The wild side of Kangaroo Island

For an island that takes only a few hours to drive coast-to-coast, good things sure do come in small packages. Kangaroo Island has it all.

When I’m asked, “What is your favourite place in the world?” I reply without hesitation, “Kangaroo Island”. No matter how far or wide I travel, my heart is always drawn back to my own doorstep.

Each time I return to Kangaroo Island, I visit old favourites and make new discoveries. The island is brimming with talented local producers. You’ll find lavender farmers crafting sustainable floral-based body and food products, beekeepers preserving the oldest purebred Ligurian bee population in the world, and wine, beer and spirit makers nestled among rolling hills and wild gardens.

I revisit Flinders Chase National Park, marvelling at the resilience of nature in the wake of the recent bushfires, as trees regain their bright green leaves and wildlife slowly returns to its habitat.

I explore new areas of the island, donning my walking shoes for hikes in the hopes of spying an echidna on the trail or the delightfully playful sky-blue fairywren fluttering about in the trees.

Kangaroo Island’s heart and soul is its abundance of wildlife and striking natural experiences. You can travel year-round and see the island’s different personalities. There’s not one best time to visit – the best time is always now.

Natural wanders

More than a third of the island is dedicated to wildlife conservation and national parks. The most well-known park is the vast Flinders Chase National Park, which covers much of the western side of Kangaroo Island. Despite 96 per cent of the park being impacted by the devastating bushfires, the area is recovering, and it’s encouraging to witness nature prevailing.

Admirals Arch with people looking at seals
Watch the seals play from the Admiral’s Arch boardwalks. Image: SATC/Adam Bruzzone

The most famous landmarks within the national park are the natural rock formations. Wheelchair and pram-accessible boardwalks meander over windswept native flora, allowing visitors to get close to the aptly named Remarkable Rocks.

For those feeling sure-footed, you can climb to see the geology up close. Another favourite, Admirals Arch, is just a short drive away. Year-round you’ll see colonies of sea lions and seals playing in the crashing waves, perfectly framed by the eroded limestone arch.

For those who desire to be enveloped by nature firsthand, walks of various lengths and difficulties are a beloved pastime on the island. Some trails remain closed post-bushfire, but there are plenty open for adventurous souls to explore.

Plant lovers should try the Beyeria Walk, a short drive from Kingscote. This is a pleasant 30-minute round-trip, surrounded by many plant species endemic to the island. As you leisurely stroll along, be on the lookout for brown tree frogs after it’s rained.

The 4km and moderately difficult Fish Cannery Walk is your chance to spot bumbling echidnas cross your path and hear-them-before-you-see-them glossy black cockatoos as they feed.

For the experienced hiker, you can’t miss the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, one of Australia’s great walks. Taking an average of five days to complete and stretching 61km, a modified trail hosted by licensed tour operators has reopened after the fires.

Wild life

From feathered to furry to flippered, Kangaroo Island is teeming with an abundance of native Australian wildlife. Simply driving or hiking around the island, you’ll encounter creatures at every turn. You can also visit sanctuaries and local traders to experience these critters up close.

Start the day by getting suited up and heading out to the hives for your chance to be a beekeeper for a day at family-run Kangaroo Island Living Honey. Learn about the crucial role bees play in our ecosystem and the extraction process for honey, pollen and propolis. Top off the two-hour experience with a delicious honey tasting.

When you’re ready to get your feet wet, jump overboard and see the ocean from a new perspective. You’ll see wildlife galore on a Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari, and with provided wetsuits and snorkelling gear, you’ll be swimming among dolphins and seals as they frolic in the water.

If you’d rather keep your feet dry, there are plenty of animal interactions from the boat – this is a treat the whole family can enjoy.

Two people on quad bikes on a dirt road
Get up close and personal with wildlife on a KI Outdoor Action tour. Image: SATC/Jonathan van der Knaap

Thrill seekers will be revving their engines on a KI Outdoor Action Sunset Quad Bike Safari, whose range of trails can accommodate everyone from beginners to advanced riders. Riding along native bush trails and across open grasslands normally inaccessible to visitors, you’re guaranteed to see Kangaroo Island’s namesake in their natural environment.

Don’t forget – be careful when driving on dirt and sealed roads, especially at dusk and dawn. Kangaroos, wallabies, possums and many more incredible creatures come out at night – this is their time to take over the island. They can be active at other times as well, so always be on the lookout.

Feat among the flora

You’ll experience world-class wining and dining on Kangaroo Island, from rustic country fare to degustations using local produce.

Try dining within the encompassing embrace of a majestic fig tree. You can visit Gastronomo’s wilderness dining experience, The Enchanted Fig Tree, open seasonally from November until April. Stunning table settings are nestled amongst the 120 year old tree and a delicious menu awaits.

Couple dine under the branches of a fig tree.
A sumptuous experience awaits at Gastronomo The Enchanted Fig Tree. Image: SATC/Andre Castellucci

For spectacular views, you can’t go past Dudley Wines in Penneshaw. Sip your tastings while gazing across the rolling green hills in front of Backstairs Passage and the backdrop of commanding cliff faces on mainland SA. You can even try your hand at a spot of golf – tee off down the cliff top while you’re there!

On the shore, visit The Rockpool Cafe for the coffee and stay for lunch. Nestled by a sandy beach, you’ll enjoy your beachside meal then, after waiting half an
hour, go for a swim in the clear waters at iconic Stokes Bay.

Mother Nature at your door

After spending your day out in the wild, you can continue the experience when you return to your home away from home.

For true opulence, treat yourself to a stay at the newly rebuilt and soon-to-reopen Southern Ocean Lodge. While the original was razed during the bushfires, SOL 2.0 has been given a unique opportunity to improve upon its already award-winning hospitality. Each of the 25 luxurious guest suites has been oriented to offer even more breathtaking views of the ocean and coastal landscape.

Stay at a Kangaroo Island CABN retreat. Image: SATC/CABN

Staying at Kangaroo Island CABN retreat, you’ll have no need for your mobile phone. A truly off-grid experience, it’ll be just you, the waves and the wilderness. During your fully contained stay, you can watch the resident kangaroos emerge at golden hour, relax in your private sauna and, when it’s time to retire for the evening, see the stars through the skylight positioned above your bed.

If a rustic, homely flavour is more your style, stay at The Fig Tree B&B, not far from the ferry terminal at Penneshaw. Locally sourced, seasonal meals are prepared just for you, and, as you’ll be sleeping a mere 400m from the beach, you’ll fall asleep to the relaxing sound of the rolling ocean.

There are also free and inexpensive camping options on the island, including campgrounds at Western River and Browns Beach. Wake up with the sun and spend lazy days exploring before setting up a tent, or parking your campervan at the next exquisite spot.

Wherever you choose to rest your head, you can be sure the island’s natural wonders won’t be far away.