Kangaroo Island or KI is an island about 45 minutes by ferry off the coast of South Australia. The island is 145 kilometers east to west, and has an abundance of wildlife, natural scenery, wineries and beaches.
Kangaroo Island was separated from the mainland around 10,000 years ago. It was first explored by Matthew Flinders in 1802 whilst en route from UK to Sydney. He named the island in honour of the feast of Kangaroo he and his crew enjoyed on the island. More extensive mapping (especially of the south coast) was done by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin which is why a number of geographical features have French names.
While there is evidence of Aboriginal people living on the island as long as 16,000 years ago, the island has not been inhabited by Aboriginal people for at least 2,000 years. From 1803 the island was visited by sealers and whalers, exploiting the natural resources of the island. In addition, a number of "independent" settlers arrived - thought to be mainly escaped convicts and those looking for a lifestyle unencumbered by regulation - took up residence between 1803 and the start of official settlement in 1836.
In 1836 Kingscote became the first settlement in South Australia and significant parts of the island were opened up for farming. Sealing had just about finished by this time, with seals on many of the islands beaches completely wiped out.
From the late 1800s parts of the island were being actively preserved. Flinders Chase National Park was proclaimed in 1912. During the 1920s the island was seen as a opportunity to preserve species that were threatened on mainland Australia, with attempts at introducing several, including koalas.
The island is 145km wide (east to west) and around 50km from top to bottom at its widest. The north of the island has more protected seas, with the south generally having larger waves, higher cliffs and stronger currents. There are still some white sandy beaches and inlets on the south, though, such as Pennington Bay, d'Estrees Bay, Bales Bay and Hanson Bay.
The main settlements are within an hour of each other on the east, with more remote areas in the west.
The cliffs and bays can be spectacular, and there are interesting geological formations along the south, the most popular to visit being Admirals Arch and the Remarkable Rocks.
KI has abundant wildlife and large sections of untouched forest. Many species for which Australia is famous for can be found here like kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and penguins. There are plenty of opportunities to see these animals close up in their natural habitat.
There are four significant settlements on Kangaroo Island:
Kingscote is biggest town on the island, around 60km or just under an hours drive from Penneshaw. It has a small shopping strip downtown, which in addition to a supermarket has a choice of cafes, a bookshop, choice of restaurants, pubs, and a couple of other stores to browse. You can get fuel here. There is a harbour, and and some history to be discovered particularly at Reeves Point a few hundred metres north of the main town. The sole airport on the island is also at Kingscote.
Penneshaw is at the east of the island. This is the place where the ferries arrive. Again, there is a supermarket, pub with food and a view, a pizza place, and a couple of other food choices. It has a more attractive cliff-side setting than Kingscote. Fuel is available and banking can be done at the Post Office.
Parndana in the centre of the island and serving the farming community. There is a small supermarket here too as well as a hotel and fuel outlet.
American River. is a small community between Kingscote and Penneshaw. There is a general store which sells most everyday items including fuel (not LPG) and liquor as well as a Post Office and some restaurants.
Some of the accommodation is on the bays on the south coast of the island.
Ferries operated by Sealink  travel between Cape Jervis on the mainland, and Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. Ferries carry cars and passengers. They have a small cafe and bar on board, selling snacks and small meals during the trip. There is also a cafe at the Cape Jervis end, selling a similar range, which is open for departures but not necessarily for late arrivals.
Standby travel is often not available for cars, especially on the popular afternoon evening services. You really need to book ahead even in the off-season.
For a short trip, it can get quite rough. The route goes from peninsula to peninsula, and doesn't spend any time in a protected area. Seasickness is experienced by some on the trip, so some preventative medication may be a good idea. Sit at the back of the vessel for the best ride!
Two daily coach connections are available from Adelaide to connect with the ferry at Cape Jervis. Consult the Sealink website for costs.
Kangaroo Island Sealink, 440 King William Street, Adelaide, ☎ 13 13 01 / +61 8 8202 8688, . Ferries depart from Cape Jervis a 1.5 hour drive from Adelaide. For the complete timetable visit www.sealink.com.au. It is necessary to book in advance.$94/$47 each way for passengers - for vehicles, check the Sealink website. edit
Coach connections are available from Penneshaw to American River and Kingscote after the arrival of the 0900 and 1800 departures from Cape Jervis; and to the 0830 and 1930 departures from Penneshaw.
Getting around can be difficult if you don't bring or hire a car. Kangaroo Island is a destination which repays a measure of research and preparedness. If you are only coming for a few days, don't leave booking tours until you arrive. There is a scheduled coach service operated by Sealink between Kingscote - American River - Penneshaw and return - bookings essential. It only operates once in the morning and once in the evening. There is no scheduled service to Parndana or points west. However, there are plenty of tours to jump on, which can be booked in advance or on the island subject to availability and timing. Transfer services to the airport from Kingscote are available. The island has 1600km of roads, both sealed and unsealed, and is 145km long.
Make sure you have plenty of fuel before you start your trip. Petrol stations are generally only in the main settlements and frequently close before 6PM. In the south and west, petrol is only available at Vivonne Bay and Wilderness Retreat near Flinders Chase. Most roads are good, there is little need for a 4WD. Petrol is more expensive than on the mainland.
Some rental operators on the mainland do not allow cars to be taken onto the island. There is no insurance cover whilst travelling on the Ferry. It is your responsibility to check with the Ferry company regarding insurance for the journey.
Avis - does not allow their vehicles to travel to Kangaroo Island.
Budget - does not allow their vehicle to travel to Kangaroo Island.
Europcar - allows their vehicles to travel to Kangaroo Island from ANY location in Australia. Driving is only permitted on sealed roads. Travel on unsealed roads would waive your insurance and the hirer would be responsible for the full cost of damage to the vehicle.
Thrifty - Thrifty will only cover you if you pickup the vehicle from one of their Corporate locations. Driving is only permitted on sealed roads. Travel on unsealed roads would waive your insurance the hirer would be responsible for the full cost of damage to the vehicle.
Hertz - allows their vehicles to travel to Kangaroo Island from ANY location in Australia. Driving is only permitted on sealed roads. Travel on unsealed roads would waive your insurance and the hirer would be responsible for the full cost of damage to the vehicle.
The information provided is subject to change without notice. As always, consider the risk and insurance, against the cost and convenience.
Book ahead if you are renting a car on the island. The consequences of them being sold out when you arrive are that you don't go anywhere.
It is important to clarify insurance arrangements when hiring a car as both Hertz and Budget have more complicated systems on the island than on the mainland. This is due to a high number of collisions with animals, in particular during the late afternoon, evening, and early morning. Again, consider travel insurance rather than relying on the rental car policy. It is generally cheaper anyway.
There is a variety of tours available from large coach tours to individual tailored tours. If you make your own way to the island you can normally join a tour group at a reduced cost.
There are the "adventure" tour style, and the more traditional style tours stopping at the produce providers and major island sites on a fairly fixed itinerary. It is even possible to do a day tour from Adelaide (very tiring and you don't get to see the nocturnal animals).
Extended backpacker style tours of 2 and 3 days combine camping, budget accommodation, adventure and wildlife viewing, some even offer surfing.
You will see wildlife on Kangaroo Island, both in the National Parks and reserves, and just in the farmland surrounding the roads. Most wildlife are most active at dawn and dusk.
Koalas were introduced onto the island in the 1920s , as a (possibly misguided) way of preserving a species that was considered threatened on the mainland. The population thrived on the island, to the extent that they have been causing ecological damage on the island. They used to be common in Flinders Chase National Park, but since the 2007 bushfires, they are being caught and removed to the mainland, to allow the area to regenerate. There are still plenty elsewhere on the island, but they are often difficult to spot. You can still see them if you are lucky around Vivonne Bay and elsewhere. There is a free 20 minute walk close to the campsite; or visit the Koala Walk on the main south coast road near Flinders Chase entry. Try your luck.
Echidnas are very common on the island although they can be difficult to find. You can usually see a couple in the wild near the visitors centre at Flinders Chase, if you manage to avoid them on the roads on the way there.
Echidna in Flinders Chase Nt. Pk
Wallaby and Kangaroo. Kangaroos on the island are a sub-species of the Western Grey Kangaroo found on the mainland but are smaller, darker and have rougher fur . All wallabies are of species Tammar Wallaby. Stay alert when driving, especially around after dark as some of the Kangaroos are of a fair size and you don't want to see them too closely. You should have no problems viewing these next to the roads if you keep a look out. American River after dark (especially around the hall on Ryberg Road) is a good place to see wallabies.
Platypus. Another introduced species to KI. There is a platypus walk going to a viewing area about an hour's walk from the Flinders Chase Visitors centre. Dawn or dusk are the best times, and patience and a certain sense of fate is always necessary for platypus watching.
Penguins. There are guided evening tours at Kingscote and Penneshaw, and the the paths near to the penguin parades are closed at dusk except to guided tours. You may be able to see the birds with binoculars from behind the fence line but there again, you may miss out altogether. Penguins are only to be seen on shore after dark.
KI Penguin Centre, Kingscote Wharf, phone (08) 8553 3112. The local aquarium in Kingscote. Has giant cuttlefish, seahorses and little penguins. There are daily guided tours to see the local penguins. (tours start 7.30PM and 8.30PM in winter and 8.30PM and 9.30PM in summer) The tour includes the centre as well as some interesting explanations about the southern night sky.
Penneshaw Penguin Centre - Lloyd Collins Reserve, Penneshaw, phone (08) 8553 1465. Guided tour to see the penguins in Penneshaw. Tours start at 6.30PM and 7.30PM in winter, an hour later during daylight saving.
Australian Sea Lions on the Beach at Seal Bay
New Zealand Fur Seals. Hang out under Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park. Steps and cliff walks get you quite close to their habitat, and their antics should keep you amused for quite a while. Better value than Seal Bay.
Australian Sea Lions are at Seal Bay Conservation Park, . Daily 9AM-5PM except Christmas. Located in the south of the island, this park gives you the opportunity to see wild Australian sea lions resting on the beach before returning for feeding in the sea. You can take an unguided walk along the boardwalk and to the lookout at any time. The beach is only accessible with guided tours. Entry fee is $12.50/$8.00 for access to the boardwalk and lookout only, or $27.50/$16.50 including the beach tour as well. Discounts for students, seniors and groups.
Murrays Lagoon: Bald Hill walk and Timber Creek walk offer 1/2 an hour to an hour walks to see the birdlife of the lagoon.
American River: the rare glossy black cockatoo can be seen mainly at the north end of town on Scenic Drive, Ryberg Road and Falie Court. There is a bird hide behind the CFS Shed at the junction of Scenic Drive and Tangara Drive - water birds are common here.
Duck Lagoon best in winter when the lagoon is nice and full unless it has been really when in which case the birds are really dispersed across the island.
Reeves Point - this is part of a heritage park immediately north of Kingscote and includes opportunities for a range of shore-birds on the spit running off the point and the trees in the small park on the coastal flat below the hill often has a good selection of bush birds foraging.
Pelican Feeding occurs everyday at 5PM just behind the KI Marine Centre. It's a good place to hang out just before the Marine Centre opens. There is no charge but donations are appreciated.
If luck isn't going your way, and you don't want to leave the island without seeing the wildlife, try Parndana Wildlife Park. You'll be able to walk amongst the animals and have the kangaroos crowd around you while you feed them.
Remarkable Rocks, (in Flinders Chase National Park). True to their name, the rocks have remarkable formations. You can climb under them, over them and around them, and they really are interesting. The formation is around 500 metres (1,600 feet) from the carpark, and is wheelchair accessible. Don't let the kids run ahead, as the formation is on the edge of a lichen covered cliff, which gets steep deceptively quickly.(-36.049099,136.756439)edit
Kelly Hill Caves, (in Kelly Hill Conservation Park), . Open daily 10am to 5pm, tours depart. A nice set of caves. Probably nothing here of particular interest if you have visited limestone caves in the past.Taila-Dior(,136.868191)edit
Admirals Arch, (in Flinders Chase National Park). A dramatic natural rock arch. Views back to the Remarkable Rocks.edit
There are three lighthouses on KI, of which two are open for inspection (you can go to the top, and outside). The one that isn't open, unfortunately, is the one that has the original interiors left untouched. The two open ones have had the wooden steps replaced with modern steel and concrete. The tours of the lighthouses are included in the National Parks combined ticket.
Cape Willoughby is a half an hour drive from Penneshaw. You can walk around the lighthouse area for a small fee, or go to the top, and get a tour with the history of the site for a little more. They have a Chance Bros, Class 1 glass on display in one of rooms below. The area is exposed, and usually very windy. The open air view at the top is bracing.
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse is near Admirals Arch, at the end of the Cape du Couedic Road. You can just see it from the outside, and you certainly won't miss it when you are visiting the fur seals at Admirals Arch. A short walk from the lighrhouse you can see the remains of storerooms and a flying fox used to get stores up to the lighthouse - when they were delivered every three months.
Cape Borda Lighthouse also runs tours, but probably doesn't see as many visitors as Cape Willoughby, due to a more remote location. It is of a different shape and style to the other two.
Prospect Hill (also known as Mt Thisby) is on Hog Bay Road, at the narrow stretch of land that links the two halves of the island, about 20 minutes west of Penneshaw. Matthew Flinders first ascended the peak, and it will take about 10 minutes to climb if you are of reasonable fitness. Steps the whole way, and a 360 degree view from the top. Whilst you're here, don't miss Pennington Bay.
Muston Hill lookout is at the top of Muston Hill on the way into American River. There is a camera sign showing where to enter. Lovely views over American River, Pelican Lagoon, Strawbridge Point and to the mainland on a good day.
Reeves Point is the site of the first settlement in South Australia, just a 2 minute drive or 15 minute walk from downtown Kingscote. The lookout is nice, and there is a mulberry tree first planted as part of a farm here during early settlement. Other interpretive signs pointing out the history of the area, and where things were. You will need a good imagination to bring it back to life though. Nice view over Kingscote.
Bunker Hill Lookout, Flinders Chase National Park.
Swim. Spring and Autumn are too cold to swim on KI, and the swimming season is really just the summer school holidays. The best swimming beaches tend to be on the north side of the island, the south side offering less sand, and more waves crashing into cliffs.
Dive. The clear blue waters around Kangaroo Island make it one of the best spots for scuba diving in temperate waters.
Kangaroo Island Diving Safaris, 80 Grange Road Welland, SA, ☎ +61 8 8346 3422, . Kangaroo Island Diving Safaris runs Dive Charters out of Western River Cove. Diving with Seals and many other marine creatures including the famous Leafy Sea Dragon. Cost includes 2 Dives with tanks and weights and lite lunch onboard. Departing Western Rive Cove.$320. edit
Sand-boarding at Little Sahara off the South Coast Road. Sandboards and toboggans are available for rent from Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action, about 7km away on Jetty Rd, Vivonne Bay. Sandboards are $29 and toboggans are $39 for a full day hire, or grab them for a couple hours at $19 and $29, respectively. Thrills, spills and lots of fun for all ages. For bookings and enquiries on sandboarding, or if you would like to find out about the other great activities offered at Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action such as their awesome guided quad bike tours, (08) 8559 4296.
Cruising Kangaroo Island (Kayaking), Kangaroo Island (Mobile service), ☎ 0409096847, . Daily. Operates Kayak tours at sheltered locations around Kangaroo Island, no previous experience requiredFrom $50.00. edit
Walking. There are several walks where you can see Kangaroo Island's fantastic nature and landscapes, such as the Snake Lagoon Walk in Flinders Chase National Park where you walk along Rocky River until you arrive at the beach.edit
Souvenir shops can be found in Kingscote and Penneshaw. You can buy your supplies at supermarkets in those to centres too. Expect to pay more at small general stores selling food and drinks around the island. If you are going to camp in the remote parts of the island it is better to buy ahead since shops are rare and expensive (usually limited to camp sites and resorts selling a few things) especially in the west of the island.
As well as the ubiquitous wineries, there are a couple of produce places around the island.
Honey, at Clifford's Honey Farm. They have an interesting sparkling honey drink called Fresco. Go into their back room and see a hive and a DVD showing how honey is harvested. Stay in the shop area and buy lots of honey products and souvenirs. For 20c you can have a piece of chocolate covered honeycomb, which if you like chocolate covered honeycomb, may just be the highlight of your visit to the island. For 40c, you can have 2 pieces, and for just $2 you can have 10 pieces. It just doesn't get any better. Try the honey ice-cream as well. It doesn't taste like honey, but it is really creamy and sweet.
Eucalyptus Oil. At Emu Ridge Distillery. You can visit the shop - selling a wide range of Eucalyptus products. Do they really produce the lollies on site, or have they gone to the factory on the mainland and been shipped back to the shop? Who knows. They have a wallaby and a kangaroo which jump around in the shop, although the shop owner insists they are free to come and go as they please. They also sell feral cat skins for a few dollars, hunted locally. It is an environmentally friendly, albeit diminutive answer to the lion skin in front of the fireplace.
Oysters. At Kangaroo Island Shellfish on Tangara Drive, American River - just opposite the wharf. Fresh American River oysters available in season as well as a selection of other aquatic produce including (normally) marron and abalone.
Restaurants and cafes are limited to Penneshaw, Parndana, American River and Kingscote and some small cafes along the way on the south coast.
Ozone Seafront Hotel - phone (08)85532011 - offers a nice view on the local bay, serves seafood, local cheeses. Open daily from 7AM to late. Located in the centre of Kingscote.
Ulonga Lodge Cafe on Scenic Drive, American River. Pleasant cafe with lovely sea views open Wednesday - Sunday from 11am until late afternoon (maybe fewer days off season). Coffee, tea, lunchy type things. It's at the northern end of Scenic Drive.
The Penneshaw Hotel is country style pub, and gets busy serving food which is some of the best on the island. Has large TV screens in the front bar. It doesn't really maximise its location on top of the hill at Penneshaw, the place seems designed to stop you seeing the view. Nice views from the new patio though.
There are also pubs in Kingscote and Parndana, and you're welcome at the community club (aka The Shed) on Tangara Drive, American River on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
There are 28 vineyards throughout the island. Varieties grown are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
Wine tastings and cellar door sales are available at
Sunset Winery near Penneshaw,
Dudley Wines on the Cape Willoughby Road about 15Km from Penneshaw,
Chapman River Wines further along Cape Willoughby Road from Thursday to Sunday (the lunch platter is highly recommended!),
False Cape Wines at the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery,
Bay of Shoals Wines near Kingscote, and
Two Wheeler Creek Wines at the Andermel Marron Farm south west of Parndana.
Many of the local wines are on sale at the supermarkets, the pubs, and even the general stores like the one at Vivonne Bay.
Accommodation ranges from basic hostel rooms, B&B to motel style accommodation in Penneshaw and Kingscote. There is large range of rental home accommodation, catering to families. Camp sites are available as well.
You can stay in Lighthouse cottages at Cape Borda and Cape Willoughby.
There are council run campgrounds at Vivonne Bay and American River. Both these campgrounds have recently (2012) been refurbished and offer both powered and unpowered sites. There is also a campground at Browns Beach but only unpowered sites are available. Bush camping is not allowed and you may be asked to move on if discovered.
Southern Ocean Lodge (Southern Ocean Lodge), Hanson Bay, Kangaroo Island, ☎ +61 2 9918 4355, . A splurge destination! For very special occasions. Sits along the coastline with great views. Huge communal dining, drinking and relaxing area. There's a spa retreat.edit
Aquamarine, Collins Crescent, Baudin Beach (Located only 10 km West from the Penneshaw ferry terminal.), ☎ +61 8 8553 9007, . A spacious and private self contained cottage with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and all modern conveniences. It is located right next to a safe swimming beach and you can watch kangaroos and parrots from the back verandah. Price ranges from $140 to $240 per night for up to 7 people, with discounts for longer stays.edit
Central Backpackers - Murray St. phone +61 8 8553 2787 Clean hostel with a friendly atmosphere, only three minutes walk to penguin colony, beach and pelican feeding. Offers a communal kitchen and a communal lounge. Doubles are around 60 Australian Dollars, dorm rooms are available.
Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel - Chapman Terrace. Offers a wide range on available room types. Guestrooms start at 75 Dollars, Oceanview Units at $135, Suites and Apartments are around $155. See  for more details.
Kangaroo Island is a pretty safe place but care should be taken when driving around the island by car. Slow down (less than 80 km/h is advised) specifically around dusk and dawn but also during the night since wildlife is most active at this time. None of the car rental services cover damage caused by collision with animals so be extremely careful. Road conditions are good - about 20 percent of roads are sealed - though some tourist locations can only be reached on unsealed roads which are usually well graded. Unsealed roads are often made with an ironstone top which can making cars skid when turning or stopping at speed. Drivers inexperienced on unsealed roads should be extremely careful during wet conditions as traction in a standard two wheel drive vehicle is very poor. The island itself is approx 145km x 50km; allow plenty of time to travel to your destination.
Peninsula tiger snakes are common in parts. Particular in areas around Cape Willoughby - where some grassy areas are even closed to the public. Stick to paths if possible.
Kingscote: Internet access is available in the public library using either their terminals or their wi-fi network. In the Council building on Dauncey Street - only during business hours (free). There is also a terminal in the Aurora Ozone Hotel ($1 for 10 min); and wi-fi access at KI Photographic also on Dauncy Street.
Penneshaw: Both the Gateway Visitor Information Centre and post office have internet access.
Vivonne Bay: There is a small Internet cafe at Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action, located on Jetty Road, Vivonne Bay.
American River: Access is available via a terminal at the Post Office in Ryberg Road - business hours only.
Mobile phone coverage on the island is quite good as long as you have a Telstra Next G device. Limited GSM services are provided by Telstra, Three Mobile and Optus around the population centres of Kingscote and Penneshaw and the road between them. Telstra provides limited coverage in the regional areas. Vodafone has no coverage on the island.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!