Kangaroo Island is known as "Australia's Galapagos". And unlike most marketing hyperbole, it actually stacks up.
KI is far enough from the mainland to be free of rabbits and foxes to be able to foster huge populations of native wildlife some of it endemic. But just as important to the weekender is its closeness to the mainland. A short flight or a pleasant ferry ride will have you out on this huge offshore haven, enjoying surprisingly diverse landscapes, critters aplenty and a proper bit of island solace.
It's definitely not a budget weekend away, however, it's also a rich one in terms of experience: there's a lot of island out there, including 540km of coastline.
We recommend flying. The 35-minute flight from Adelaide
is expensive but its quick; you're looking at around $150 to $240 per person return on Rex
depending on whether you can bag a decent fare. You'll also need a hire car once you land, so try Budget
If you have your own car and, say, four passengers the 45-minute ferry crossing becomes a cheaper exercise. That said, return from Cape Jervis at the end of the Fleurieu Peninsula can still cost a piratical $320 to $500 if there's not a special deal underway (we can thank Sealink for that). It's also more time-consuming: the drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis is beautiful, but you'll need four hours on each leg; you've also got a 60km drive to Kingscote at the other end.
Once you arrive
Drive to your accommodation, then hit the nearest beach for a quick dip. At 3pm-ish, it's time to promenade KI capital, Kingscote
. Walk around galleries and assorted gourmet specialists then check out Reeves Point
which is no less than the first European settlement in the new colony! Be sure to be at the jetty for 5pm, when a quintessential island activity takes place, the feeding of the pelicans. It's not nearly as naff as it sounds.
For dinner, enjoy fine fare at the lively bayside Ozone Pub your introduction to local specialties, including marron, KI whiting, Island Pure goat's milk cheese, Ligurian bee honey and KI wines.
Get up early for breakfast at Roger's Deli
, then head west along the South Coast Road. Head for the inaptly named, but reliably beautiful, Seal Bay
and do a ranger-guided tour of the sea lion colonies. But before you do, be sure to inquire about a KI Tour Pass
, since it can offer a cost saving. Thence to Little Sahara
for a surprise distraction involving very large sand slopes.
Take lunch tea at the brilliant Rustic Blue Gallery some 10km further before doubling back to Vivonne Bay, which is famous for once being voted Australia's Best Beach. Indulge if you're into beach frolicking because the title is (was) well-deserved. Fishing gear and beach stuff are available at the on the turn-off.
Back on the westward road you have an arvo option of exploring caves at Kelly Hill or pushing on to your bushland accommodation at the newly renovated Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat.
By now, you may be utterly exhausted and given to lounging in the Lodge with a bottle of wine. However, you are on the edge of Flinders Chase Park which is 74,000 hectares of pristine bushland. Plus, there's a sun waiting to set and a swag of animals preparing to make an appearance. Ask about the bushwalks or spotlighting tour and get out there: koalas, tammar wallabies, heath goannas and echidnas await.
Dinner at the lodge's fine Nicholas Baudin Restaurant.
Get up with the kookaburras and indulge at the breakfast buffet before checking out.
Now there's a choice: either make the short drive to Flinders Chase Visitors Centre and do a two-hour return bushwalk to the waterhole to try to spot platypus; or drive 10km further west for a 90-minute hike along Sandy Creek to a lovely, secluded little beach.
Next you're driving 15km south to dramatic Admirals Arch (look for fur seals) and Remarkable Rocks (wind-sculpted house-shaped rocks which are as advertised).
You now have a 150km drive to the far east of the island on the Dudley Peninsula. Cut up through the guts of the island, specifically towards Andermel Marron a "three-in-one" experience thanks to the marron farm, cafe and winery. Select a happy-looking marron and barbecue it.
After lunch, push on to Dudley Peninsula via the Playford Highway ("highway" being very loosely interpreted). Stop at MB Stonor Art Glass or Sunset Wines depending on whether you're artistically or alcoholically inclined.
Check into your accommodation a lighthouse keeper's cottage built in 1927, with all the isolation, views and ruggedness this might suggest. Try to catch the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse guided tour at 2pm so you can make some sense of why anyone would live out here.
Dinner is in the pleasing town of Penneshaw: take an ocean-side dinner table at Sorrento's (phone (08) 8553 1028), or pull up a pew at the very country Penneshaw Hotel (phone (08) 8553 1042).
Do a morning walk along Antechamber Bay
before departing for breakfast in Penneshaw (Sorrento's serves brekkie), then do the drive back to Kingscote airport. For some perfect pre-trip relaxation, bliss out overlooking beautiful Pennington Bay
or chill on any of the beaches nearby.
Where to stay
: You'll be in the thick of the Kingscote action (population 1800) and right on the seafront at the sizable Aurora Ozone Hotel
; rooms from $130 to $360 (for the penthouse). It's better looking than the ghastly website suggests but beachside B&Bs can be more pleasant. Trouble is, there's a huge amount of choice; take a breath and visit www.tourkangarooisland.com.au
Kangaroo Island Wilderness Lodge: lodges and suites (three- to four-star) priced from $180 to $350, room only.
Cape Willoughby Lighthouse Keeper's Cottages, from $155 per couple. Phone (08) 8559 7235.
What to bring home
Pick up any of the local gourmet goodies. Ligurian bee honey is a unique one produced by pure-strain bees found nowhere else on earth. Abalone is another option.
What to leave behind
Anything of a food, soil or plant nature. Strict quarantine laws apply.
Got any other suggestions? Share your insight below.