A Day on Kangaroo Island

Just off the coast of South Australia is one of this country’s most beautiful natural playgrounds. Fewer than 5,000 people live on Kangaroo Island, but there’s an incredible array of wildlife across its 145-kilometre length. One of the best ways to explore all corners of the island, particularly if you’re on a tight deadline, is to hire a rental car from Penneshaw Wharf when you get off the ferry from Cape Jervis 

There’s so much to see and do on Kangaroo Island, you’ll want to get an early start and have a plan, so you don’t miss any of your must-visit places. 

Wildlife Encounters on Kangaroo Island 

At Seal Bay Conservation Park, an hour and 10 minutes’ drive from Penneshaw, you can find Australia’s third-largest colony of sea lions. There’s a 900-metre-long boardwalk from where you can watch them lazing on the beach, playing, or entering the ocean. If you want to get even closer, book the Seal Bay guided tour. Rangers will take you into the heart of the colony and tell you how these endangered animals hunt, surf, look after their pups and defend the place where they live. This is one nature experience you won’t forget. 

At the western end of the island, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is a 2,000 hectare privately owned conservancy that was ravaged during the 2020 bushfires. In a true testament to the resilience of the natural world, the population of native animals is growing again. Book a 90-minute tour to see koalas in the wild, kangaroos, perhaps an echidna, and many varieties of beautiful birds, including blue wrens, Cape Barren geese, and crimson rosellas. 

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari and get out on the water. There are two options: a 75-minute itinerary that follows the rugged coastline as you watch for pods of dolphins, seals, sea eagles and, from May to October, migrating whales; and an option to pull on a wetsuit and mask and go snorkelling, either with the wild dolphins or playful seals. 

Kangaroo Island’s Natural Beauty 

Within Flinders Chase National Park, at the western end of the island, are the aptly named Remarkable Rocks. Over the course of 500 million years, the wind, weather, and sea spray has shaped these granite boulders so that they look as though a giant has precariously balanced them high above the ocean. Orange lichen gives some of the rocks an extraordinary colour that changes throughout the day. 

Elsewhere in the national park, Cape du Couedic is home to the incredible Admirals Arch, another example of the power of the weather and ocean. Follow the boardwalk and look down towards the rocks, where you’ll see a large colony of long-nosed fur seals.  

Flinders Chase National Park also has several excellent short hikes, lasting from 30 minutes to three hours. Leave the rental car at the visitor centre and set out on the Platypus Waterholes trail. This two-hour hike edges the Black Swamp and Rocky River, where you can stop and quietly look for platypus. 

Admiral Arches

Beach lovers will want to stay on Kangaroo Island forever. They are pristine here and a couple have even been voted Australia’s best beaches. Leave the rental car in the car park and make your way through the caves to picture-perfect Stokes Bay. On the opposite side of the island and right near Seal Bay is Vivonne Bay, a six-kilometre-long white sand beach with some of the clearest water you’ll ever see. If it’s summer, you’ll easily find the perfect spot to wade in and cool off. 

Kangaroo Island’s Favourite Attractions 

At some point you’re going to get hungry. One of the most popular stops on a Kangaroo Island Road trip is the Oyster Farm Shop at American River. There are daily tours between April and February, but you could simply try some freshly shucked oysters or the aqua platter with its selection of the day’s best catch, which could include different types of oysters, abalone, wild marron, calamari, and King George whiting, all of it grown or caught sustainably.  

If you’re on the island between September and May, you might want to try the Rockpool Cafe. Overlooking Stokes Bay, it’s an unpretentious spot where you can get local seafood, salads, freshly baked pastries, and coffees. 

During summer, the fields of Emu Bay Lavender Farm turn purple with the flowers of 12 different types of the calming herb. The farm and cafe are open year-round and there’s always something – pruning, propagating, planting, or making lavender products – happening. Drop by for a morning or afternoon tea of lavender scones. 

A fun fact many people don’t know is that the only pure strain of Ligurian bees in the world lives on Kangaroo Island. At Clifford’s Honey Farm, you can tour the honey shed and learn about these buzzing creatures. At the farm-gate store, be sure to try some of the tasty treats and buy some of the pure honey to take home. 

To explore Kangaroo Island at your leisure, hire a rental car from Penneshaw when you arrive.