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Published August 5th 2016
Hop on over to Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is one of those places that once you have fallen in love with it, you'll want to return time and time again, and you'll never tire of it. Having visited recently for my fourth time, I made the most of the opportunity to experience some of what the island has to offer, including the diverse flora and fauna, the produce and the natural environment, particularly some of the coastal areas.
Only a 45 minute ferry ride away from the mainland (Cape Jervis to Penneshaw) via Sealink or 35 minute flight from Adelaide Airport to Kingscote, Kangaroo Island (K.I.) is an ideal getaway whether it be for a weekend or for longer to truly soak in the atmosphere. Having the independence with your own vehicle or hiring a car is the best way to traverse the island which helps you also appreciate the size of K.I. and some of what it offers.
Most people are amazed how big the island is, being 150kms long and up to 90 kms wide in some places, being the third largest island off mainland Australia. For driving time, to give you some idea, it takes around 2 hours 30 minutes to drive from east to west, and luckily the main road is sealed, unlike times past when most of the roads were dirt.
What is amazing is how beautiful some of the coastal areas are, and at times you feel as though you are one of the few people in the world viewing them. (Maybe because it was during winter that there weren't a lot of visitors around). Yet the other advantage during winter is how green the landscape is during this time of the year. On several drives around K.I. I discovered some great coastal spots, six of which are worthy of mention.
On the north shore of K.I. around 13 kms west of the main town, Kingscote lies Emu Bay, which is a popular spot for holiday homes, as well as a core population of permanent residents. The beaches in the area are some of the few on K.I. which allow vehicles to drive onto the sand and are great for swimming.
At night, a walk along the beach can be opportune, as there is a colony of Fairy Penguins whom also walk along the foreshore. Up to the 1930's, grain, stock and merchandise were taken to and from K.I. via the local jetty dating from 1918.
If you are into geological formations, then Emu Bay also lies at the site of an unusual shale structure. The great thing about this place is even during the height of summer, the area doesn't get that busy, so one of those almost secret destinations worthy of consideration.
Right down in the south-west corner of the island, part of Flinders Chase National Park, Cape de Couedic is a rugged area battered by the waves from the Southern Ocean, which has led to some unique rock formations occurring in the area, including the popular well-visited Admiral's Arch.
The French influence on K.I. is profound with the visits by Nicholas Baudin and his party on "Le Geographe" in the early 1800's and even today many of the place names named by Baudin, including Cape de Couedic are still used today. The cape was named after one of Baudin's party and the lighthouse, which was built in the early 1900's, was erected following the many shipwrecks off the coast, including the Loch Vennachar and the Loch Sloy.
As well as being within a National Park, the waters surrounding this area are also classified as combined restricted access and a sanctuary zone which is good news for preserving the pristine environment, which is what makes K.I. unique.
Following the boardwalk from the Lighthouse takes you down to the amazing Admiral's Arch, which has been formed as the remnant of a cave shaped by pounding waves and constituted as a natural bridge. Not only is the iconic photogenic spot on show, which I never tire of, but surrounding the area is the home of the New Zealand Fur Seal and several of them were seemingly enjoying lazing on the rocks resting from their previous dives and swims.
Still within the confines of Flinders Chase National Park is a place that has an apt name - yes, they are remarkable! On the approach to the rocks via some stunning coastline, these impressive natural sculptures are highlighted by bright orange lichen growing over the massive rocks with many intricate and weird shapes. Interesting to find out that it has taken some 500 million years of rain, wind and pounding waves to form what is on view today.
Nowadays the boardwalk leading down to the rocks from the carpark is even suitable for those people who are disabled, allowing even more opportunities to see the rocks in close proximity. If you think from afar that you may have seen something similar, then you may be right, as both Remarkable Rocks and Uluru have been both identified as examples of "domed inselbergs" (islands of rock).
Signage warns visitors of being careful when walking around the rocks particularly during bad weather, as the wet rocks can be lethal, not to mention getting too close to the edges that are exposed to high winds and strong waves.
On the way east from Remarkable Rocks along the South Coast Road, it is worth dropping into Hanson Bay for a look, which boasts a wildlife sanctuary, and within that sanctuary bushwalking 90 minute guided tours are available so as to truly experience and appreciate this beautiful and pristine environment.
The sanctuary also contains a famous "Koala Walk" which is a great opportunity to see groups of koalas in the wild. In amongst the 5,000 hectare sanctuary there are strong chances you will view kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, possums and bats as well as koalas, not to mention the myriad of birdlife. There are also nocturnal tours on offer.
On the dirt road to Hanson Bay from the main South Coast Road, you come across the looming gates of the Southern Ocean Lodge, the place you always see in the glossy brochures with magnificent views and luxurious everything laid on. This is a place I can only dream of ever staying at, due to the cost but if you are into the high end luxury accommodation market in a fantastic environment, then this is the place for you to stay at.
Hanson Bay itself does offer self-contained cabins almost right on the beach, a lot more affordable than the Southern Ocean Lodge. The area is popular for swimming, snorkelling, canoeing and fishing and the sanctuary has been recognised as one of the most biodiverse and pristine eco-systems within Australia.
Venturing further east back towards Kingscote on the South Coast Road lies Vivonne Bay, which has been recognised by the University of Sydney and voted as one of Australia's top beaches due to its crystal clear waters, cleanliness as well as privacy.
Again part of the area forms a conservation park, which helps preserve the wonderful environment in as natural a state as possible. The beach is long and sandy and is characterised by a jetty, where regular boats venture out to catch their fill of crayfish. Interestingly the middle part of the jetty was removed during World War 2 so as to deter possible Japanese invasion of landing on the island.
Although the beaches here look great, there are warnings about the strong undertow and at times a sizeable swell, therefore is highly recommended only for strong swimmers.
The main island township of Kingscote hugs the coastline and even within these confines there are some great coastal areas, especially up around the historic Reeves Point. Nepean Bay nearby was the spot where white settlers first landed even before the landing at Glenelg with the reading of the official Proclamation. The only reason K.I. was not chosen as the official settlement zone, was due to the lack of plentiful fresh water as well as non-availability of timber for building.
Hence the settlement was to last less than 4 years but at its peak, the population was around 300 living in 42 dwellings.
Wildlife abounds in the Kingscote area as well, including being the home of the little penguin, the smallest penguins in the world and pelicans. Pelican Viewing Tours and Pelican Feeding Tours are available for booking which operate near the Kingscote jetty. Sadly the numbers of Little Penguins have been decimated by both natural predators such as the New Zealand Fur Seal and unnatural ones such as feral cats and rats etc, with an estimated population in 2013 of only around 154 breeding adults, down from 868 in 2007.
Boasting a Mediterranean climate, Kingscote and other parts of K.I. are ideal for growing vines hence one of the focuses being the wine industry. One such winery overlooking the coast near Kingscote is the Bay of Shoals Winery and they do make a great Chardonnay if you are into whites. Tried one at the local Ozone Hotel for dinner.
If you are into history, a wander around Reeves Point, one of South Australia's most important heritage sites, is a must. Features include monuments dating from the first settlement, the old Mulberry tree, the first tree planted on South Australian soil, the old jetty, the first well sunk as well as the site of the first Post Office in South Australia. On a cold windy winter's day, you will be wind swept around the site as I was, however the area reveals much in putting together the pieces of a puzzle regarding early settlement of South Australia.
Kangaroo Island in my eyes never fails to disappoint, so if you have never been, suggest you add it to your bucket list of places to visit, not that far away from where most of us live. If you are into wildlife, natural pristine environments, great local produce such as honey, wine, lavender, eucalyptus and fresh seafood to name a few, adventure sports such as diving, hiking, quad biking, sand boarding and history, then K.I. is the place for you.
Suggest if you are into raging nightlife, K.I. is not the place to find it, apart from nocturnal wildlife!