Kangaroo Island_ The best place in Australia

Got your attention didn’t I?

Obviously that is quite the statement but after visiting for a short two days a couple of weeks ago, I can honestly say that Kangaroo Island is my favourite place in Australia. Hell, it’s one of my favourite places in the WORLD.

It really does have it all: bleached white sand beaches with super clear water, more native animals than you can shake a stick at (and we did shake a stick at a giant snake we came across: more on that later), cute historic towns and friendly locals.

Emu Bay beach

There was only one thing missing: hordes of tourists. And we were better off without them.

It’s crazy that this paradise exists in Australia but most foreign visitors don’t seem to know about it. South Australia is skipped over on a lot of Australian holidays with people preferring to stick to the East Coast and Melbourne. Man, they are missing out!

I guess another factor that could explain the lack of tourists is the high cost of getting to this pristine island. We nearly didn’t visit ourselves due to the steep ferry prices. It only takes 45 minutes from Cape Jervis on the mainland to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island and it cost us $368 for 2 people and a car return. How insane is that!! Our car rental agent told us that is the cheapest he has heard people getting it for too and that it would usually cost about $500! The ferry is privately owned but maybe the South Australian Government needs to look at some type of subsidisation as it could earn them some big tourist bucks if the prices were more reasonable.

But then again, it would probably end up like the Great Ocean Road (read: a circus) and I would hate to see that.

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island at 150km long with over 500km of coastline. It is a sanctuary for wildlife with its own species of Kangaroo, the Kangaroo Island Kangaroo, which is both smaller and darker than the common Eastern Grey. There are large tracts of land that have been preserved in national park and nature reserves, which contributed a lot to the protected status of so many of the animals on the island.

Fighting Kangaroos

The Island economy is primarily agricultural and there are twelve wineries on the island, as well as farms growing grain and raising cattle and sheep. Kangaroo Island is famous for its honey as it has the world’s only pure-bred and disease-free population of Ligurian honey bees. We tried some at Clifford’s honey farm, along with some excellently creamy honey ice cream. Those Ligurian bees make some damn good honey!

Arriving into port in the early evening, we didn’t have time to look around the small settlement of Penneshaw where the ferry docks as we had a 2 hour drive to the other side of the island still ahead of us. From what I saw it was a sweet village with stone cottages and historic shopfronts, set on a windy hill looking over the waters of Investigator Strait, and across to the mainland in the distance. There is a colony of Little Penguins living there but we only would have been able to see them had we been there around sunset. In our rush, we still managed to make time to pick up some red wine before hitting the road. Priorities.

As we drove through the middle of the island, firstly along a quiet paved road before it turned to rough gravel, we saw dead kangaroos in various states of decomposition along the road side. The landscape was parched from many rainless days. Past the yellowing stage, the grasses looked like bleached wheat in the evening shadows.

Kangaroo Island road

We reached the lonely Cape Borda with its lighthouse and cottages an hour before sunset, enough time to unpack and have a picnic dinner before taking our glasses of red out to the lighthouse to watch the stunning sunset; the sun dipping into the ocean in a haze of pinks and oranges. The light clicked on in the lighthouse and slowly scanned the darkening waters for ships in the night.

Cabin picnic at Woodward HutCape Borda SunsetWoodward Hut Cape Borda

A Kangaroo and her young one ate the grasses around the lighthouse. She kept one eye on us while eating, ensuring we didn’t get to close to her baby. Trav passed by too close for comfort and she growled at him in disapproval. A cute wallaby was hanging out in the back fenced yard of one of the larger cottages and stared at me when I passed, unfazed.

Wallaby at Cape Borda

Our tiny cabin was just perfect. It was rustic, with two single beds, a small fridge and a camp kitchen. The toilet was a two minute walk away at the back of a larger cottage and there was no shower. We didn’t need one for only a two night stay. I loved the simpleness of it, it was like camping.

Inside Woodward HutCape Borda Lighthouse

There were no other people staying in the other 3 cottages and the National Parks Officer that lives on site was out for the evening, so it was just us and the kangaroos; alone at the edge of the island.

The Lighthouse Keepers Cemetery, a couple of kilometres from the Cape Borda Lighthouse, is an interesting place. Small and tidy, this patch of land is the last resting place of past Lighthouse Keepers and their families, with nearly half the graves belonging to young children. It was a hard life being a Lighthouse Keeper at remote Cape Borda in the late nineteenth century, and with no access to medical treatment Keepers and their families could die of simple ailments. An example of that is Captain Woodward, Cape Borda’s first Lighthouse Keeper, who died of an eye infection after being poked in the eye during a fall.

Lighthouse Keepers Cemetery Cape Borda

A short but strenuous return hike at nearby Harvey’s Return helps to demonstrate the hardships the Lighthouse Keepers faced. Supplies were transported from ships docked a little off shore, and up the steep and treacherous cliff and over land to the lighthouse. The descent was very steep and we made our way down very carefully. At the bottom is a beautiful and secluded beach where we saw penguin footprints leading from the shore into the rocks. Walking back up with tough. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like with a heavy load on my back and having to make the trip back and forth all day, until all of the supplies had been transported.

Harvey's Return Harvey's Return beach

Over fifty ships have been lost in the turbulent waters around the island since the first recorded shipwreck in 1847, which is why there are three lighthouses: Cape Du Couedic and Cape Borda on the west coast and Cape Willoughby on the east coast. Along with staying in one of the cottages at Cape Borda, we visited the Cape Du Couedic lighthouse in Flinders Chase National Park one windy afternoon.

Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse

From the Cape Du Couedic lighthouse there is a trail that leads to the edge of the coast, where towering cliffs drop to the frothing waters below. On plateaus of rock, cropping out into the ocean, dozens of New Zealand fur seals and Australian sea-lions laze around or bark at each other, lunging in a territorial dance. We walked down the zig-zagged boardwalk to view them closer up and in a large cavern where they were chasing each other around in the water.

Cape Du Couedic boardwalk

The amount of native Australian animals on Kangaroo Island is staggering. During our stay we saw countless Kangaroos (both alive and dead), wallabies, an echidna, dolphins, seals, sea-lions, galahs, a small shark and a tiger snake. I have never seen so many varieties and sheer numbers of native Australian animals in one place before. It was incredible.

Kissing KangaroosEchidna

As well as visiting the Cape Du Couedic lighthouse in Flinders Chase National Park, we also made a stop at the Remarkable rocks, which were indeed remarkable. They looked like a pile of hatched dragon eggs on top of a granite capped hill surrounded by thick bush. You could walk on the granite base to truly explore the rocks, which are coated in a brilliant orange fungus. Sitting on the sloping surface, we looked out over the ocean and the beautiful coastline. Serene and untouched.

The Remarkable Rocks Remarkable Rocks

Voted one of the best beaches in Australia, pristine Vivonne Bay is a delightful cove with white sands and gorgeous pale blue water. Firstly we headed to the long, wooden wharf as the clouds rolled in, threatening rain. I will pretty much always take blue skies over dark clouds but the clouds made the water look almost ethereal and it created a very atmospheric panorama. Walking along the rickety wharf we noticed two pods of dolphins moving closer to us. Everything was so quiet, creating an otherworldly feeling. The dolphins passed slowly by and we could see them moving fluidly under water, breaking the surface intermittently to take a breath. It was one of my favourite Kangaroo Island experiences.

Vivonne Bay Wharf Vivonne Bay dolphins

Unfortunately when we visited the beach at Vivonne Bay the sand was soggy and wet from the earlier rain and a cold wind was blowing off the sea, but it still looked beautiful. It just wasn’t beach weather.

We had an early dinner at the cute Vivonne Bay General Store. The Whiting burger was delicious and a cheap way to try some local seafood.

Vivonne Bay General Store Vivonne Bay Beach

Along with all of the natural attractions of the island, there were also a lot of cultural pursuits on offer in the form of Art Galleries, Potters and Wood Working Studios and Museums. We dropped into one of the Island’s Art Galleries, Rustic Blue, to avoid the rain and were pleasantly surprised with friendly owners, yummy hot chocolate and lots of beautiful local art and crafts.

Rustic Blue Gallery

We couldn’t go to Kangaroo Island without visiting its biggest town, Kingscote, so we dropped by for lunch one day. Anywhere else it wouldn’t be called a town at all: all there was to it was a short main street lined with historic buildings. We picked up pies and donuts from the only bakery in town, and then sat by the coast, waving away the overeager seagulls. They weren’t getting a bite of my lunch, especially not the donut.

Kingscote

The drive to Stokes Bay was a windy detour off the main Island highway, past brown fields and a dammed lake. The Bay itself was pretty but non-descript, a rocky cove with a couple of small houses and a café overlooking it. We took a short path that weaved through the rocks and under a cliff and emerged at a secret beach and tidal pool. On a sunnier day I would have swum there but we retreated to the lovely local café back on the other side of the trail for a coffee instead. I saw my first echidna ever when we were walking back to the car. He was ambling along slowly but surely with his cute snout sniffing the air.

Stoke's Bay Hidden beach at Stoke's Bay

Emu Bay was the last place we visited and it turned out to be my favourite. A long stretch of beach with more pearly white sand and translucent water, like Vivonne Bay and Harvey’s Return before it. We walked from the jetty at one end and along the beach for an hour, passing only a couple of people and a few four wheel drives that were driving along the sand. I found a beautiful abalone shell and we saw a small shark right by the shore that appeared to be eating something in the seaweed. I couldn’t get over the fact that there were virtually no people on one of the most incredible beaches I have ever seen. It didn’t seem right.

Emu Bay

Kangaroo Island is one of the few places that I was really sad to leave. We only had two days there but we managed to see so much. Everything we saw amazed us. The natural beauty of the place was astounding.

If I had only one recommendation to anyone planning a trip to Australia it would be – Don’t miss Kangaroo Island.

See it before everyone else finds out about it.

The view from Remarkable Rocks

17 Comments on Kangaroo Island: The best place in Australia

  1. Anita
    May 2, 2015 at 3:11 pm (1 year ago)

    What?! I want to stay into a tiny cabin in Kangaroo Island too! Are you kidding me? Thanks to you, I’ve found that paradise exists.

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      May 3, 2015 at 2:46 pm (1 year ago)

      Definitely one of the best places I have ever stayed and so cheap!

      Reply
  2. rebecca
    March 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm (1 year ago)

    A place I have been meaning to get to!

    Reply
  3. zascha
    March 24, 2015 at 10:59 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve never heard of this place before but I would so love to go. I love the whole idea of all the wildlife. It must have been amazing – except for the snake of course! 🙂

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 25, 2015 at 9:46 am (1 year ago)

      It is definitely one of the most impressive places I have ever been to in regards to wildlife and scenery. Seeing the snake freaked me out though!

      Reply
  4. Janet
    March 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm (1 year ago)

    thank you for sharing your adventure. We just booked our trip and added a couple of days there and were a little worried it was just a tourist trap! Looking so forward to our trip!!

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 24, 2015 at 1:49 pm (1 year ago)

      I hope you love it as much as I did Janet. I definitely didn’t think it was a tourist trap and we had most of the places we visited largely to ourselves

      Reply
  5. Louisa Klimentos
    March 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm (1 year ago)

    We made a mistake when booking our stay for 2 nights on Kangaroo island we should have booked it through Sea Link as you get $20 off your accommodation .We went during July which rained a bit .It didn’t bother me because Flinders Chace National park was awesome.The grass in winter is really green like in the UK.Like to return one day and stay for 4 nights.Missed oiut on Little Saharra and Vivonne Bay.Saw heaps of wild life and loved it.It is true you travel to off the beaten track places .They are often better than the tourist attractions.Keep up the great work

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm (1 year ago)

      I definitely agree Louisa that the off the beaten path places often being better than the tourist attractions.I bet it was even more beautiful when it was green

      Reply
      • louisa Klimentos
        March 25, 2015 at 8:17 pm (1 year ago)

        I hope you will one day become a famous nature photographer.You take awesome photos

      • theworldonmynecklace
        March 25, 2015 at 9:59 pm (1 year ago)

        Thanks Louisa, that’s very nice of you to say

    • louisa klimentos
      May 4, 2015 at 10:21 am (1 year ago)

      Booking through Sealink ,you will get a $70 dollar discount not $20

      Reply
  6. Anna | slightly astray
    March 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm (1 year ago)

    I loved reading this post and getting to know Kangaroo island!! You guys have some really ‘off the beaten path’ adventures! This sounds like my idea of paradise… pristine white sand beaches and being surrounded by wildlife. The bf though, he would probably hate it, ha! I can’t believe how much it costs to get over there though!

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks Anna! It was definitely my idea of paradise too. There is lots of luxury accom options too if that would be more up D’s alley? Hopefully the ferry prices will go down at some stage

      Reply
  7. Cory Lee
    March 22, 2015 at 11:23 am (1 year ago)

    OMG this place really does look like paradise!! I’ve gotta get back to Australia and visit!

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm (1 year ago)

      It was so incredible Cory! Can’t believe it’s not well known

      Reply

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