With its plethora of wildlife, white sandy beaches (usually in combination) and natural wonders, Kangaroo Island has been tagged the Galapagos of Australia. A grand comparison, indeed. It has also been described as one of earth’s unspoilt refuges.
Both tags are richly deserved. Kangaroo Island, lying just off the South Australian coast, has benefited in part from its relative isolation. Free from the destructive pests and diseases of the mainland – and with strict importation rules – it retains around half its natural vegetation with a third of the island declared Conservation or National Park. In addition, it boasts five wilderness protection areas. All in all, not bad for an island 155 kilometres long and 55 kilometres wide.
The SeaLink ferry service makes the trip from Cape Jervis on the mainland to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island several times daily. The cost of the crossing will depend on the size of your rig. Be warned. It’s not cheap …. but is it worth it? Oh, yes. If you can make you can make your budget work, this is one section of the Big Lap you’ll never forget.
One of the major draws of Kangaroo Island, and one which invited the Galapagos comparison, is its wildlife. Such is its rich variety that it reads like a who’s who of Australian fauna.
Among the highlights is Seal Bay in the Conservation Park of the same name where visitors – accompanied by a guide – can walk among the third largest, and most accessible, colony of Australian Sea Lions. New interaction tourism activities at Seal Bay are currently being devised where visitors assist in the research and conservation of the Sea Lion colony.
Further along the south coast is Admirals Arch, home to 7,000 New Zealand fur seals. In Penneshaw, fairy penguins wander around at night while dolphins are regularly sighted on the north coast from Constitution Hill at Snellings Beach.
But simply driving from point to point, particularly along many of the island’s unsealed tracks, is a wildlife spotter’s paradise with kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, koalas and goannas all regularly sighted in their natural habitat. To borrow yet another description, it is, in effect, a zoo without fences.
Food and wine is also taken seriously on Kangaroo Island. Small industry flourishes with a range of local specialities including honey, regional cheeses, yoghurts and the obligatory selection of fine seafood. There’s plenty to keep you entertained.
YOU SIMPLY MUST … Head to Flinders Chase National Park to check out Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. And you’ve simply got to see the sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park, visit the magnificent limestone caves at Kelly Hill Conservation Park and head out to Cape Willoughby Conservation Park for a tour of South Australia’s first lighthouse. Jeepers! And that’s just the start!
WHERE TO CAMP
There are one or two excellent caravan parks that – as you might expect on such a wild and wonderful island – are set in beautiful bush surroundings.
If you’re looking for a more authentic camping experience then you are still in luck. Basic camping facilities are available at American River, Browns Beach, Stokes Bay, Vivonne Bay and Western River. Be aware, though, camping fees do apply here.
And in the vast Flinders Chase National Park – where you will find spectacular coastlines and fascinating sculptured rocks – larger rigs can camp happily at Rocky River Precinct. Caravans can also access camping grounds at Murray Lagoon and D’Estrees Bay in Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park and Antechamber Bay in Lashmar Conservation Park.
It’s easy to say that Kangaroo Island has got everything that most grey nomads could ever want … but it genuinely has. This is a very special place and one we are extremely lucky to have be so accessible. Treasure the experience.
Penola and Coonawarra
Meadows, Adelaide Hills