If your South Australia itinerary includes a stop in Adelaide, you should definitely consider adding a trip to the nearby Kangaroo Island.
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Located about 100km (62 miles) southwest of Adelaide in South Australia, Kangaroo Island has so much to offer to visitors from Australia and all over the world. From impressive landscapes and stunning beaches to diverse wildlife to charming local hospitality, there really is something for everyone.
One thing that became undisputable during our visits is that for nature lovers and foodies, this is one of Australia’s BEST destinations for Wildlife Encounters!
On our recent visit, we spent 3 days exploring Kangaroo Island with Exceptional Kangaroo Island and had an opportunity to visit not just the most popular attractions on the island, but also some lesser known destinations.
How To Get To Kangaroo Island
Most people reach Kangaroo Island by Sealink ferry boat, and we certainly recommend it as a more sustainable way to get to the island. You can rent a car and drive south from Adelaide to the port town of Cape Jervis in order to board the ferry, a journey of about 1.5 or 3 hours in total.
If you are not taking your own car to the island, you’ll also need to arrange transportation from the ferry terminal or airport to your accommodation. Sealink provides a good shared bus transfer service that you can book at the same time as your ferry ticket. The bus will drop you off at your accommodation.
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If you’re pressed for time, it is possible to fly from Adelaide to the tiny Kingscote Airport on Kangaroo Island. The flight is less than half an hour.
The benefit of flying is that you can arrive on the island early in the morning and start touring right away. Exceptional Kangaroo Island tours include an airport pick-up in their tour packages, allowing you to step off the plane and get into the action on Kangaroo Island right away!
Things To Do In Kangaroo Island
Explore Natural Wonders
Bountiful nature is one of the main reasons why people come to Kangaroo Island. You’ll find wild rock formations, sweeping coastlines, paradise beaches, adventurous caves, and more than a few spectacular hiking routes. Here are some of the best places to enjoy the natural wonders of Kangaroo Island.
Visit Flinders Chase National Park
As Australia’s second oldest national park, Flinders Chase is something special. It is home to a number of endangered species as well as some rare geographical anomalies. To properly see Flinders Chase National Park, you’ll need a whole day, so budget accordingly.
Exceptional Kangaroo Island offers a great Flinders Chase Focus Tour that allows you to see the highlights of Flinders Chase National Park and learn all about the natural wonders of this area.
Experienced hikers who are up for more of a challenge can sign up to hike the 61-kilometre Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. This 5-day adventure is guided by licensed tour operators who are carefully vetted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of South Australia. The trail winds through the north part of Flinders Chase, then down and around the coastline, and finally up to Kelly Hill Caves.
The following are some of the highlights from our time on the Flinders Chase Focus Day Tour.
One of the main attractions of Flinders Chase National Park is the Remarkable Rocks. Perched above the sea in what looks like an abstract art display, these rocks are one of the most well-known destinations on Kangaroo Island. It’s a popular spot for photos and a unique landmark of the island.
Cape du Couedic & Admirals Arch
While in Flinders Chase National Park, you should also pay a visit to Cape du Couedic. Both this cape and the Remarkable Rocks are protected geological monuments by the Geological Society of Australia.
On Cape du Couedic, visit the lighthouse, a beautiful Australian heritage site. While there, you’ll also have the chance to spot some New Zealand Fur Seals on the rocks and see the Admirals Arch, another rocky formation.
Spotting the fur seals was the highlight for us. They are so playful and fun, and we absolutely loved watching them in their natural habitat. This was a long stop on our Flinders Chase Focus Day Tour, so we never felt rushed and had lots of time to linger and enjoy these playful animals.
Next, move on to Weirs Cove just across the way. The best way to reach it is by hiking from Cape du Couedic on the Weirs Cove hiking trail. Once you reach it, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous lookout point with views of the turquoise sea.
During our tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island, we got a chance to enjoy a gourmet lunch overlooking the cove and felt like we truly got to appreciate the stunning views of this area.
Cape Borda Lighstation
Lastly, if you have the time, consider visiting the Cape Borda Lightstation in the northern part of the park. During your visit, you’ll see the quirky square lighthouse and walk along with the massive cliff heads.
We didn’t get a chance to visit the Lightstation ourselves but heard that it’s a worthwhile stop for anyone with additional time to spare.
Explore Kelly Hill Conservation Park
The Kelly Hill Conservation Park is one of the smaller parks on the island but is still well worth a visit. Located on the southern coastline, the park features peacefully wooded areas and freshwater lagoons.
One of the best things to do in Kangaroo Island is to pay a visit to the Kelly Hill Caves. The caves are an incredibly intricate underground system with lots of paths and tunnels to be explored. The caves are made out of limestone and their white-ish colour creates an eerie effect for visitors. While you’re there, make sure to take one of the best Kangaroo Island tours: a guided journey through the caves to discover ancient fossils.
Once your tour is finished, hit the trail to discover the rest of Kelly Hill. One of the best trails in the area will take you from the caves down to Hanson Bay, a beautiful and protected beach area. This area is also home to Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately-owned conservancy and the protection of natural resources. The sanctuary offers Ecology Tours and Sunset Nocturnal Tours.
Admire The Views At Vivonne Bay
Just east of the Kelly Hill Conservation Park, you’ll find Vivonne Bay, another small park with a very different landscape. Vivonne Bay has a stunning coastline, but most come to visit the “Little Sahara,” a field of rolling sand dunes that can be climbed and explored on foot. It’s also a popular spot for dune boarding.
Vivonne Bay Beach is one of the prettiest on the island and definitely one of the best for swimming. This secluded beach has the softest white sand and crystal clear water and is home to the Vivonne Jetty. If you want to turn your visit to the bay into a beach day, the nearby Vivonne Bay General Store has everything you need. The beach is not developed, so there are no toilets or other facilities, but there is a nearby campground with toilets and showers.
Follow The Trails In Western River Conservation Park
This 25km² (15 miles²) park is a lot more rugged than most, making a visit one of the most adventurous things to do in Kangaroo Island. There are many trails within the park, creating perfect opportunities to spot the famous glossy black cockatoos.
The highlight of the park is the Billy Goat Waterfall, located right in the centre. The park can be found on the northern coast of the island.
Discover Stokes Bay Beach
After visiting the Western River Conservation Park, you’ll find Stokes Bay just to the east. There are a couple of pristine beaches here as well as more woodland areas to be explored.
One cool thing to do there is to find the “secret beach” that can only be accessed through a rock tunnel.
Wildlife On Kangaroo Island
Spotting wildlife is one of the most popular things to do in Kangaroo Island for good reason. The island is home to dozens of animals and close to 260 bird species!
Pretty much any of the parks on Kangaroo Island offer a great opportunity for wildlife spotting, but our best wildlife spotting happened while on an Island Life Day Tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island.
Here are some of the places we visited and the animals we met along the way!
For your best chance of finding platypuses on Kangaroo Island, head to the Platypus Waterholes Walk in Flinders Chase. Along the path, there are plenty of viewing platforms where visitors can wait and try to spot a platypus. While they are relatively rare, platypuses are most likely to be seen at dawn and dusk.
We stopped at the Platypus Waterhole during our Flinders Chase Focus Tour, and although we weren’t lucky enough to see a platypus, we still enjoyed learning about their life and their habitat during this walk.
Spotting fur seals and Australian Sea Lions is one of the best things to do in Kangaroo Island. These furry creatures pile up on rocks all around the island, but the best way to see them is to visit Seal Bay and Admiral’s Arch.
The long-nosed fur seals at Admiral’s Arch can only be seen from afar, and while it was really fun to watch them crawl around rocks and play in the waves, we enjoyed our visit to the Seal Bay Conservation Park a bit more.
Our time at the Seal Bay Conservation Park was really special as we were able to get within 10-20 feet. They truly are the owners of this beach and their conservation comes first in this part of the island.
Keep in mind that individual travelers are not allowed to roam the beach, so if you are traveling on your own, you’ll be limited to watching the seals from a platform.
Luckily, as we were a part of the guided tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island, we were able to get closer to the seals and enjoy observing them up close. They are such cute creatures!
Murray Lagoon, located just southeast of the island’s centre, is an excellent spot for birdwatching. Two other lagoons, Pelican Lagoon and Duck Lagoon, are also great places to see water birds. In general, you’ll see a variety of winged creatures everywhere you venture on the island.
Glossy Black Cockatoos
One of the most unique and beautiful birds on the island is the glossy black cockatoo. The males and females are distinctly different in appearance, making the experience of seeing them in the wild even more interesting.
The Parndana Area in the centre of the island is a perfect place to find them.
We were lucky to have spotted a number of koalas during our 3 days touring the island with Exceptional Kangaroo Island. Some we spotted really close to the road, en route from one destination to another, others were a bit further away from the usual tourist trails.
Kangaroos And Wallabies
They don’t call it Kangaroo Island for nothing! Kangaroos are plentiful on Kangaroo Island and you’ll see them almost everywhere you go. We were lucky to get pretty close to some of them and admire them in all of their glory!
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is a great place to see kangaroos and around 100 other species. The park has been nursing and raising injured and orphaned wildlife for many years. In 2020, they established the Kangaroo Island Koala and Wildlife Rescue Centre in response to the devastating bushfires that burned much of the island. Most of the animals were released back into the wild once rehabilitated, but some remained due to their need for long-term care. Because of this, visitors are able to feed resident kangaroos, cuddle koalas, and have other close encounters!
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Indulge In Food And Wine
We didn’t know it until we arrived on Kangaroo Island, but as it turns out, this part of South Australia is an up and coming food and wine hotspot! Although relatively new to the food scene, the island has made a name for itself through some great wine, honey, and other produce.
There are 12 wineries on Kangaroo Island, which is quite impressive for an island of this size. One of the best things to do in Kangaroo Island is to take a tour and tasting at one of these local wineries to learn more about the unique flavours of this region.
During our time touring the island with the Exceptional Kangaroo Island, we visited Islander Estate, one of the premier wineries on Kangaroo Island. We loved meeting the owner, Jacques, and learning all about the flavours of Kangaroo Island during our wine tasting session.
We also had an opportunity to taste a few other wines during our gourmet lunches served daily by our guides from Exceptional Kangaroo Island.
In addition to great wine, there’s so much delicious, locally sourced food to be had. In particular, the island is known for its fantastic oysters. For awesome seafood and more, try eating at The Oyster Farm Shop or Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods.
Located right across the road from the owners’ working farm, The Oyster Farm Shop offers guests the opportunity to select from the daily harvest. You can have them natural, chopped, chilled, or grilled. Pair your fresh plate with beer from Kangaroo Island Brewery, local wine, cider, or a South Australian-made soft drink.
Lunch at a Working Lavender Farm
Emu Bay Lavender Farm is owned and operated by a 5th-generation island family and encompasses 51 acres. Every summer, the lavender blooms are harvested, and used in their handmade products. The farm also has beehives, where bees produce their signature lavender honey.
The onsite cafe at Emu Bay Lavender Farm is open for breakfast and lunch, offering classic dishes like toasties and breakfast plates or hearty dishes like pasta with local prawns. Whatever you decide on, make sure to get one of their delicious lavender scones. On your way out, pop into the shop for essential oil, a jar of their signature lavender honey, or a bottle of their small-batch gin.
Romantic Dinner Under The Enchanted Fig Tree
This colossal fig tree was first planted as a sapling by the island’s first settlers. 120 years later, this majestic old fig tree is transformed into an enchanting dining location. Open for lunch and dinner, The Enchanted Fig tree is very popular, so be sure to make an online reservation.
Lastly, consider doing a liquor tasting while on Kangaroo Island. The specialty is artisan-crafted gin, which you can taste during some unique gin-tasting experiences at Kangaroo Island Spirits. Bookable experiences with Kangaroo Island Spirits include a Mini Cocktail Class, a Blend Your Own Gin Experience, and a Premium Gin Tasting.
Where To Stay On Kangaroo Island
Figuring out your Kangaroo Island accommodation can be quite a challenge. Hotels can be expensive, and from our experience, many do not offer great value for your dollar. Plus, since there are relatively few on the island, they sell out quickly. There are of course, a plethora of Airbnb options, but they will be difficult to get to unless you are traveling with your own vehicle.
If you do plan to book a hotel, make sure to do so well in advance.
Stranraer Homestead – Best Accommodation On Kangaroo Island
For a far better experience (at least in our opinion,) consider staying at a local homestead. You’ll have the chance to get to know your hosts and experience local life on Kangaroo Island.
We stayed at Stranraer Homestead, a beautiful traditional bed-and-breakfast-style inn run by Lyn and Graham Wheaton, and it was one of the highlights of our time on Kangaroo Island.
Lyn and Graham offer guests an incredible traditional stay experience complete with amazing breakfast and dinner.
The homestead has only a couple of bedrooms, but each one is beautifully decorated in traditional style, offering comfortable beds and a cozy atmosphere. Each bedroom had its own private bathroom, while the sitting room and dining room were shared with other guests.
The experience at Stranraer is more reminiscent of staying with family rather than in an Airbnb or in a hotel.
Every morning we were greeted with an incredible breakfast spread, cooked from fresh local ingredients by wonderful Lyn herself. In the evening, after a long day exploring the island, Lyn would once again whip up a 3-course meal for us, with appetizers, main and even dessert! Our meals at Stranraer were amazing and supposedly, Lyn’s food is the best on the island.
Overall, staying at Stranraer Homestead was a great experience that far exceeded what we would have had in a hotel. Local hospitality is legendary on Kangaroo Island and while it is a part of every Kangaroo Island accommodation and activity, it was most evident at the Stranraer Homestead.
Looking to stay at Stranraer Homestead? Email Lyn to get info on rates and availability for your dates.
Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours
Since there is no public transportation on the island, it is essential to either rent your own car and organize your own self-driving itinerary or to take one of the many available Kangaroo Island tours.
We opted to experience Kangaroo Island with experts from Exceptional Kangaroo Island and had a fantastic experience. Exceptional Kangaroo Island offers small group and private tours only. They have a strong commitment to sustainability and conservation which is demonstrated through their involvement in the Ecotourism Australia Certification Program.
Their tours fall on the luxury end of the spectrum, with private four-wheel drive vehicles, gourmet food, and fantastic guides to lead your trip. They’ve won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence six years in a row (in addition to a number of other awards) as a testament to their high-quality tours.
How Long To Spend On Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is quite large and people often underestimate how much is needed to see the best the island has to offer.
We highly recommend a minimum of three days, but with that said, it is easy to spend an entire week exploring the island.
You’ll need one day to explore Flinders Chase, one to discover Seal Bay and other wildlife areas, and one to enjoy all the food and wine. If you have more than three days, definitely consider staying longer to explore even more of the island.
During your time in South Australia, a trip to Kangaroo Island will be a real highlight. In our opinion, it’s the best place in Australia to spot wildlife in their natural habitat and this makes it an unmissable destination for anyone visiting Australia.
Have you been to Kangaroo Island? What highlights and activities would you add to this list?
Disclaimer: Our visit time on Kangaroo Island was made possible courtesy of Exceptional Kangaroo Island, but as always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own.