Kangaroo Island is 110 kilometres south-west of Adelaide and easily accessible by ferry or plane. The western and eastern ends, joined by an isthmus, have separate administrative councils. The western end has two lighthouses Cape Bourda (1850) and Cape de Couedic (1906) and the eastern end has one at Cape Willoughby (1852). They care for Great Australian Bight shipping.
Matthew Flinders went ashore in 1802 and gave the island its name. Half of the bushland is as it was then and more than one third is National or Conservation Park.
The first white settlement was in 1836, but paucity of soil and water drove most settlers back to the mainland. Stone ruins of their Reeves Point settlement remain and it's now a historic reserve.
Fertile land was patchy and early farming was supplemented by distilling eucalyptus oil and harvesting pith from xanthorea trees, used in the making of explosives.
In the 1920s and '30s, extensive clearing and soil improvement were carried out. In the early 1950s Parndana became a soldier settlement. A 1980s depressed wool market was responsible for the production of ewes' milk and yoghurt. These days, island residents make a living from sheep and cattle breeding, live and net fishing and crayfish and prawn fishing.
Seasons on Kangaroo Island are quite defined. Between September and November, birds, mammals and colourful wildflowers are in abundance. There are over 40 floral species. Eucalyptus oil production is at its peak while Cape Barren geese and platypuses are busily laying eggs.
Between December and February, pastures are golden, summer wildflowers are in bloom and native trees sprout new growth. Many animals retreat from the heat of the day, but can be spotted at dawn and dusk. Sea lions begin their breeding season, heath goannas lay their eggs while koalas, wallabies, kangaroos and fur seals give birth to their tiny young.
Pastures green up between March and May, rainfall provides fresh pastures and waterways and catchments begin to flow. Black cockatoos and penguins begin to nest and black swans are into their demonstrative and comical courtship.
Winter months are spectacular. Countryside is lush and green, rivers flow and wildlife is abundant. Animals usually seen only at dawn or dusk can be seen during the day, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies emerge from pouches to discover the world. An echidna mating train, where up to eight males follow a female for around four weeks, is something to behold. Waders from Siberia fly in, osprey show off their mates and Southern Right whales pass by.
Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours can show visitors all of this and more. They offer flexible and personalised touring in luxury 4WD vehicles. They take a maximum of six passengers and have tours such as Wilderness Wildlife and Wilderness Wildscapes.
Two-day itineraries include two full days of touring, bed and breakfast, dinner, home cooked lunches, South Australian wines, beer, coffee, entry fees and transfers.
Stephen Davidson was born and bred on Kangaroo Island. His mother's family settled there in 1882. Stephen bought 1000 hectares in 1952 for sheep and cattle breeding and lives on the property with his wife and children. While he enjoys farming, he loves taking people on tours and showing them 'his' island and there is nothing he doesn't know about it!
Accommodation at Stranraer is a blissful way to enjoy your Kangaroo Island visit. It is a 1290-hectare working property, producing prime lamb, wool and grain.
Stranraer is a beautifully peaceful place, close to the centre of the island. It has two large lagoons which attract many birds, lots of wildlife, beautiful scenery, all surrounded by hummocks. There are four guest rooms with cosy fireplaces, a parlour for relaxing at the end of the day and an entrance hall the size of a cricket pitch.
Owners Lyn and Graham Wheaton serve delicious gourmet meals in the home's elegant dining room and wherever you are, you overlook the beautiful gardens.