For an island, Kangaroo Island is really large. In fact it measures over 150 km (93 miles) from west to east. Kangaroo Island separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago. This was largely due to rising sea level after the last glacial period. Although some of its animals are local sub-species, there are some that are unique to the island. Recent fires destroyed forests on the western half of the island. But don’t worry, a good 60% of astonishing beauty still remains.
Also, after the much needed rain, Kangaroo Island is regenerating much of what was affected by the fires (in Jan 2020). Rest assured, you can still expect to see a raw and rugged coastline, natural wonders and wildlife. But what will always attract visitors, is the feeling of being on the road less travelled. After all, surely that is what real travel is all about! Read more.
How to get to Kangaroo Island?
There are two ways you can reach Kangaroo Island from mainland Australia. You can take a 30-45 minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. Or, to save time, you can take a short 35 minute domestic flight from Adelaide/ South Australia.
Ferry Crossing via Cape Jervis
The ferry across the Saint Vincent Gulf does provide passenger and vehicle options. In fact, most of the locals prefer to use the ferry to transport goods over to the island. However, this option only works if you are on an extended trip. It will take you nearly 2 hours one-way from Adelaide, before you reach the Kangaroo Island ferry terminal. Therefore, if you are only staying for 2-4 nights, it makes sense to fly to the island.
Flight with Rex Air from Adelaide
If you are staying in Adelaide City, it will take about 15-20 min to drive to the Regional Express (REX) airline airport. Rex Airline operates a smaller 30-40 seater aircraft. And that size aircraft is perfectly adequate for the 35 minute hop across to Kangaroo Island. The Kangaroo Island airport is brand-new and therefore so very modern. If you have booked a guided tour or a transfer with your driver-guide, I guarantee you will get a warm welcome. Believe me, the locals are the nicest people you will meet anywhere on planet earth!
How to get around Kangaroo Island?
For most short-term travellers who are staying for only 1-3 days, it makes sense to join a guided tour with a local operator – such as Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours. Not only will you get the insider knowledge about the nature, but locals who are genuinely passionate about their environment. With only about 4800 souls living on the island, the locals have a deep sense of ‘community’.
For added flexibility, you could also hire a rental car on the island. So, if you are flying to the island, collect your car at the airport terminal once you land. Alternatively, if you take the ferry, you would collect your car at the Kangaroo Island ferry terminal. It doesn’t make sense to take any rental car onto the ferry – unless you are going for an extended time. The cost of that particular option would far outweigh any advantage to you. One important fact: you cannot drive around the island at nighttime (after sunset and before sunrise). No vehicle insurance will cover you for these times. But perhaps more importantly, you will have a very high chance of hitting the precious wildlife. Kangaroos and other wildlife cross the road all the time. So do stay alert if you are driving around Kangaroo Island.
How big is Kangaroo Island?
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island, measuring 145km (90 miles) east to west and 55km (34 miles) north to south at it’s widest point, totalling 4409km² (1702miles²) in area. Much of the island has been under the protection of national and conservation parks. These areas are connected by roadside and creek-line corridors which carry wildlife habitat across the beautiful landscape that still currently remains.
Weather & climate Kangaroo Island
A lot of visitors travel to Kangaroo Island in the summer. That is when they they tend to take their holidays. However, when we travelled to Kangaroo Island, it was in the Autumn month of May. It turned out to be perfect timing. The dry season had ended and the land had really ‘greened’ up. Plus there were far fewer tourists around – you really did get the feeling of being away from it all. August tends to be the coolest month of the year and February is the hottest. Between May and September, is when Kangaroo Island has its rainy season.
Summer – December, January & February
If you go to Kangaroo Island in December, you will see black swans. These guys move in large numbers to the waters around American River. Seals exist in large numbers on Kangaroo Island – their breeding season peaks in January. It is that time you will witness fierce territorial battles. All this drama can be seen from the safety of a long boardwalk at Admiral’s Arch. Do watch out for the Island’s largest terrestrial predator – The Rosenberg’s goannas. Not to be messed with, these rare creatures often lie about on the roadside. They are pretty active in February, when they are breeding. It would help to remember that they are rather curious! And let us not forget those beautiful Wedge Tailed Eagles – so beautiful on the wing.
Autumn/Fall – March, April & May
Glossy black cockatoos were pretty much endangered already, when the island had its fires. However, you might be fortunate to see one or two. Their numbers are currently been assessed. Thankfully, Little penguins still exit on the island. They usually return in April to begin their their annual breeding. The males get busy renovating their burrows in the hope of attracting a female.
Winter – June, July & August
Now if you are a whale lover, June would be the best time to see the Southern right whales. These gigantic mammals make their annual visit to the protected waters around Kangaroo Island. They leave in October for the much cooler Antarctic waters in October. Black swans nest on their large an elaborate nests in the wetlands and along the rivers in June. Of course, mention has to be made of those iconic Australian locals – the Kangaroo. Their joeys (babies) usually emerge from the pouch in August. And how could you not be charmed by this wonderful little creature, called an Echidna. Although they are mammals, they do actually lay eggs!
Spring – September, October & November
Shearwater migration – in September, hundreds of thousands of birds move past the South Coast of the Island in a continuous stream rising and falling on the air currents above the ocean swell (best site for viewing is any of the lighthouse promontories). In November, Australian sea-lions use the broader Summer beach to bask on the sand in between fishing trips to the continental shelf.
Regions on Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island still has a number or ‘sub-regions’, which all have their own flair and charm. This is important to know when visiting the island as travellers often plan with far too little time in just the one place.
North Coast Kangaroo Island
The North Coast also has lots of tucked idyllic beach jewels like Western River Cove, King George Beach and Snelling Beach. Popular with snorkelers and rock fishers is Snelling Beach. Snelling Beach is a perfect place for a swim, a snorkel, a short walk or to relax for a few hours.
American River Kangaroo Island
There is no more perfect place to go sailing, fishing and bushwalking, than this lovely little fishing village. It is located between hillside and native bushland. And to top it all off, there are excellent accommodation options are available in this area offering four star to self-contained cottages and cabins. Beyond being a ‘twitches’ paradise with birdwatching galore, American River is the region to taste some of Kangaroo Islands finest oysters at the Oyster Farm Shop or to indulge in Fish and Chips at the Shed Café on the wharf overlooking Pelican Lagoon.
South Coast KI
The beautiful and rugged South Coast of Kangaroo Island is home to some of the most treasured attractions such as Seal Bay Conservation Park, Raptor Domain, Rustic Blue Art Gallery, Little Sahara and parts of Vivonne Bay. You will find a selection of accommodation options too. These range from lodges to self-contained houses – some right near the sea.
West End Kangaroo Island
If you’re looking for some peace and solitude, or some pure indulgence, Western Kangaroo Island is the place to be. The native bushland is home to an abundant amount of wildlife teeming with birds, echidnas and kangaroos, while koalas doze happily in eucalyptus trees above.
This region is rich in history, with Cape du Couedic, Cape Borda and Weirs Cove all remnants from the Island’s past. Western Kangaroo Island offers numerous walking and hiking trails that are well worth the effort, including the Weirs Cove, Rocky River and Sandy Creek Hikes, just to name a few. Hanson Bay is a popular surf-fishing area with large Australian salmon often caught along the spectacular beach.
Accommodation on KI
I have already talked in details about the accommodation options on Kangaroo Island. Generally speaking this is not a place for hotels. But most folks come to the island to enjoy nature, wildlife and of course the scenery. What you will find, is that the island offers stunning eco cottages, luxurious boutique villas and exceptional properties with space and privacy galore. For some of these properties, it often works out better if you pre-order a food package for breakfast and dinner. Another important note: due to the unique bio-system on the island you will not be allowed to bring over any fresh food items, such as vegetables, meat or honey. This is to protect the local flora and fauna as well their export industries (e.g. honey).
Wildlife, Nature and Scenery
We already have written and in-depth travel blog on the Kangaroo Island nature experiences. Well, worth the read if you have the time! For travellers with a shorter time on the island, the best way to cover a lot of areas, is by hiring a local driver-guide.
But, of course you can still use your rental car to discover different parts of the island. We had one one week on the island and based ourselves two nights in the north, two days in the east and two days in the middle of the island. It worked very well! As mentioned before the island is larger than most people think and one week is a great time to explore the place in a more relaxed and thorough way. We loved it!
Summary travel facts Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island will captivate you! Many of the locals leave the island when they are young to explore the world. Some of them even start their own businesses and become famous! But so many of them return once more. And they come with their wealth of knowledge and experience. Kangaroo Island seems to be full of interesting people. It is quality rather than quantity that counts on this beautiful island.
Here are some more travel hints while travelling Australia:
- Best time to travel Australia
- Best travel planning for Australia
- Australia Travel Check List
- Travelling between key locations
- Visiting the Barossa Valley
- Kangaroo Island Regeneration after Bushfires
Happy travelling to Kangaroo Island!