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Hidden wonders down under: Kangaroo Island

Thursday, August 7, 2008

In 1802, British explorer Matthew Flinders and his crew, dying of starvation, happened upon and named Kanguroo Island in honour of the animal which then saved their lives.

Flinders was closely followed by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who mapped much of the island, which is why many areas have French names.

Although their countries were at war at the time, their meeting was peaceful, maybe because they had found themselves in a place rich in wildlife and outstanding beauty. They shared fresh water seeping at Hog Bay near Frenchman's Rock.

Kangaroo Island is 150 kilometres long, making it Australia's third largest after Tasmania and Melville. It was separated from the mainland by a rise in sea level about 9000 years ago. Stone tools suggest that Aboriginal people lived there at least 11,000 years ago.

Kingscote is the island's largest town and was settled in 1836, making it South Australia's first official European settlement. Penneshaw at the eastern end is the second largest, with a population of around 300. The island's ferry terminal is here and this is where most visitors land, as well as freight to sustain residents.

Seal Bay Conservation Park, a large sandy beach and dune area, has a breeding colony of rare Australian sea lions. (The world population is only around 12,000.) They play, rest and nurse their young. You can spend hours mesmerised by these wonderful creatures, lying on the beach after a day of feeding at sea or riding waves onto the beach. They are protected by law and visitors must be accompanied at all times by a National Parks Ranger. You can get to within around eight metres of them or they can be viewed from the boardwalk.

For a different kind of adventure, try sand boarding at Little Sahara's spectacular white dunes. Sand boards can be hired from Kangaroo Island Outdoor Adventure in Vivonne Bay, named the best beach in Australia by Sydney University researchers.

KI Outdoor Adventure also operate day, sunrise and sunset quad motorcycle tours, with tuition. They cover 200 hectares of bushland and trails have views of the ocean, hinterlands and wildlife.

Stokes Bay is a hidden wonder of the island's 500 kilometres of coastline. A secret walk through a headland of boulders takes you to a fine white sandy beach surrounded by cliffs. A large rock-enclosed pool gives protection from the surf, making it safe to swim. It is popular with residents and visitors, particularly when other, more open, beaches are windblown from the south.

Breeze @ Island Beach, 15 kilometres from Penneshaw, has four kilometres of beach just 20 metres from the guest house. Island Beach is sheltered and shallow, but you can moor a boat at the front of the property.

Breeze has a queen room, double room, bunk room and two bathrooms. The open living area has two sitting rooms, there is a galley kitchen and dining area. There is a large deck and massive windows taking advantage of views across Eastern Cove to American River, undercover deck, gas barbecue and charcoal kettle.

If you want a day out fishing or a cruise around the north coast of Kangaroo Island, Emu Bay Fishing Charters will fit the bill. They will do their best to send you home with an esky full of fresh Kangaroo Island seafood. Snapper fishing is their specialty.

Fish for delicious King George whiting from the beach and you will probably spot wallabies, dolphins, seals and goannas. When you are in Kingscote, you will see John, the Pelican Man. He feeds the birds every day, rain, hail or shine, and has at least 30 hungry birds turn up every day.

Kangaroo Island SeaLink has regular ferry trips from Adelaide.


110km off the South Australian coast.


SeaLink daily ferry costs $86 return for adults and $44 for children. Vehicles cost $168 return.

KI Outdoor Action sandboard hire is $29 for up to four hours.

Seal Bay Conservation Park is $14 for adults and $8.50 for children. It’s $38 for families.

Breeze at Island Beach starts at $300 a night for up to ten.

Emu Bay Fishing Charters half-day tours are $120 for adults and $95 for children. They require a minimum of four people.

Prices correct as at August 7, 2008.

For more information

Kangaroo Island SeaLink
440 King William Street
Adelaide 5000
Ph: 13 13 01
Fax: (08) 8202 8666

KI Outdoor Action
Yarraman Ridge
Vivonne Bay 5223
Ph: (08) 8559 4296
Fax: (08) 8559 4296

Seal Bay Conservation Park
Box 39, Post Office
Kingscote 5223
Ph: 08 8559 4207
Fax: 08 8559 4295

Emu Bay Fishing Charters
Section 19, Hundred of Haines
Emu Bay 5223
Ph: (08) 8553 9084

Breeze at Island Beach
De Coudie Drive
Island Beach 5221
Ph: 08 8278 5037
Fax: 08 8278 5037

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