A trip to South Australia would not be complete without a visit to the iconic Kangaroo Island. Embodying all things Australia is best known for - emerald seas, dramatic cliffs and vibrant wildlife – KI (as the locals call it) will sweep you away into a different world, so close yet so far from the bustling life of the mainland.
My friend and I decided to travel with my brother to South Australia during the Australia day long weekend. My brother is bound for a two year career break in Europe, so it is only fitting to relish the best of Australia before he leaves. Where better to remind him of all our country's charm than a high dose of straya in sunny KI?
We arrived at Cape Jervis in the morning at 8:30 am, ready to catch the first Sealink ferry at 9 am across the 14 kilometer wide Backstairs Passage. For an extra $90, we took our hire car on the ferry. The advice is to have your own car on the island. With the island being over 150 kilometers in length, having your own car is definitely the most unhindered way of exploring the island, giving you the freedom to stay longer or shorter at your favourite beach without the constraints of tour bus timetables.
Sealink from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island
Landing at Penneshaw at around 9:45 am, we headed straight to the tourist information centre to get friendly advice from the local guides. On our way we passed the famous fish and chips shop aptly named Fish. I heard good things about the shop, with boisterous reviews claiming the restaurant serves the best fish and chips in the world. Unfortunately this time we were too early for the shop which opens at 11 am. Next time.
Rest assured we did not settle on an average meal (do they even exist at KI?). We headed straight to The Oyster Farm Shop at American River where they only serve the freshest of seafood. A share seafood platter set us back approximately $90 for three but we got the most generous serving of oysters (grilled and natural), abalini, marron and cheese. I recommend getting there fast and first thing when the shop opens (opening hours 11 am – 4:30 pm), as the marron quickly sold out and trust me when I say it changed the way I will ever have marron again.
The Oyster Farm Shop - get there before they open!
With a full stomach, we headed south to greet our fellow shellfish lovers. The Seal Bay Conservation Park is a must see at KI and home to thousands of Australian sea lions. A guided tour to the beach is a must where knowledgeable guides bring you up close to the seal colony. Watching young pups frolicking on the beach and older seals tan in the mid-afternoon sun will go far in putting a smile on your face, as you stand back and appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to witness wildlife in their natural habitat in such close proximity.
20 minutes drive from seal bay via a short section of unsealed road brings you to one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia – Vivonne Bay – where crystal clear water meets long stretches of soft sand. The water is cool here, best for a warm day. For warmer water, Stokes Beach on the island's north shore may be the beach for you. However, coming here at the right time of day will give you nearly private access to great surfs, or great fish from the jetty.
Continuing our drive west, we reached the highlight of the trip just when we thought things could not get better. Flinders Chase National Park, home to the Remarkable Rocks and Admiral's Arch, did not disappoint. Driving through the national park you will see the well-defined road winding through dense vegetation, showcasing dramatic shorelines and unlimited views of the sparkling Great Australian Bight. It is no surprise that one of Australia's most luxurious resort (the Southern Ocean Lodge) is located within the national park. The many natural and board walks within the park are well maintained and you will meet plenty of wildlife, may that be kangaroos, echidnas or New Zealand fur-seals enjoying the sun on the rocks.
After watching the sunset at the park, we headed to our accommodation for the night. Our ferry is booked for the next day at 11 am, which gave us a few hours in the morning to explore the commercial hub of KI, Kingscote. Breakfast was at the foreshore of Bay of Shoals, before we made our way back to Penneshaw for our ferry back to Cape Jervis to continue our adventures through the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Kangaroo Island – you have been so amazing. I will be back for more.