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Kangaroo Island: An Overview

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An epic Australian adventure awaits, but not where you’d expect it. Just off the mainland of South Australia, Kangaroo Island is truly home to the wild things. Feed your untamed spirit with unrivaled opportunities to view rare and endangered wildlife, travel across rugged and pristine coastline, trek through historically deserted forest, and feast on some of the world’s best fresh foods as you discover the intensely varied terrain of this unique island.

Kangaroo Island in Australia is an incredibly special place that is still relatively new on the tourism map. Much of the landscape is still raw and the island is home to only a small population, making it an awesome destination to admire an expansive range of spectacular natural wonders without the crowds. It is such an impressive place that the only complaint from visitors is running out of time to experience all of its curiosities in one trip.

This guide details the best sites and activities on the island to get the most out of your Kangaroo Island tour.

KANGAROO ISLAND FACTS

Area 4,405 sq. km
Location South Australia, southwest of Adelaide
Best time to visit Mild temperatures in all seasons make it a great year-round destination. Summer (December through February) is the most popular time to enjoy the beaches, while winter (June through August) provides spectacular green scenery and abundant wildlife.
Main attractions Flinders Chase National Park, Seal Bay Conservation Park, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Stokes Beach, Kelly Hill Park & Caves, Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, Little Sahara, Clifford’s Honey Farm
Kangaroo island is home to native fur seals, kangaroos and wallabies.
Get up close to seals basking on the beaches of Kangaroo Island

Highlights

  • Walk alongside a colony of endangered Australian sea lions sunbathing in the sand
  • Scout kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and penguins in their natural habitats
  • Hike the famed Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail
  • Board down the sand dunes of Little Sahara
  • Taste some of the finest gourmet flavors in the world —  think pure-strain honey, farm-fresh sheep cheese, wild-caught seafood and crayfish, and fine oils
  • Remark at spectacular seaside boulders overlooking the crashing coastline 

Lowlights

  • Infrastructure for accessible and sustainable tourism is newly developing
  • Businesses are limited on the island and services can be costly. A round-trip ferry ride to access the island will set you back USD 75* alone.
  • The island is much bigger than many visitors are prepared for. Managing to experience all the great highlights here requires multiple days and efficient planning. 

Things to Do in Kangaroo Island

Hiking

Flinders Chase National Park is the most popular place to hike
Hiking in Flinders Chase National Park offers great coastal views and visit to iconic sites such as Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch

Home to numerous wilderness protection areas and over 23 different hikes, you can appreciate the incredible landscape, climb to spectacular vistas, and enjoy close encounters with wild animals. Flinders Chase National Park is the most popular site for hiking, offering widespread coastal views and iconic sites such as Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. Stay overnight at the historic lighthouse keepers’ cottage for a multi-day experience.

Ambitious adventurers can now wander into previously uncharted territories on the new Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. Opened in 2016, this 5-day 61 km trail has already gained a reputation as one of the world’s best new destinations. Hike through botanically rich forests, beside a rocky river, along the rugged coast, and through stunning gorges. Encounter koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidna, and platypus to name a few. It is also possible to visit some of the popular sites in Flinders Chase National Park with short detours.

Sandboarding

A must do activity in Kangaroo Island is sand boarding in Little Sahara
Little Sahara is a great place to enjoy the thrill of sandboarding in Kangaroo Island

A must do activity while you travel to Kangaroo Island is sandboarding in Little Sahara. Massive sand dunes cover this 2 square kilometer area, reaching heights of up to 70 meters above sea level. After you trek up the dunes with your board, catch one of the biggest thrill rides of your life sitting, lying, or standing as you launch down the hill. No matter how you have it, your adrenaline will be rushing and you’ll surely trek up for many more runs. Sand boards are available for rent from local merchants in the region.

Take a 2-day tour that includes all the highlights of Kangaroo Island, including sandboarding in Little Sahara. 

Kayaking

Float leisurely down the Harriet River watching for interesting birds and tree-climbing koalas along the way. The water is calm and perfect for exploration by beginner kayakers in single or double kayaks. You can go on a guided kayak tour or opt for self-guided kayaking. Advanced paddlers can enjoy a more challenging journey up-stream too.

Swimming

Vivianne Bay among other bays are perfect for swimming
The coast of Viviane Bay is an ideal place to swim in the ocean.

A favorite Kangaroo Island retreat is to the crystal clear waters of Stokes Bay. On warmer days, this cove’s calm waters, protected by the rocky shoreline, offers delicious swimming opportunities. As you look back to the coast, kangaroos and penguin colonies can be spotted hanging out at the beach too.

Other areas excellent for swimming include Emu Bay, Hanson Bay and Vivonne Bay. While largely considered safe for swimmers, do be cautious of potential undertows, riptides, and sharks.

Caving

A unique attraction to visit on your Kangaroo Island trip is the Kelly Hill Conservation Park. As one of the only dry cave systems in Australia, you’ll get the chance to walk through this interesting cave system noticing stalactite, stalagmite, shawl, and helictite formations along the way. Thrill-seekers should take a guided tour to crawl and squeeze through the underground maze.

ATV touring

Take your island tour to the next level with a little wind in your face. Quad-biking to some of the remote areas on the island is an adventure you don’t want to miss. You’ll be able to visit grasslands, native bush, and coastal areas that are otherwise inaccessible to visitors. Of course, wildlife viewing opportunities will be abundant too as you venture off the beaten path. ATV touring is suitable for ages 10 and above.

Wildlife Viewing

Fairy penguins, smallest penguins on earth can be found in Australia
Fairy penguins, the smallest species of penguins can be found on Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo island has a lot of wildlife including herds of sea lions
Sea lions like to bask on the sandy beaches of the island

No matter what activities you plan while on Kangaroo Island, you are sure to encounter a wide range of wildlife. While many animals, such as kangaroos and wallabies, are abundant throughout the landscape, some viewing opportunities require some venturing. Definitely visit Seal Bay Conservation Park to witness the spectacle of wild Australian sea lions surfing the water and basking in the sand. Fur seals can be seen in Flinders Chase National Park. If you’re lucky, little penguins (fairy penguins) can be spotted near Kingscote and Emu Bay.

This tour takes you through Kangaroo Island's main highlights including a fur seal colony in Cape du Couedic.

Good to Know

The Remarkable Rocks got their form after millions of years
Remarkable Rocks, shown here, are located in Flinders Chase National Park.
  • It is possible to take a car over to the island on the ferry, making exploration much easier. A car rental company is also available on the island. Be cautious on more remote roads, which are usually unsealed.
  • The island hosts a number of events throughout the year, including farmers markets, local food pop-up dinners, concerts, and art festivals.
  • Kangaroo island boasts a number of fine wineries, a distillery, and a brewery for enjoying adult libations.
  • A range of accommodation is available, including primitive camping, budget hotels, and world-class resorts.

After considering all the delights Kangaroo Island has to offer, it’s easy to make this destination your primary stop in Australia. You’ll be challenged to find such unspoiled wildlife habitats and pristine landscape anywhere else. So plan your trip now and discover why Kangaroo Island is set to become the world’s next top destination.

*Prices listed are as per 2017. 

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