We spent a weekend on Kangaroo Island and managed to see a lot of highlights – read on to check out our Kangaroo Island itinerary…
Kangaroo Island is the best place in Australia. Got your attention didn’t I?
Obviously that is quite the statement but after visiting Kangaroo Island for two days, I can honestly say that it is my favorite place in Australia. Hell, it’s one of my favorite 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 while hiking to a remote beach), cute historic towns and friendly locals.
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 the Kangaroo Island ferry. 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!! Update: As of December 2019 it costs $392
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 subsidization 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.
About Kangaroo Island
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.
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!
Getting to Kangaroo Island
We drove from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, then took the Kangaroo Island ferry, 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 two-hour drive to the other side of the island still ahead of us, so we set off to Cape Borda and our Kangaroo Island accommodation straight away.
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 roadside.
The landscape was parched from many rain-less days. Past the yellowing stage, the grasses looked like bleached wheat in the evening shadows.
A Unique Kangaroo Island Accommodation
We were staying in Woodward Hut, a Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage at lonely Cape Borda, and we arrived about 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.
Man, I love Lighthouses!
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 too 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.
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.
There were no other people staying in the other three 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.
We couldn’t wait to get started on on Kangaroo Island itinerary the next morning!
Our Two Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary
Exploring the Natural Attractions of Kangaroo 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.
A short but strenuous return hike at nearby Harvey’s Return helps to demonstrate the hardships the Lighthouse Keepers faced, and is a great little Kangaroo Island hike to stretch the legs.
Supplies were transported from ships docked a little offshore, and up the steep and treacherous cliff and overland 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 was 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kangaroo Island beaches were another big highlight. 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 underwater, breaking the surface intermittently to take a breath. It was one of my favorite Kangaroo Island experiences.
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. Their famous whiting burger was delicious and it’s a cheap way to try some local seafood.
Cultural Attractions of Kangaroo Island
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 woodworking 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.
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, the Rabbit Warren Bakery, and then sat by the coast, waving away the overeager seagulls. They weren’t getting a bite of my lunch, especially not the donut.
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.
Emu Bay was the last place we visited and it turned out to be my favorite Kangaroo Island beach. 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.
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!
Plan your Kangaroo Island trip now, and get there before everyone else finds out about it.
Plan Your Kangaroo Island Trip
How to Get to Kangaroo Island
If you do want to visit Kangaroo Island on a self-guided trip, the best way to get to Kangaroo Island is by flying to Adelaide, renting a car from the airport, then driving the 1.5 hours down to Cape Jervis to catch the Kangaroo Island ferry.
As mentioned earlier, the current cost of the ferry to Kangaroo Island is $98 return per person, plus $196 return for a vehicle for the 45-minute trip.
Driving on Kangaroo Island is fine but there are some dirt roads – although we found them to be well-maintained – and you will need to watch out for kangaroos on the road as we saw a lot of dead ones on the side of the road, and hitting a Kangaroo can cause a lot of damage to a vehicle.
There is no public transport on Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island Accommodation
I loved the Lighthouse Keepers cottage we stayed in, and it is an affordable as well as a unique option. There are a three different options, but we stayed in the basic but comfortable Woodward Hut which is $25 per person per night, plus linen hire.
Another budget option is to plan a Kangaroo Island camping trip. There are numerous campsites around the island, including in Vivonne Bay, Emu Bay, Kingscote, and Penneshaw.
There are a range of accommodation options on Kangaroo Island, from budget motels through to luxury hotels. And Airbnb has a lot of great options on Kangaroo Island too.
Best Time to Visit Kangaroo Island
Due to the mild Kangaroo Island climate, you can visit any time of year, but I would definitely recommend visiting in the summer months from December through till February, or in the shoulder months of November and March.
You want to be able to take full advantage of those Kangaroo Island beaches!
The Best Insurance for your Kangaroo Island Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it also auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it.
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