Recently voted number 1 island in the Asia Pacific region by National Geographic Traveler magazine, this island offers even more than wilderness and wildlife with its mix of unusual ‘cottage’ industries that include a traditional eucalyptus distillery, a honey farm that exports queen bees around the world, a sheep dairy and marron (fresh water lobster) farms to mention a few.
This large island was discovered in 1802 by English explorer Matthew Flinders during his circumnavigation of Australia (then known as Terra Australis) and he originally thought it was part of the mainland. When he realized it was in fact an island he named it Kangaroo Island in honour of the abundant kangaroos, 34 of which he killed to supply meat for his crew.
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island at 95 miles long and 35 miles wide – more than three times larger than the Isle of Man. With a population of less than 4,500 permanent residents, mainly engaged in farming, fishing, or tourism, there is plenty of room left for untouched native vegetation and wildlife, much of it preserved in government controlled parks. In fact over one third of Kangaroo Island (in a typically Australian way the locals abbreviate it to KI) has been preserved for future generations in thirteen national and conservation parks, the two best known being Flinders Chase National Park and.Seal Bay Conservation Park. Separated from the mainland some 10,000 years ago the wildlife has been protected as a result of this isolation.
Introduced species such as foxes and rabbits that have had such heavy impact on native animals on the mainland have never reached KI and the poor soil limited the clearing of vegetation for farming until after World War 2 by which time the national parks had already been established. So the island is a nature lover’s paradise, rich in Australian native animals, some of them endangered species such as koalas and platypus introduced from the mainland in the 1930s because of the protected environment on KI.
Native animals on KI include kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, platypus, bandicoots, possums, goannas, bats, two types of snakes, seals, sealions, and more than 250 species of birds – all in their natural environment. Two of the special experiences on KI are guided walks on the beach amongst a breeding colony of rare and wild Australian Sealions, or amongst the Little Penguins as they come ashore in the evenings along the foreshore in Penneshaw and Kingscote..
Maritime history is significant on the island with more than 50 known ship wrecks in the surrounding waters, many in tragic circumstances and some of them accessible to divers. Three lighthouses were built in remote locations in the 19th century to reduce this toll on shipping and two of these lighthouses are available for guided tours. With a temperate mediterranean style climate of cool winters and warm summers KI is ideal for a holiday year round – just tailor your activities to the season – wildlife viewing is best in the winter and water based activities in the summer.
Because of the small population public transport on KI is extremely limited so visitors need to arrange their transport prior to arrival. There is a quite extensive network of roads around the island so self drive holidays are popular but many of the roads are unsealed requiring a degree of caution.
Access to the island is by air or by a combination of coach and ferry from Adelaide. The coach and ferry service is operated by Kangaroo Island SeaLink who also offer the widest range of options in their holiday program, all of which include hotel pick up and drop off at major Adelaide hotels as well as the option to fly.
Transfers from Adelaide by coach and ferry depart every morning and afternoon and take a scenic route through Adelaide’s southern suburbs, the edge of the McLaren Vale wine growing district, rolling hills and farmland, and along the coast before descending to the ferry terminal at Cape Jervis with views to Kangaroo Island. The coach journey takes a little more than 1.5 hours and the ferry crossing takes only 50 minutes in a large comfortable catamaran carrying 350 passengers and 55 cars. SeaLink’s holiday program includes self drive packages for those who the want the independence this offers. A minimum of 3 days2 nights is recommended for self drive and SeaLink packages offer a wide choice of accommodation ranging from cabins and holiday houses to hotels and B&Bs.
For those who don’t wish to drive themselves SeaLink offers a selection of coach tours, either as a day trip from Adelaide (not really enough time to do justice to an island of this size) or 2 day coach tours to suit every budget.
The 2 day Adventure tour suits budget and adventure travelers, staying in hostel dormitory accommodation with an option to upgrade accommodation to a double ensuite room at extra cost.
Kangaroo Island Coast to Coast is also a 2 day program and provides the most comprehensive coverage of the island possible in two days. Including all entry fees. guided walks, two course lunches and hotel or B&B accommodation.it is the best value KI package on the market.
At the top of the range are SeaLink’s personalized Platinum 2 day or Platinum Plus 3 day programs. On island travel on these tours is in a small group deluxe coach with 10 individual lambswool covered seats so everyone has a window. Meals are restaurant quality and served with KI wines and accommodation is in the 4 star KI Wilderness Retreat at the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park. Kangaroos, wallabies and possums often gather in the courtyard area here in the evening to welcome diners !
Kangaroo Island is recognized internationally for the wildlife experiences offered, complemented by spectacular coastal scenery, interesting ‘cottage’ industries, good food and wine, friendly Aussies and accommodation options that cater from camping to hostels, cottages, apartments, holiday houses, B&Bs and hotels from moderate to absolute deluxe standard. There is something for everyone on Kangaroo Island.