This path emerges onto a pristine white beach which offers calm clear waters for swimming. If you move outside of the inshore reef, the water becomes deeper and you can enjoy excellent snorkelling and spearfishing. There is a small camping area at Stokes Bay with very basic facilities.
Snellings Beach in the north coast is another pristine stretch of coastline at the mouth of a river. There is a little surf action here and this is another popular surf fishing spot for those who target the Australian Salmon. Some very large bream can also be taken in the river when the conditions are right.
Credit: Steven Pike
Other places of interest on Kangaroo Island are the limestone caves at Kelly Hill Conservation Park, the honey farm, the lighthouse at Cape Willoughby and the amazing amount of wildlife nearly everywhere you go. More than half the Island is still in its natural bush state and this has made it a popular destination for locals, interstate and overseas visitors. Wildlife can be so prolific, that it is recommended that you do not drive out of the town areas during darkness due to the high likelihood of colliding with a kangaroo.
Some of the roads on Kangaroo Island are still unsealed so care needs to be taken. They are in much better repair than they used to be, but at times, the corrugations can be quite bad.
If you are looking for a relaxing and low key holiday, then Kangaroo Island could be for you.