Kangaroo Island is located 112 kilometres from Adelaide, and it takes around one and a half hours by car from Adelaide to reach Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula where the Sealink Ferry leaves for the 45 minute trip across the Backstairs Passage to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. It is also possible to fly from Adelaide to Kingscote on the island.
The Sealink Ferry takes both passengers and cars too.
What makes Kangaroo Island so attractive to visit is the both the wildlife and the wild coastal scenery.
On Kangaroo Island you will find kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, platypus, seals, penguins, sea lions and a stunning coastline with small beaches, headlands, light houses, great walks as well as lots of different accommodation options – from self -contained cabins, to B&B’s, motels, lodges, backpacker places, caravan and camping places – and depending on where you stay, great food.
Coming to Kangaroo Island is in some ways a trek back in time, as this is where South Australia’s modern story began – with the arrival of the first explorers, then the whalers and sealers, and then the colonists from England under the Wakefield Scheme.
From Penneshaw on the eastern end of the island to the west side at Cape Borda it is about 140 kilometres and a mix of both sealed roads and unsealed ones. In most cases you can travel by car or 4WD and there are lots of tour packages available too.
Penneshaw – has a population of about 1500 people, and there are a number of places to stay and eat here, with beaches on both sides of Penneshaw, including Hog Bay – a great sandy beach, with a penguin rookery that you can visit early evening. Travelling South East from Penneshaw, about 28 kilometres on the Dudley Peninsula you will pass by a number of beaches and come to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse (built in 1872) – where there are guided tours.
American Beach is just south west of Penneshaw, and American River around the Eastern Cove. Both have accommodation places to stay, and this is where the American whalers came ashore in the early 1800’s.
Kingscote – is the biggest town on the island and you will find lots of accommodation options, shops and places to eat here. The airport is also close by the town. North of Kingscote is Reeves Point where the Colonists first landed, and here on Centenary Avenue you will also find the Hope Cottage Museum in a stone house built in 1859. (www.hopecottagemuseum.com.au Tel: (08) 8553 2656). Almost next door is a Mulberry tree that dates back to the early days too. Emu Bay and Emu Bay Beach are also north west of Kingscote.
From Kingscote there are two main roads that head westwards – the Playford Highway that heads west across the middle of the island to Cape Borda Lighthouse and Scott Cove, and Birchmore Road that heads south west on to the South Coast Road to the South Cape National Park. Smaller roads also connect both main roads together at different points. Taking the Playford Highway route – you will pass by dairy farms, including a Pure Sheep Dairy where they make cheese and wineries and come to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park (4068 Playford Highway Tel: (08) 8559 60500. North from here at 1447 Stokes Rd in Stokes Bay is Paul’s Place Wildlife Sanctuary (www.paulsplace.com.au Tel: (08) 8559 2232.
Continuing on the Playford Highway heading west, you can either travel to Scott Cove where you can also stay and also see Cape Borda Lighthouse which has guided tours, or head southwards on the West End Highway to meet up with the South Coast Highway and head to the Flinders Chase National Park. This is coastal scenery at its finest, with dense coastal scrub, rugged cliffs and coastline. Here you will find the Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch (look for fur seals). These are weathered sandstone rocks with ironstone red colour, with shapes created by the winds and water. Nearby is Cape du Covedic Lighthouse built in 1906. A Visitor Centre at the Park’s entrance will give you details of the different walks and places to see, including information about the wildlife and birds that you might see.
If you headed from Kingscote on the Birchmore Rd/South Coast Rd – you will pass by Lavender Farms and also Eucalyptus Refinery and come to Murrays Lagoon and Bald Hill where there is lots or birdlife. Further south, look for Raptor’s Domain to see eagles and nearby Little Sahara Desert – a series of giant white sandy sandhills.
Seal Bay on the coast is next to the Seal Bay Conservation Park. Here you will find Sea Lions in and around the beach and there are guided tours to tell you more about the area and the conservation efforts that are being made. If you are lucky you may also see white bellied sea eagles.
Further west along the coastline you will see Bales Beach and come to Vivionne Beach- said to be the best looking beach in Australia.
Kelly Hill Caves is also further west – with guided tours of the caves and further west, close to the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park – you will find Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary – where you can see lots of koalas and other native wildlife. They also have cabins nearby too.
The whole of Kangaroo Island is worth exploring and spending a few days or a week here will go past very fast as you settle in to island life.