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.
Happy Travelling Kangaroo Island!