When travellers visit Australia one key attraction is the famous Aussie Outback. And there are a few locations you can stay at and use as your base to explore this beautiful heartland. With this blog we are looking at the Australian Outback tours from Cairns.
Its fair to say that most holiday makers have a short time on the Australia continent – so using domestic flights is the key to saving you valuable travel time. Believe me, staying longer at key locations makes total. The climate and weather situation also needs to be considered carefully. So read on:
Where? Chillagoe Outback ex Cairns
The trip inland from from the Queensland coast will take you about 3 hours drive – and that is just one-way! That is why we recommend that you do this trip with a local operator such as Billy Tea Safaris. You will get to drive off-the-beaten-track along the Outback’s classic red-dirt roads. And you will learn so many interesting things from your local guide’s commentary. And there is no need to worry about the details. You will be picked from your hotel, given lunch and a guided tour through a caving area.
What does the Outback tour include?
Your tour begins from the moment you are collected by an accredited guide. If you are staying the Cairns CBD, this will usually be around 6.45am. If you are staying at Holloway’s Beach or Yorkey’s Knob, expect pick-up at approximately 7.00am. Guests from Northern Beaches and Port Douglas will be collected from their accommodation by International Coaches. The coaches actually provide a transfer to the Canopys Edge Bus stop. From the Bus Stop, you will leave the coach and transfer to the Billytea Tour vehicles.
Your tour van will climb the McAllister Ranges to the first stop which is at the Skybury Coffee Plantation. This is where you will see so many bird species. Think of a Ostrich like creature, then you will be able to imagine what an Emu looks like. I guarantee you will be awed by the Wedge Tail Eagles as they swoop around for prey. Let us not forget the iconic Kangaroo species you will see around here – and this is just the first stop!
Can you do this by car yourself?
If you are really determined to drive to Chillagoe yourself, you will need to check the policies of your car hire company. Ask if you can take your car on a dirt road. The road to Chillagoe is not sealed all the way. Many companies will not allow dirt road travel. The thing is, by joining a small group tour and being driven around, is so convenient for you. And although this particular tour does not pick up in Port Douglas, they opt for a private transfer to the bottom of the Karanda Range. This option will cost you an $87.00p.p. return and paid direct to your private transfer driver.
What is Chillagoe Outback about?
Chillagoe actually covers the whole of the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. This area is not really that well known, but it does have such an interesting local history. Chillagoe was once the centre of a thriving mining industry that brought great riches and progress to the area. Of course, nowadays that the Chillagoe smelters are now in ruin, they are still quite a fascinating structure to explore.
The chimneys of the smelters stand as a reminder of the pioneering spirit – you almost picture the workers who had to load the heavy ore on to the trains.
Caving Options at Chillagoe
It seems for a lot of travellers, no tour is complete without a cave explore. At Chillagoe, you will enter a mysterious underground world of majestic caverns and the most exquisite limestone formations.
Donna Cave 9am: 830m return (1hr), moderate grade. At Conna Cave, you will climb downwards through a narrow cave entrance into a hidden world. This cave is a fantasy come true of magical columns and sparkling crystals. In fact, the crystals are so bright, they pierce through the darkness. (To cave: 180m walk with 50 steps from Donna Cave car park. Inside cave: 470m walk with 330 very steep ladder-like steps).
Trezkinn Cave 11am: 830m return (45min), moderate grade. This one is an easy stroll along a steel catwalk. There is a very famous structure here called a handelier’- this is a spectacular cluster of stalactites, lit up by spotlights. (To cave: 300m track with 140 steps from Donna Cave car park. Inside cave: 230m walk with 250 very steep ladder-like steps).
Royal Arch 1.30pm: 1.3km return (1.5hr), easy/moderate grade. You’ll have a great time exploring a labyrinth of passages and 11 caverns with hand-held lamps – how cool is that! Ancient marine fossils can be seen here and of course, limetone formations. (To cave: 250m walk from Royal Arch car park. Inside cave: 800m walk with 300 steps and low overhangs).
Depending on your mobility and fitness, you may find the caves quite challenging. There are many flights of stairs, steep steps, narrow passages and low overhangs. Most travellers have absolutely no problem with this tour. However, some of us do have claustrophobia or perhaps a health condition – it pays to have all the info at hand before you start.
Summary on Australia Outback tours from Cairns
As mentioned before, it’s a good idea to stay longer in key regions. If you have your heart set on going to see Uluru Rock (Ayers Rock), then by all means do it. But just remember, you don’t have to visit Ayers Rock in order to see the great Australian Outback. By leaving Uluru out, you will avoid the cost of additional domestic flights. So instead, spend 4 nights in Northern Queensland – either Cairns or Port Douglas. Go snorkelling one day, then visit the Daintree Forest the next day. Crown it all off with an Outback tour into the Chillagoe area. You will get Australia on ‘one plate’ and with far less interstate travelling. Anyway, something for you to think about.
These days, when you plan an Australia holiday, your first step is probably to go on- line. You will look at the travel reviews, suss out the blog suggestions and booking engines. But more and more travellers are contacting a local online travel agent and Australia is no exception. Why is this? This blog will point out not only the reasons why, but the advantages of using a local Australia travel agent. Start with ‘Focused Travel Planning’.
Focused travel planning
The internet is great for travellers – it seems all the information you need is a mere finger tap away! Sounds great doesn’t it – but is it really? When it comes to travel, you will quickly discover how overwhelming the ‘flood’ of information is out there. That is why Focused travel planning is needed. And that is where a knowledgeable travel expert can really save you so much time by asking you all the right questions – pointing out insider information. For example, when is the best time to travel Australia or climate & weather regions in Australia.
Suitable travel options
There is a huge range of travel options. And choosing the right ones, very much depend on important stuff – things like your interests – what sort of accommodation style you prefer. For example, some travellers want to experience the Great Australia Outback, while others are happy to visit wildlife and nature nature reserves. No one can resist a cute Koala! However, there are a lot of places such as Kangaroo Island – that are often ‘forgotten’. Visits to Australia will usually focus on the ‘magic triangle’ – Sydney, Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock Uluru. Now don’t get me wrong, those places are fabulous, but there is is much more to Australia. Think about the beauty of Western Australia or the famous wine area of the Barossa Valley, to name just a few! So a location expert can talk you through all your options. The end goal is to find the best travel options for you – tailored specifically to your tastes.
Digital planning tools
Gone are the days when endless pages of travel documents were the norm. Welcome to the digital age with sophisticated travel app! All travel details are available on phone, tablet or desktop. At Guest Australia, we are using TravelKey. And that means, all reservation data is automatically loaded onto the app. So, no more data entering or emailing tickets for travellers. More and more Australia online travel agents will use this convenient tool. So travel and IT pretty much goes hand in hand nowadays.
Value for money travel options
Of course, we all want a fair price for our holiday of a lifetime. On the surface at least, online travel websites and comparing tools make this look easy – too easy. Nothing beats working with the guy ‘on the ground’ for their first-hand experience – that person who has actually seen the accommodations you are thinking of. And the great thing is, a local travel agent can often save you money. For example, they know, that paying a higher price for a lodge, doesn’t necessary mean it is the right lodge for you. On the other hand, getting a low-cost deal can sometimes be a bit of a disaster. You can rely on a reputable travel agent – one who takes the time to understand your travel needs.
Everything through one hand
People are so busy these days. So, spending hours on the internet, sorting through email confirmations and reservations, is not the most efficient use of your time. A good travel agent will make the planning process so easy and enjoyable. By getting all arrangements through ‘one hand’ you will achieve a seamless flow of transfers, right distances, and tours times. It will also mean that you will end up by being at the right place at the right time! There is so much to discover in Australia. Once you are actually in the country, should be your goal to create those memories of a lifetime.
Help while travelling
Like anything is life, our travel plans can be disrupted. These disruptions could be in the form of road blocks, bad weather preventing a flight from taking off, or a family member getting sick. Whenever things like this happen in a foreign country, it can be an absolute blessing to have a ‘local’ on the ground ready to sort it out for you. We have all experienced how hard it is to get through to an airline company and actually talk to a real person. And it is doubly hard to suddenly have to chop and change your accommodation, because of a last-minute change of route. This is where travel agents on the grounds can be miracle workers and an lifeline for travellers. What better reason to select a location based expert.
Go local & slow travel
Gone are the days where travellers want to visit as many locations as possible. Slow travel means less locations, but more time at each location. An experienced travel adviser will point out good reasons as to why you should stay longer at location – believe me, it really does make your holiday experience so much more enjoyable. Plus, slow travel is more environmentally friendly. Do check out some Australia travel itineraries: Travel Australia for Honeymooners Australia holidays for Nature lovers Australia for Family travellers
And… one more thing…
Holidays are a very valuable time for travellers – often the highlight of the year. Many of us can be celebrating a honeymoon or retirement – it is our ‘trip of a lifetime’. Having a local and knowledgeable expert can really can make the difference between having a ‘nice trip’ or an ‘amazing holiday’. So find an on-line Australia travel agent – an expert in their field and get that ‘trip of a lifetime’.
When travelling Australia, you really need to consider a few key points. And these range from visa requirements – to what clothing you should wear. The intention of this blog, is to make your Australia Travel Checklist an easy process to get through. Bear in mind though, that your requirements may be quite different to those of other travellers. So let’s focus on the Top 10 points you need to tick off in your checklist.
Top 10 – Important Travel Checklist
1. Check travel dates and climate
Australia is a massive continent with different climate zones, temperatures and seasons. For example, the southern regions such as Kangaroo Island, Great Ocean Road and Melbourne, are perfect for travel between October and March. However, the same cannot be said for the northern regions. And this is because it is the rainy season for these parts. Read more about Australia climate, weather conditions and travel seasons.
2. Research your travel options
Try to do some general research on Australia before you travel. Think of locations, distances and your must-see highlights. Then match your interests to your planning list. This ‘how to travel’ blog will help you further. Of course, there are some travellers that prefer to do all the planning themselves. But others, will reach out to a travel agent who can guide them in the right direction, so to speak. Whatever way works best for you, the crucial point, is to do the general research first – before you start planning. You won’t have any time to do this once you are on the road!
3. Visa, Passport and Driving licence
Travelling does seem to be pretty easy these days. But try not to fall into the trap of leaving everything to the minute. Just because you have booked your flight, it doesn’t mean that everything else will fall into place so quickly. For example, the last thing you want to have to deal with, is an expired passport or driving licence. So, make sure your passports are all valid at least 6 months from your departure date to Australia. Nearly all passport holders will need an entry certificate for Australia, called an ETA, check online here. You can do this online, but make sure you have plenty of time before you depart – count on at least 4-6 weeks. This is very important on your Australia travel checklist!
4. Medical Checks and Precautions
For your travel in Australia, you will not be required to undertake any special medical precautions. And there is no need to worry about infectious diseases. Yes, there are snakes in Australia, but very few of them are poisonous. The chances of you coming across any of these are pretty slim – luckily, they are very shy. But the real ‘biggie’ here, is getting solid travel insurance! If you have to visit a hospital or even be repatriated back home, this will cost you dearly. Get a travel insurance.
5. How best to organise reservations
Okay, now you have done all your ‘homework’ and have a pretty clear idea of how to structure your itinerary. The next stage is making all the reservations. Most key reservations are achieved with documentation such as emails and text messages. So just before heading off, gather all these together. That way, they are within easy reach while you are on the road.
When organising your travel, most travellers will either use the ‘good old spreadsheet’ or put everything into a Word documents or on Google Docs. But there are other more efficient ways. And these are in the form of travel apps such as Tripit, TripCase, Google Travel or Booking.com. Some of those apps will be great when on a business trip, but a little less handy when you are travelling with children.
We use a very efficient app called a TravelKey. And in fact, it is connected to our reservation system. For travellers who prefer to self-plan, we would suggest either going for TripCase or Google Docs – those are easily accessible while on the road.
6. Packing, Luggage & Washing
As a general rule on your Australia travel checklist; the longer you are travelling the less luggage you’ll need. Try to pack with layering in mind – ‘peel on and peel off’ as the weather dictates (the reliable ‘onion system). A ‘must have’ is always a good rain jacket – this helps with the wind chill as well. An absolute must is to have a pair of good sunglasses – you will definitely need these if you are going on a Great Barrier Reef or Outback tour. A sun or fly-hat can be bought at location and often serves as a souvenir to take back home. Read more.
Washing facilities are available at a lot of accommodations. What you will usually get, is a laundry room with washing powder and a dryer. Just a few dollars are charged for those. Otherwise most hotels offer a full laundry service at extra charge. Apartments often have full facilities included in the actual unit – this is great for families.
7. Mobile phone and data plans
These days, most travellers will use their smart phone while on their holiday. The easiest way to avoid nasty telecom bills, is to check with your local mobile provider to see if they are offering ‘roaming’ options for Australia. If they are, the charges are usually quite moderate. We recommend that you take this option. But if you don’t have a roaming option, then think about purchasing an Australia SIM card – use an Australian data & phone plan while in Australia. By the way, they are easy to purchase on arrival at international airports.
8. Bringing foods into Australia
Sometimes it is very tempting to bring your own foods, especially if you have specific dietary requirements. Australia and New Zealand are very strict about food bringing food into their country. Therefore, you cannot bring in any dried meats, fish or honey products. If you do bring something in, whatever you do, declare them to the customs officers. That way, you will avoid a hefty fine and time-consuming delays. Here is a link to the offical website.
9. Arrival, transfers and check in
After a long-haul flight, the last thing you want is to wait for a transfer. But with transfers, you do have a number options – you can use an Airport Train, a Shuttle Coache, taxi or get a private driver. To avoid any inconvenience on your arrival, make sure you pre-book your preferred transfer.
Check-in time for most accommodations is from 2pm onwards. So if your flight has an early arrival, such as 6am, you will be at the hotel at 8am. However, if you have not booked the night prior, there is no guarantee that you are able to check-in at 8am. Most accommodation providers are very happy for you to move into your room if it was not occupied the night before. But you will probably be travelling in peak seasons, so don’t count on getting access to your room before check-in time. The good thing is, you are able to leave your luggage at the hotel’s storage area and in the meantime, go sightseeing.
10. Communication and tipping
After a long tiring flight with early morning arrivals it’s a good idea to stay awake as long as you can. Talk to your hotel or local host about easy walks in the area. Also, get some tips on where to eat.
Generally, tipping is not expected in Australia. As a rule, hotels and restaurants do not add service charges to your bill, so tipping is your choice. In upmarket restaurants tipping for outstanding service is a nice gesture and can be added to your bill.
Happy Travelling with your Australia travel checklist!
Some travellers will visit Kangaroo Island as a day trip from Adelaide. However, many will stay for 2-3 nights in the island. This blog looks at the different Kangaroo Island accommodation options that are available to visitors. Remember, the island is quite large – 150 kms wide and 55 kms height (see detailed blog on what to do and see). So, with that in mind, it is important to select the right location and style to suit you. Although many of these accommodations are self-catering, some of them to have a chef on call to cook dinner for you.
Where to stay on Kangaroo Island
As there are only 4500 locals living on Kangaroo Island, the accommodation options are limited. However, there is a good range of self-contained cottages. Plus there are lodges that provide breakfast, motels, hotels/motel, and resort style properties. But there are probably far more self-contained accommodation choices. To make it easier for you to select what you like, have a look at this overview:
Ecopia Retreat & Luxury Getaway – Middle
For the first 2 nights of our stay in Kangaroo Island we stayed at Ecopia Retreat. We liked this eco retreat for a number of reasons, not the least being its location. It is very conveniently placed in the centre of the island. At this stage, Ecopia has two villas to choose from – Villa Ada and Villa May. Ecopia is fairly new so everything is in top-notch condition. The building itself is made of rammed earth and it really does provide excellent insulation. Except for the bathroom, the interior is open-plan.
Because Ecopia has a strong eco focus, you will be expected to abide by certain environmental rules – things like waste disposal – but these are pretty much commonsense issues. As to the facilities, you will have everything you need. We thought the log burner was a wonderful feature for those cooler nights – it really creates a lovely ambiance. The interiors are very contemporary and because of the high stud roof, very spacious.
Both villas provide full kitchen facilities as well as a washing machine. And a big plus for us, is that the wifi is very good.
Food is not included in Ecopia’s tariff and is perfect for those couples who wish to self-cater. You can pick up supplies at the island’s supermarket at Kingscote. However if you prefer, food & drink packages can be pre-ordered prior to your arrival. Or a chef comes in and prepares the pre-set menu. What we loved about this accommodation, was the setting. We really felt like we were the only people on the island. We could also imagine that many travellers would love being so close to the wildlife – the Kangaroos and Wallabies that you will see most mornings and evenings.
Sea Dragon Lodge & Villas – Eastern Side
We selected Sea Dragon Lodge & Villas for our second stay on the island. The lodge and villas are the furthest in the east that you can possibly travel on the island. And that makes it a fair way from the key attractions on the western side – like Flinders Chase National Park and Remarkable Rocks. But the location is simply STUNNING! With views from the verandah overlooking the Australian mainland, how could you not be impressed.
The villas are incredibly spacious with great wifi reception and a well equiped kitchen. We are always pleased when a lounge suite like this one, is just as comfortable as it looks.
We really liked the bedroom suite and the fact that the toilet is separate to the bathroom.
We were quite impressed with the amount of inclusions at Sea Dragon. Continental breakfast provisions are provided, plus a complimentary bottle of wine and cookies. If you don’t wish to self-cater, dinner supplies can be pre-ordered. However, at a further additional cost, a chef can be bought in to prepare your meals for you. It is also handy to know that Sea Dragon offers a guiding 4WD service with a local ‘islander’ at the wheel.
Lifetime Private Retreats – Northern Coast
On the northern side of Kangaroo Island, you will find the Lifetime Private Retreats. Depending on your needs, you will have a choice of 5 very private houses and villas. They are very different from one another – some cater for honeymoon couples, and others, small family groups. When we first walked into our villa, the Beach Retreat, we immediately understood why couples must love this one.
The Beach Retreat has a large sunroom annexed to it – and thats what makes it so incredibly spacious – so perfect for enjoying those stunning beach views.
And yes, this particular villa does have a very ‘beachy’ vibe, but it also has a quite an eclectic decor – a bit of Moroccan, French Country and a touch of the contemporary. But what really sets it apart from the other villas, would have to be the beautiful porthole windows. Once again, you do have a choice of self-catering, pre-ordering meals or having your own private chef.
While in the Snelling Beach area we also visited other holiday houses belonging to the Lifetime Retreat group.
Sheoaks is higher up the hill and has stunning views over Snelling Beach. It is made of rammed earth and has a luxurious but homely feel. It has been cleverly designed to accommodate two guests or a larger family group. Sheoaks has a full kitchen with all the facilities you will need. You can either self-cater, or have a chef come in to prepare your meals.
Although the Cliff House can sleep 6 people, it is also perfect as a hideaway for couples. In the cooler months between May and September, an open fire must surely enhance a wonderful romantic experience. This one has the best views overlooking Snelling Beach. It has a private beach access and boy, those million dollar views! The Cliff House is considered the ‘jewel in the crown’ on the northern coast of Kangaroo Island.
Stowaway Luxury Retreat – Northern Coast
Stowaway is a classic honeymoon retreat cottage. There are two cottages on offer set very apart from one another. They are located just a little inland on the northern coast of Kangaroo Island. You definitely get a feeling of total privacy, being surrounded by paddocks on all sides. Plus you will see the kangaroos hopping about at certain times of the day. These cottages are very luxurious and of course, spacious. If it is a full kitchen you are after, you will have total independence to self-cater here. And it is not often you get to enjoy an in-built sauna – I guarantee it would be a pretty ‘cool’ place to stay in the winter season (May – September).
Dine Walcowrie – Eastern part
Now this has to be a very special accommodation. First of all, it is located on Browns Beach in the eastern part of Kangaroo Island. Dine Walcowrie is a high end family retreat. There are so many beautiful features throughout the building. There are five bedrooms and the large lounge and sun desk area is perfect for relaxation. We loved this property for its minimalist, yet stylish interiors. You will get the full dining service here with a comprehensive catering service provide by your local host Coreena.
One KI Retreat
Next door to Dine Walcowrie is the brand new and palatial One KI Retreat. This is a stunner! One KI belongs to the same owner as Dine Walcowrie. Both of these beautiful buildings are able to be combined for larger family gatherings. Private access to the close-by beach is a key feature as well as the tranquility and remoteness. There are some very private spaces on this large property where you can kick back and enjoy the sunset. Believe me, this accommodation is outstanding!
Resorts and Luxury Lodges
Southern Ocean Lodge – South-western area
The Southern Ocean Lodge is another high-end property. We did a site visit here while exploring the western parts of Kangaroo Island. The setting is truly spectacular. Key sites, such as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch are close-by. Guests can walk from the lodge towards the beach and Hanson Bay. The lodge has 21 rooms and a large guest sitting and dining area. All meals are included in the tariff, plus some guided tour options. A private guide can be arranged at extra cost. All rooms face towards the views. A spa centre is on site – there is no gym or swimming pool.
Oceanview Eco Villas – Eastern side
Oceanview Eco Villas are brand-new! In fact when we arrived, they were still building these two contemporary villas. We are very excited about this one, which is due to open in August 2019. Yet again, the location is absolutely gorgeous. You will get 500 acres all to yourself on the coast across Nepean Bay towards Kingscote. The owners are locals and genuinely lovely people. They both have a very interesting background, which is perfect for their new hosting venture. The whole idea is to have the two luxury villas operating as a private guest retreat. Three-course dining and cooked breakfast is part of the package. Guests will get a night to dine with their hosts in the ‘history room’. It is a great chance to learn about the family’s history. This property is a unique experience. They have the right formula to be a huge success – location, people, endless style.
Mercure KI Lodge – American River
The tiny village of American River is half-way between the main settlement Kingscote and the eastern Dudley Peninsula. The Mercure KI Lodge is part the Accor group. Now from the outside it really didn’t look that flash, but once we stepped inside, our mood changed. First of all, The restaurant has achieved numerous awards. The standard rooms are OK. But we really loved the ‘Waterview Studio’ rooms. These rooms are in a separate area and build with mud bricks. These are larger suites to the main building. They do have a good vibe with balconies and views towards the bays.
Bed & Breakfast Stays
Molly’s Run – Northern area
Molly’s is located on the northern side of Kangaroo Island. And if you are looking for an nn old Italian Villa vibe, you will find it here. Molly’s Run is is owned and operated by locals Paul & Charmaine and they offer a true B&B experience. Dinner is provided at an extra charge. Pretty much all guest who stay at Molly’s, will dine here – there are very few restaurants in this area. Molly’s Run has three Suites – 2 with queen-bedding and one with king (plus single bed) configuration. So if you dream of ‘Tuscany’ within an intimate setting and great cookery, you’ll love it.
Stranraer B&B – Central KI
Stranraer Homestead is an historic 1920s federation homestead built from limestone gathered on the property. It has been meticulously restored to its former glory. The actual building is set on 1290 hectares of working property. Now, although Stranraer has all the mod cons, it is definitely not contemporary in any way. But that is part of its charm. The guests who stay here, enjoy a B & B owned by a’ local’ with legendary cooking skills.
Summary Kangaroo Island Accommodation
So, as you can see, selecting the right location on Kangaroo Island, is important. If you have 3+ nights on Kangaroo Island you might want to split your stay between the western and eastern parts. The key challenge on the island is getting access to suitable restaurants. There are hardly any. So if you are planning your trip here, do keep this in mind. You either go with a property where pretty much all the meals are provided or you self-cater (either shop yourself or pre-order meals).
It has been said that Kangaroo Island is the ‘Galapagos’ of Australia. And that would be because the wildlife is thriving in a pristine environment. For an island, this place is really big – 155 kms in width and 50 kms from north to southern coast.
With a population base of 4500 souls on 4500 square kilometres, it is no surprise that Kangaroo Island is mainly protected nature reserves and farmland. So you understand that Kangaroos pretty much rule here!
Kangaroo Island was first settled in 1836 by British settlers. Those poor folk were promised lush green farmland. But what they got instead, was an island covered in dense bush land. Nothing could really grow here. Even in these current times, tourism, farming and fishing are the island’s main industries Temperatures vary between 15 degrees celsius in winter (Jun-Aug) to 30 degrees in the summer season (Nov-March).
Getting around Kangaroo Island
To check out key attractions, a lot of travellers prefer to rent a car or travel in a guided coach tour. Some do this all in a day tour from Adelaide, which takes up to 16 hour return! Others would stay for 2-3 nights and use their rental car after arriving by ferry or flight from Adelaide.
But more travellers are seeing the value of small group tours, and even better, hiring a private local guide. We chose a private guide and it proved to be the ultimate way to go. At Kingscote Airport, we were met by local guide, Ken from Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours. From the very onset, he proved to be a very learned gentleman and an all-round ‘top bloke’.
So off we headed in a very spacious and modern 4WD drive to the western parts of the Kangaroo Island. Ken had all the supplies we needed, with lunch baskets, water bottles and of course, Kangaroo Island wine.
The key main roads throughout the island are sealed and in good condition. So that makes travelling so easy. However, travellers do need to be aware that there are a number of unsealed, classic Australia-red sandy roads. Rental car insurance will not cover travellers if they travel the roads after sunset and before sunrise. And that is simply because kangaroos love crossing the roads during the night. A collision of this sort can be pretty serious – and not just for the Kangaroos!
South-Western highlight on KI
Many of the key attractions to visit on Kangaroo Island, are located on the south-western coast areas. It is very easy to underestimate travel times. So from Kingscote Airport to the famous Flinders Park Centre, you will need to calculate on 1.5 hours drive one-way. From the Penneshaw ferry terminal to Flinders, you will be in for about 2.5 hours drive one-way.
As distances and travel times are a key consideration when planning a trip to Kangaroo Island, it’s very important to select the right accommodation option. (We shall be doing a separate travel blog on Kangaroo Island accommodation options) But these are the views you can expect from at least some of them.
Seal Bay Conservation Park
As we headed south-west, Ken with his keen eyes, spotted a couple of Wedge-tailed eagles flying above us – see details on them. They are massive birds with a wingspan of up to 3 metres. This would be the first of many times Ken would spot a unique highlight before we were aware of it! Believe me, it really helps if you have a guide with a genuine love of the land and its wildlife. Over the next 2 days we learned so much.
Our first stop was at Seal Bay Conservation Park. For sheer beauty alone, it was a stunning landscape. And in fact, it is home to the third largest Australian sea lion colony in Australia. These seals are actually lovely to look at. Even though they are described as being grey, many of them are in fact a chocolate colour. Their big doe-like eyes won our hearts.
Ken knew about getting the timing right so that we could pretty much get this place to ourselves. He knew there would be tour buses arriving. So he chose a time that would ensure that we would be the very first first visitors for the day. It also helped that as an accredited National Park guide, he has special access to the beach which is not open to the general public.
Little Sahara Sand Dunes
Little did we know that there are huge sand dunes on Kangaroo Island. But they don’t actually lead down to the sea. After the last ice age (10-15,000 years ago) Kangaroo Island became separated from the mainland due to the rising ocean waters. The sand dunes are leftovers from those days.
Flinders Chase Visitor Centre
Located on the south-western side of the islands, is the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre. You will find that the centre has a very good exhibition of local wildlife and history. And it is also a good place to stop for a toilet break and a bite to eat before heading off to the next highlight.
Speaking of the next highlight, we were ready for lunch, but not just any old lunch. Ken drove us down to a private spot with picnic facilities and it is here that he demonstrated is BBQ cooking skills.
And what a splendid lunch it was. We had sirloin steak cooked to our individual tastes, roast potatoes and beautiful salads.
I have to say, it was all very civilised with starched table napkins and cutlery all perfectly laid out by Ken. And it was substantial a substantial meal with wine and pears cooked in red wine for dessert.
After our lunch stop we headed to the south-western corner of the island. What a beautifully wind-swept place it was, with a roaring ocean and high waves. Safety is everything on Kangaroo Island, so we had well defined walkways. The views here are truly spectacular.
But what really rang our bells, was the place they call Admirals Arch – a truly stunning arch-shaped rock formation with stalactites. We had a great view of this from a specially built platform facing the ocean.
Just a short drive from Admirals Arch, you will come across the Remarkable Rocks. These stone structures are very old, having been formed about 500 million years ago. I would urge every traveller to Kangaroo Island to see them. They are such a key attraction.
This small, secluded bay sits along the south coast of Kangaroo Island just west of the famous Kelly Hill Conservation Park. It is accessible via West River Road, which runs south off of South Coast Road. West River Road is an unsealed road, but like many places, the harder it is to get to, the greater the reward when you arrive. It is untamed and beautiful.
Kelly Hill Conservation Park
Kelly Hill Conservation Park is very much a protected area. So you will only again access if you are with an accredited guide. Ken had a licence and the gate keys – so we were sorted. I have to say, this was a great way to end our first day. All the wallabies and Kangaroos had come out to bask in the fading light. You could have heard a pin drop. We felt so privileged to have witnessed this moment with Ken.
Summary of our day on Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is a large place. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the amount of time you should spend here. If you can spare at least 2-3 nights on the island you’ll see and experience so much more. And seriously, having a local guide with unique insider knowledge, will make for a far more meaningful experience. If your budget does not extend that far, then try to opt for a small party tour. Whatever you decide, we would definitely recommend Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours.
Well, here it is, one last spectacular view of this amazing piece of paradise that is Kangaroo Island.