As we were planning our trip around Australia, I read a lot about one particular island: Kangaroo Island. It sounded like a great place to explore. For some reason I also had this idea that we were going to find all the kangaroos only there, so we had to definitely go! The truth is that kangaroos are EVERYWHERE in Australia. However those on the island are a bit unique.
It was a bit complicated to fit this side trip in our schedule but luckily we made it on the island. We are so happy we didn’t miss out on seeing such an amazing place with all its natural beauty, wildlife and the many kangaroos!
About Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is just 70 miles southwest of Adelaide in South Australia. It is a total 4,405 km square in area, which makes it Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville. If you traverse it all it is 155 km in length. It is made of soaring cliffs, mountains, national parks, enormous sand dunes, wetlands, bush land and desert. It is home to a variety of wildlife, pristine beaches and wineries. To us it felt like visiting a miniature version of Australia!
The island is also known for its agriculture (sheep and cows all over the place!), fishing and nature reserves. It is such a diverse destination that it is perfect for all types of traveller, such as outdoor lovers, adventurists and beachcombers. They will all enjoy being here!
What is the best way to get around the island?
There is no public transport or taxi service, so the best way to move around is by car or with an organized tour.
You can cross over from the mainland with your car or rent one on the island. It was a bit pricy for us to pay for crossing over with the car. However it was extremely convenient considering that we were traveling with 3 kids and all our luggage!
If you are traveling in low season you can book a bit more last-minute although we did not have many time options. We booked 3 days in advance. As for high season you need to plan ahead, otherwise you might not be able to get on the island at all!
Don’t underestimate the size of the island! It takes 2 hours to travel from east to west, from Cape Willoughby to Flinders National Park and 45 minutes to go from north to south, from Stokes Bay to Vivonne Bay.
What you need to pay close attention to while driving, like everywhere else in Australia, is the wild life on the side of the road, that specially at dusk and dawn might cross the road.
As we were driving to see Pennington Bay (absolutely stunning!) we found 8 kangaroos on the side of the road and 2 hopped right in front of us! We were going slow so we would have never hit them, but it is always a surprise when you see them jumping in the road!
A bit of history….
Kangaroo Island separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago, due to rising sea level after the last glacial period. It was once occupied by Aboriginal tribes, but the native population disappeared when the land became an island.
It was discovered by the English explorer Matthew Flinders. He mapped much of the coast while on his voyage to chart Terra Australis in 1802. Flinders got there just before the French Commander Nicholas Baudin. It was Flinders who named the Island after finding a large number of native western grey Kangaroos as he was landing. His crew was very happy of finding all these kangaroos on the island since they had not found fresh food in months!
Wildlife on the island
Kangaroo Island is the place where you can easily see native Australian animals and birds without any need of going too far off the beaten road. In fact thanks to its isolation from the mainland, the island was able to keep up more of its natural environment. It has been spared by the damages caused by new introduced species on the mainland, due to the European settlements. As a result animals and birds have flourished.
Native of the island:
- The Kangaroo Island Kangaroo is a subspecies of the Western Grey Kangaroo which is one of the largest kangaroos. The ones on Kangaroo Island are slightly different from the mainland ones. They have longer fur and are darker in colour.
- Rosenberg’s Sand Goanna
- Tammar Wallaby, which is much smaller than a typical wallaby and has finer features then the kangaroo
- Common Brushtail Possum
- Six bat species
- Six frog species
- Black tiger snakes
- Pygmy Copperhead snakes
- Short-beaked Echidna
- New Zealand Fur Seal and the Australian Sea Lions are both native. They can easily be found in large groups around Admirals Arch and Seal Bay. What is the difference between the New Zealand fur seals, the Australian fur seals and the sea lions? The color and the sound they make. Sea lion females and juveniles are very pale and the bulls are dark with a contrasting cream mane. New Zealand fur seals range in color from dark grey to brown and they have a long, narrow pointed face with an upturned nose. Australian fur seals range in color from light sandy brown to grey brown and their head is broader and shorter. As for the call they make, the New Zealand fur seals is a high-pitched squeal, instead the Australian fur seals make a deep honking or barking.
Kangaroo Island had also a native species of Emu, the Kangaroo Island Emu. However, it became extinct between 1802 and 1836, perhaps due to bushfires or from hunting by sealers or whalers.
- The Koala, which have flourished so well on the island that their preferred food source, the Manna Gum, is at risk of local extinction!
- Common Ringtail Possum
- Platypus have been introduced and still survive there.
What can you do on the island?
Over 140,000 people visit Kangaroo Island every year, making it one of the most popular destinations in South Australia.
Surfing, fishing, swimming, bushwalking and canoeing are just a few of the activities that are available on Kangaroo Island. There are lots of bays that will surprise you with amazing views of the coastline and beautiful beaches, you just need enough time to explore them all! We read in many guides that you should spend at least a week here to get to see most of what this island has to offer! These are a few of the things we did in just the few days we were there, as well as a few of the ones we would have done if we did have more time!
1. Admire sea lions playing in the sea at Seal Bay.
Pay an entrance fee at the Seal Bay Conservation Park and you can walk on the boardwalk down to the beach and see the sea lions. However if you want to get really close you can take a tour and go directly on the beach with the seals! Just keep in mind that you have to be there at the time of the tour otherwise you won’t have the chance to go.
We arrived late for the last tour of the day and were able to do only the boardwalk. However we had a great view anyway. The seals were very close and a little family of 3 put up a little show for us!
2. Find koalas enjoying the shade under an eucalyptus tree
Emma really wanted to see Koalas again. Luckily we found 2 sleeping in trees at Flinders Chase National Park Tourist Center. As we were driving home that same night one koala was standing on the side of the road and it was really big.
3. Visit the 2 iconic landmarks at Chase National Park
At Flinders Chase National Park there are two iconic landmarks.
Remarkable Rocks, which has been sculpted in the last 500 million years by rain, wind and pounding waves to create these beautifully shaped granite boulders. They are truly remarkable.
Admirals Arch, is instead a rock bridge which took thousands of years of erosion to create and now frames the New Zealand Seals playing in the ocean. To get there you have to walk past Cape du Couedic Lighthouse on the island’s southwest coast and on a scenic boardwalk which takes your breath away.
4. Watch the New Zealand fur seals play in the water
As you walk down to admire the Arch all along that part of the coast you will see New Zealand fur seals playing, fishing and sleeping. You can spend hours just watching them.
5. Raptor Domain
Raptor Domain is an environmental education rehabilitation centre that provides interactive experiences with wildlife. They don’t display animals in cages, instead interaction and viewing of animals happens only during presentations.
We wanted to view some of their presentations, specially after learning that they had owls, falcons, eagle and much more, but the timing just didn’t work out!
We arrived too late but were attracted to this place because of the beautiful lavender scent as well as the lavender ice cream flavor they offer in their cafe!
7. Experience Kangaroo Island Wildlife all in one place
The Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is home to over 150 species of native Australian wildlife and over 600 animals! You will see: koalas, birds, penguins, kangaroos and wallabies. You will learn about endangered specie, interact with snakes, crocodiles and reptiles.
During our 2 months around Australia we have had a chance to visit a few Wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries, so we decided to look for some wildlife as we were visiting parks and bays. But with a few extra days available this would have a great place to go!
8. Try some Oysters at the Oyster Farm Shop
If you love oysters like we do, you have to taste the freshest oysters on Kangaroo Island! The Oyster Farm Shop is the largest commercial oyster farm on the Island. Here locally farmed oysters are harvested and processed daily.
We wanted to see Cosimo and Emma’s reaction to this new taste….lets put it this way, they ate all the bread! But Mass and I didn’t mind finishing all the oysters we ordered.
8. Take a sand-board and toboggan the dunes of the Little Sahara
We ended our little trip to Kangaroo Island spending a couple of hours at Little Sahara. This is a naturally occurring sand dune system roughly covering two square kilometers. The dunes vary in size with plenty of small one. The highest dune is about 70 meters above sea level.
This place is absolutely amazing! We were sledding, but not on the snow, on sand!!! We had so much fun that it was impossible to take our kids away!
Kangaroo Island has been a wonderful place to visit. There is so much to see and do that time never feels like it is enough. After traveling all around Australia it was pretty fascinating to realize how much of the whole country is present in this small island!
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Check out the apartment we stayed at Sunrise on Falie Court!!!