Spotting Koalas among the Eucalyptus, Kangaroos hopping, playful dolphins and deserted beaches. Welcome to South Australia’s unexpected gem…
Located eight miles off the South Australia coastline, Kangaroo Island prides itself on its incredibly wild setting. Cliffs soar high above the inviting turquoise water, seals laze among the jagged rocks, koalas nestle in tall Eucalyptus trees, and kangaroos hop freely in the open plains. The beaches? Well they are pristine, with silky-soft white sand that slips through your toes. Here is a little slice of undisturbed heaven, home to just 5,000 people.
At 1,701 mi², Kangaroo Island is easy to navigate. We begin our adventure in Adelaide, the ‘capital’ of South Australia state, where we hire a 4WD, tent and camping supplies. The ferry boards at Cape Jervis, just over 60 miles southwest, and within 45 minutes we’re in Penneshaw – the main port on Kangaroo Island, where our adventure starts.
Out on the water
There are Bottlenose dolphins – everywhere. Leaping across the front of our boat, dipping in and out of the water around us – their form is elegant, their bodies glistening in the early morning sun. And it’s beautiful to see. Local skipper Tony Coppins, owner of Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari, turns the boat engine off and silence falls over us. The backdrop of rusty red cliffs providing a mesmerising scene. Our fellow travellers ‘ahh’ and ‘ooh’. The pod is 12-strong and it feels like they are putting on a show for us as they glide in and out of the water in unison.
Later, we refuel at the seafront Penneshaw Hotel, with freshly-grilled King George Whiting and chips – a true South Australian staple. But nature doesn’t take breaks – and while enjoying lunch, we spot dolphins leaping out of the water in the distance.
Kangaroos and Koalas
We drive southwest to Hanson Bay, where we are joined by the wildlife sanctuary’s trusty sheepdog, Maggie, for a walk among the Eucalyptus. A few minutes into the stroll Maggie stops, looks high into the trees, and looks back at us. We sidle up next to her and peer in the same direction. And there she is, a mother koala with her arms wrapped tightly around a young baby. Later that afternoon we are lucky enough to see three more babies protected by their mums.
At the end of the path, the trees clear and the grassy plains open out in front of us. Four Western grey kangaroos are feeding and an echidna slowly panders along the path. Wonderful.
At Flinders Chase National Park, we find the glorious sight of Remarkable Rocks – a uniquely sculptured rock formation, balanced on top of a granite outcrop. Nearby Admiral’s Arch is the place to spot the Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals, each individually basking out on the rocks, in the beaming sunshine. At remote West Bay, we wonder down the steps onto soft white-sand. The waves lap along the coastline, the sand feels like silk under my feet. The sea is a little cold, but that doesn’t mean a refreshing dip isn’t possible – it just depends how hardy you are. As the sun goes down, we watch the sky turn a fiery orange, then pink and finally a calm mustard-gold. It’s just us, a deserted beach – and life couldn’t be any more perfect right now.
The Sea Lions of the South
At Seal Bay Conservation Park, we are guided along wooden walkways to the beach – home to Australia’s third largest colony of sea lions. At this time of the year (early summer in South Australia), the mothers have just left the pups and are now out at sea, feeding. Meanwhile, the young lie on the beach; playing and grappling with each other.
Unfortunately, the sea lions here have a sad story. Until 1953, they were hunted as shark bait – and numbers dwindled to dangerously low figures. When the Royal Society of South Australia requested their protection, they were declared a ‘protected species’ along the south coast of the island, and since then, happily, numbers have grown. It’s a privilege to be amongst them.
The KI way of life
Laidback Kingscote is the perfect place to get to know the people of Kangaroo Island. The local café serves up full English breakfasts, pies and steaming, buttery jacket potatoes – while just down the road, KI Tru Thai – the locally-loved street food stand, has locals and tourists queuing up for Green curries. We visit the team at the Fresh Seafood store to pick-up some shelled fresh oysters (£6 per dozen). I enjoy mine with a little Tabasco sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper, but it’s Kilpatrick style (grilled bacon, cheese and Worcestershire sauce) that gets the Aussie thumbs up. Both are winners.
Luxury amongst the nature
Our final stop is to enjoy the beautiful vistas of Cape Willoughby. As dusk rolls in, the silhouette of a lighthouse twinkles in the distance. Waves lap along the shoreline and my partner Brad and I sit back to enjoy our view from our veranda Jacuzzi at the eco-luxury Sea Dragon Lodge. Owners Steve and Helen have kindly left a bottle of wine (a rich Shiraz from one of the 12 wineries here on the island) and a cheese board for us as a welcome and we couldn’t feel any more at home. I ask Brad to pinch me to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Find out more at tourism.sa.gov.au