Kangaroo Island Overview
- Southern Ocean surf
- Coast life
- Wild times (big nature, not big nights out)
Touting itself as ‘Australia’s Galapagos’, Kangaroo Island (KI) has an amazing proliferation of wildlife – in the sky, the scrub and the sea.
Located 13 kilometres off South Australia’s coast, it’s the country’s third biggest island – so there’s plenty of space for the local wildlife to do its thing without the 4,250 islanders getting in the way. KI is a remarkable sanctuary, and no trip to the island is complete without encountering some of the hairy, feathery or fishy residents (and no, we don’t mean the fishermen). Get up close and personal with kangaroos, seals and penguins, as well as bountiful birdlife. Things here are slow-paced and uncomplicated, a cultural hark-back to simpler days when you slept with the doors unlocked and ate what you farmed on the land or fished from the sea.
Keenly Kangaroo Island
With isolation comes security, a phenomenon KI’s wildlife has taken full advantage of. Rummaging through the undergrowth you’ll find koalas, wallabies, bandicoots, possums, echidnas, long lean goannas, tiger snakes and, of course, kangaroos. Offshore there are southern right whales, dolphins, fairy penguins, Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals. Up above you’ll catch sight of 243 bird species, including impressive airborne armadas of glossy black cockatoos.
- There are no taxis on the island, but Airport Shuttle Services (0427 887 575) links Kingscote Airport with Emu Bay (AU$40), Kingscote (AU$20), American River (AU$50) and Penneshaw (AU$80) for one to two people. Sealink (www.sealink.com.au) runs town-to-town shuttle buses between Penneshaw and American River (AU$13) and Kingscote (AU$16).
- Tipping culture
- Like elsewhere in Australia, tipping here isn’t mandatory, but tip 10 per cent in restaurants and cafés if your service came with a smile.
- Siesta and fiesta
- KI’s few shops open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday; some also open 10am to 4pm on Saturdays but rarely on Sundays. The smattering of cafés open for breakfast around 8am and close around 4pm. Restaurants generally serve lunch from noon to 2.30pm, and dinner from 6pm to 9pm. Pubs open at 11am and close around midnight. There are only a couple of banks on the island with sketchy opening hours – bring some cash.
- Packing tips
- Take a hat and sunblock if you’re hitting the beaches in summer, or a beanie if you’ll be checking out the island’s wildlife, clifftops and forests in winter.
- Recommended reads
- Pete Dobré’s photographic book Kangaroo Island captures the best of KI in gorgeous detail. Unearthed: The Aboriginal Tasmanians of Kangaroo Island by Shirleene Robinson digs into the grim history of the Tasmanian Aborigines who were abducted by white sealers in the early 1800s and brought to KI. Also worth a look is Kangaroo Island Shipwrecks by Gifford Chapman.
- One of the best things about KI is the seafood – abundant, affordable and unfailingly fresh. Make sure you try some American River oysters and some clean-cut fillets of King George whiting. This is also farming country – the local beef, lamb and chicken are superb. You’ll also find cheesemakers and honey farms on the island.
- Regional specialities
- There’s a nascent cool-climate wine industry on KI too, with a handful of upstart wineries opening up their cellar doors for tastings (sauvignon blanc, shiraz and chardonnay are the mainstays).
- Australian dollar (AU$).
- Time zone
- GMT + 9.5.
- Dialling codes
- Country code: +61; South Australia: 08 (drop the 0 if dialling from outside Australia).
- Do go/don't go
- South Australian summers (December to February) are always sunny, but when the desert heat swoops down from the north the temperatures can top 40°C for days on end. Surrounded by the sea, KI tends to dodge the worst of the swelter, but time your visit with spring or autumn when it’s clear skies, warm days and plain sailing. Winters on the island can be chilly and windswept but beautifully atmospheric.
Don't go home without...
tasting some KI wine and whiting, and sniffing out the seals at Seal Bay.