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Published January 16th 2016
South Australia's greatest island tour
One of South Australia's most popular walks, and a must for every tourist heading to Victor Harbor, is the Kaiki Walk around Granite Island. For as long as I can remember people have been walking around the perimeter of Granite Island, perhaps to see the sights, understand the geology, or perhaps just to learn a little bit about the history of this great island and its significance to the aboriginal people.
Granite Island is located at the end of the Causeway just 630m from the mainland and the town of Victor Harbor. Of course you can walk across the Causeway, but for a first time visitor why not hop on the horse drawn tram for a truly authentic travel experience.
At the end of the Causeway is a gathering of signs and plaques signals your entrance to the Granite Island Recreation Park or Kaiki. Kaiki means "reed spear" in the language of the Ngarrindjeri nation, and their Dreaming tells of legendary warrior Ngurunderi throwing his spear and creating the island. The popular bronzed life size penguins were made by Silvio Apponyi, the artist whose vision led to the creation of the Adelaide Hills Sculpture Trail, to reflect the recent life of the Island in being a home for much loved fairy penguins.
The Walk commences to the right up a short boardwalk which provides some great views of the Causeway, Family Corner, Victor Harbor, Encounter Bay and The Bluff. Interpretive signs throughout the length of the walk provide us with an insight as to the history and significance of the island to the Aboriginal people, and its use since it was uncovered by Flinders and Baudin in 1802.
Whaling was a popular activity in the 19th Century with a whaling station at the foot of The Bluff soon followed by one on Granite Island near the first horsetram bend. The sighting of a Southern Right Whale saw much competition between rival crews, albeit short lived as the treacherous conditions made sure that the whales won most of the competition. Today Granite Island plays host during winter to several lookouts where whales are often spotted.
The southwest corner of the island features a large number of exposed pieces of granite. Being particularly hard, granite does not decompose into sand or dust quickly, and these particular rocks, despite the elements of wind, rain, sun and sea, have been in this location for millions of years. Several rocks form interesting features with the most popularly photographed pieces being around the aptly named Umbrella Rock.
Along the southern side of the island, the elements of the weather and the walk combine to produce a stunning display where the ocean meets the rocky landfall and creates a sea spray that often travels some distance dependent upon the velocity. With several seats along the way, one can sit and marvel for ages as the sea crashes in to the rocks and the rocks withstand the punishment yet again.
On the eastern corner of the island, the walk descends a series of stairs back to sea-level, and we pass Australia's first ever breakwater and the screwpile jetty, two items which were mandatory additions to the Island during its maritime heyday. Nearby the Kiosk and Café sit alongside the terminus of the horse drawn tram, and almost become mandatory themselves as families dive in for an ice cream or a serve of local fish and chips.
The walk continues alongside the tram track and passes the Penguin Centre where fairy penguins were once rescued, rehabilitated and released back in to the world. Granite Island was once a very popular place for fairy penguins, and some can still be seen on guided tours at dusk.
Kaiki Walk on Granite Island is around 1.5km, takes around 40 minutes and is free. A small fee is payable if you wish to travel on the horse drawn tram. The island closes just around dusk each evening in order to allow the fairy penguins to return unhindered, but otherwise is available for walking the rest of the time. A map is available online but is probably not necessary - it is a bit hard to get lost on this small but beautiful island !