If Kangaroo Island had a profile picture, it would undoubtedly be the iconic and aptly named Remarkable Rocks. With good reason too, they truly are a wonder of nature and a holiday highlight for many. These giant granite boulders are found in Flinders Chase National Park off the windswept west coast, along with Admirals Arch and a colony of New Zealand fur seals.
Another major attraction for visitors to Kangaroo Island are the picture perfect beaches. One of the most photographed and easily recognised is, without a doubt, Vivonne Bay on the spectacular south coast. With a sandy white beach, brilliant turquoise water, and a lengthy jetty it's easy to see why it was crowned Australia's best beach in an extensive survey conducted by Sydney University in 2003.
Kangaroo Island is home to some of Australia's best beaches, including Vivonne Bay
There are few tourist destinations in the world where the beaches are unblemished and oftentimes uninhabited. It's thanks to the Kangaroo Island's commitment to conservation and focus on eco-tourism that the beaches retain their pristine condition. None exemplify this more than the idyllic Island Beach at the eastern edge of the island, a beach that feels like a private oasis.
There's rarely a soul to be seen and perhaps this is because of the intriguingly tribal, but slightly menacing mobile of crab and fish skeletons dangling from a tree at the entrance of the beach. Enter if you dare and be rewarded with lagoon-like water gently lapping at the shore of a seemingly infinite stretch of sand.
Pennington Bay isn't far from Island Beach, but it's a prime example of the ever-changing scenery and epitomises the rugged beauty of Kangaroo Island. The beach is composed of waves shattering around dramatic rock formations that emerge from snowy white sand. With strong rips and a sense of danger, swimming here is an activity undertaken at your own risk. It is, however, one of the island's best surf breaks.
Not a postcard, just another day in paradise at Island Beach
Centrally located on the north coast, Stokes Bay is more populated than some of the other beaches, but challenging to find unless you're lucky enough to have inside information. At first glance it seems to be a pretty but pebbly bay with a delicious gourmet fish and chip shop called the Rockpool Café.
Look a little further because there's more to be discovered here. At some point in time someone was clever/crazy enough to blast through the cliffs and create access to a secret beach, this is the real Stokes Bay. It takes some ducking and weaving through the narrow cave, particularly difficult with a surfboard, to reach this mysterious piece of paradise.
The beach at Seal Bay is absolutely stunning, but it's swarming with sightseers and locals – the local sea lion colony, that is – making it one of Kangaroo Island's most popular tourist attractions. The opportunity to observe and be surrounded by hundreds of sea lions in their natural environment is an incredible and memorable experience.
Another entertaining wildlife experience occurs every evening at Kingscote Wharf when fifty or more (it's difficult to keep count) wild pelicans arrive for dinner. The "Pelican Man" is very informative, but the mischievous birds steal the spotlight (and the fish) as the show becomes a feeding frenzy.
It's not a beach as such, but there sure is a lot of sand at Little Sahara. Sliding down the massive dunes is fun; sand in private places, not so much. It takes an enormous effort to make it to the top of the dunes, but it's a guaranteed way to tire the kids out. Be sure to wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen because there is nothing in the way of shade and that burning ball of light in the sky is brutal out here.
After disembarking the SeaLink ferry, one of the first beaches to experience is Penneshaw or Hog Bay as it was originally known. Take a stroll along the esplanade and discover a nice beach with picnic and barbecue facilities. The area was once occupied by little penguins; sadly their numbers have dwindled due to hungry hungry fur seals.
A hidden beach is waiting to be discovered at Stokes Bay
Further along are some important monuments, such as Frenchman's Rock (or a mock rock, the real one is kept at the Gateway Information Centre). Upon anchoring at Hog Bay in 1803, the crew of French explorer Nicholas Baudin made their presence known by carving details of their arrival into the now legendary rock.
Nearby Baudin Beach is a significant site historically and the beach is certainly nice and very peaceful, but other than a small jetty, there isn't that much to see. It does, however, feature a rather lovely copper statue of Mary Beckwith, thought to be the very first European woman on South Australian land.
For the best view of the coast and an insightful lesson about the island's maritime history, a climb up the 102 stairs of Cape Willoughby Lighthouse is an absolute must. Like many of the island's best spots, it requires an uncomfortably long and bumpy drive along an unsealed road.
It's not nearly as treacherous though as the sea that surrounds Kangaroo Island and Cape Willoughby is just one of the lighthouses erected to highlight some of the more hazardous passages. Still, these are dangerous waters and approximately 80 vessels have been wrecked off the coast of Kangaroo Island.
It's the diverse scenery and historic relevance of Kangaroo Island's coastline that adds to its appeal. From craggy cliffs to serene seas, not only do the beaches have a story to share, but they are suitable for an array of activities, such as swimming, surfing, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, picnicking, sailing, and much more.
Named after the French explorer, Baudin Beach is a nice spot for fishing and relaxing