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9 Top Spots Walking Around Penneshaw

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by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published November 19th 2017
Peel back the layers of Penneshaw
As Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island is usually the first introduction most people have to the island when arriving by ferry, it makes sense that before exploring other environs, you spend some time finding out more about this town of less than 300 people nestled around Hog Bay, with wonderful views towards the mainland.

The closely knit community of Penneshaw, together with the generous assistance of the History Trust of South Australia, Kangaroo Island Development Board and National Parks and Wildlife South Australia have produced a booklet, first published in 2015, which outlines 3 walking trails around Penneshaw and environs.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Views over Backstairs Passage

I decided to visit some of the attractions covered in the informative booklet, which is available for $5 from Tourism Kangaroo Island located in Penneshaw. Here are 9 of many which I found worthy of a mention (in no particular order):

1. Penneshaw Maritime and Folk Museum

This museum is located on Howard Drive in Penneshaw and was once the site of the first Hog Bay School (later named Penneshaw School), which was built in 1869. The current building was erected in 1922 and remained a school until the 1960's.

This museum offers many stories and interesting details of the pre-colonial and early settler families, particularly around the Dudley Peninsula and entry reveals many artefacts from those periods. An example are the magnificent models of sailing ships, particularly Matthew Flinders' Investigator and Nicolas Baudin's Le Geographe on show.

The fence fronting the museum is made of old timbers from the Penneshaw jetty, giving the site a rustic feel. Upon entering, there are three main rooms, each with a different theme. The Maritime Room gives you a good overview of the early sealing and whaling industries as well as commercial shipping activities. The McKenzie Room gives you a sense of island life highlighting the initial isolation experienced by early settlers, as well as showing the pioneering spirit which has helped shape the local community.

The School Room reflects a by-gone era in early education and even has rules posted for teachers back in the 1870's such as "women teachers who engage in unseemly conduct, or marry (not sure which was seen as more serious conduct), will be dismissed".

Outside in the grounds there lies a lifeboat left over from the SS Karatta as well as a grinding mill used to crush stone for the production of china.

The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday 3 pm to 5 pm and operates between the beginning of September to the end of May. Any other interest in visiting requires pre-arranged contact. The entry fee is $3 per adult, concession $2 and family $7.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Boat from SS Karatta at Maritime & Folk Museum

2. Uniting Church

Religion, like in most communities, played an important part in society's development in Penneshaw and the church was originally a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, which was opened in 1884. At its beginnings, the church did not have even the basic items required for a functioning place of worship, including a bell, an organ, a pulpit or even a bible!

Although the church today is housed in an ordinary looking building, historically it was the very first church to be established on Kangaroo Island. It is still utilised regularly and can be found on Howard Drive in Penneshaw.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Uniting Church Penneshaw

3. George "Fireball" Bates House

Believed to be the first house built of stone in South Australia, Bate's House or stones from it, still occupy the site where it was originally built, standing sentinel with views along the coastline.

Bates himself was a sealer and trader who deserted his ship near American River in 1823. Bates soon joined up with other renegades including other deserters, escaped convicts and lost or abandoned sealers and sailors, together with their aboriginal women, who had been captured. These women were extremely skilful in helping islanders to gather seal, kangaroo and wallaby skins as well as salt from the lagoons.

The islanders traded or bartered this produce with vessels from Port Jackson and Hobart Town in return for tobacco and rum. Bates had a distinctive appearance with his red hair and beard, hence his nickname "Fireball". Bates and party were even hired by Colonel William Light at one stage during his exploratory expeditions.

Sadly Bates ended up in the Destitute Asylum, where he passed away in 1895, aged 95. He is buried in the hilltop cemetery nearby his former home at Penneshaw.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Bates House

4. Christmas Cove

This area near Penneshaw was the original site of settlement and Christmas Cove has also been termed "The Basin" due to its shape. It was originally the main port of entry to Penneshaw and the centre of economic activity during the 1800's. Christmas Cove was also one of the spots where Matthew Flinders landed in 1802 on his epic expeditions around Australia.

The geology of the area is quite interesting as you can still see striations made by a glacier as well as granite boulders pushed ahead of the glacier as it moved.

Today the site is a marina, great for mooring and launching boats from. Also one of the interesting tours of Kangaroo Island leaves from here 4 times a day, entitled Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari. Participants get to explore the magnificent coastline as well as view dolphins swimming in the wild, seals sunbathing on rocks and the abundant bird wildlife.

Transport is in a 12 seater vessel and departure times are 9 am, 12 Noon, 3 pm and 5 pm. More information can be found on their websit

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Christmas Cove

5. Seaview Lodge

Seaview Lodge was originally built in 1860 and operated for many years as a guest house. It went through many re-imaginings including being privately owned for some time, before reverting back currently to a bed and breakfast establishment. The property was re-furbished in the 1990's and is set in a lovely cottage garden with sea views.

The bed and breakfast boasts 5 bedrooms all with ensuites and based on pricing if you stayed around early December, for 1 adult for a week (7 nights) will set you back just under $1,200.

You will find the property at Lot 3, Willoughby Road, Penneshaw and bookings can be made online.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Seaview Lodge

6. Johnston's Cottage

You will find Johnston's Cottage adjacent to the Penneshaw Hotel on North Terrace and dates from the 1840's with links to the pioneering Johnston family. This cottage is the oldest existing building in Penneshaw and was at one time used as a shop.The addition on the side of the cottage dates from the 1890's.

Local legend has it told that after numerous breakins during the 1890's, and unknown to the shopkeeper, his employees apparently set a shotgun trap, which unfortunately resulted in the loss of a local lad's procreative abilities. The shopkeeper soon left for the mainland following that incident.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Johnston's Cottage

7. Penneshaw Hotel

Built in 1903, the iconic pub like a lot of pubs in country towns, became the focus and hub of the community in an area then known as New Town. With the construction of the jetty which brought increased trade to the area, the town prospered.

Known to locals as the "Penny" the pub today boasts unenviable views out to Backstairs Passage. You can see the heritage property has been modernised and updated (in 2011), making it a relaxing place for patrons, to come and inbibe both food and drink. There are both inside areas as well as alfresco for those nicer days/balmy evenings.

Currently, the summer menu is on offer, which has a great range of tempting dishes including Schnitzels, Parmigiana, Seafood and mouth-watering steaks. Mains vary between $22 for a Malaysian Rice Noodle Salad right up to Fish and Chips for $38, coined as Posh F&C, comprising grilled KI Whiting, chips and salad.

A great place to unwind after your travels and soak in those magnificent views. The Penneshaw Hotel is open for lunch 12 Noon until 2.30 pm and for dinner from 5.30 pm every day.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Penneshaw Hotel

8. Contemplation Seat

Across Frenchman's Terrace from Frenchman's Rock up on a hill lies Contemplation Seat which offers great views over Hog Bay. It was designed, constructed and installed by local artists, Indiana James and Tom Appleby and has been made in memory of the Aboriginal people, mainly women who were brought to KI unwillingly by pre-colonial sealers, traders and outcasts.

Not only did these women have a broad knowledge and skills relating to wallaby and seal skins and trapping but were also very familiar with which plants could be used for food and medicine.

Some of the names of the displaced Aboriginal people appear engraved in the steps leading up to Contemplation Seat.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Contemplation Seat

9. Granny Stirling's Craft Centre and Art Gallery

Granny Stirlings on the corner of Middle Terrace and Thomas Willson Street started its life as a cottage built in 1909, soon transforming into a private hospital during the 1910's. The name Granny Stirling given to the current craft centre and art gallery comes from one of the old settlers.

Not only can you acquire some great pieces of local art and craft but Granny Stirling's also offers Devonshire Teas.

9 Top Spots walking around Penneshaw
Granny Stirling's

There's certainly more than enough to keep you occupied and interested around this attractive seaside town, whether it be for a brief stopover whilst awaiting the ferry, or for longer stays.
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Why? Offers an opportunity to discover more about Penneshaw
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 1800 811 080
Where: Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island, SA
Cost: Dependent upon your plans
Your Comment
Stayed 10 days in Penneshaw in 1983 with wife and daughters.This tiny town is well situated,with excellent views.Back in those days the locals were not keen on tourists and when we went to the one only local pub,we were looked at by some old codgers at the bar, as if we had just arrived from Mars.I imagine the townspeople are now keen on seeing tourists and if one was to go back today,the vibe would be welcoming and the pub would be keen to see us.
by aruss (score: 1|32) 1541 days ago
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