With its raw and rugged coastline, unbelievably clear waters, natural wonders and wildlife, Kangaroo Island is known as nature’s playground. If breathtaking scenery and natural beauty isn’t enough the dining scene on Kangaroo Island is local, seasonal, boutique, artisan and always close to its source and the perfect place to start your gastronomic journey. Here's seven reasons to visit...
1. For the wildlife without fences
Kangaroo Island is a wildlife paradise, a kind of Noah’s Ark for Australia’s unique flora and fauna. More than a third of the island’s landmass is reserved for wildlife conservation areas and national parks. Hike any trail here and chances are you’ll simply stumble upon a kangaroo or an echidna or a koala.
You’ll find kangaroos pretty much everywhere. Koalas can be seen dozing in trees but head to Hansons Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for guaranteed sightings. You’ll spot short-beaked echidnas scurrying across bush paths and Tammar wallabies hopping through the scrub. New Zealand fur seals gather near Admirals Arch, and Australian sea lions at Seal Bay. The sooty dunnart, might prove a little more difficult to spot. This tiny, mouse-sized marsupial, is unique to the island and only comes out at night.
The best thing about the wildlife of Kangaroo Island, however, is that you’ll see them all as they were meant to be seen. In the wild.
2. For the unspoilt beaches
With over 500km of coastline and 50 distinct beaches there’s a little patch of untouched sun and sand for everyone on Kangaroo Island.
Vivonne Bay on the south coast was once named Australia’s best beach. This crescent of white sand lapped by turquoise waters will take your breath away. Stokes Bay takes a little getting to – you’ll need to weave your way through a little labyrinth of caves – but you’ll be rewarded with some of the whitest sand and clearest water in Australia. Hansons Bay is the best beach for surfing, renowned for its epic swell. And Emu Bay was recently rated as one of Australia’s best beaches by Tourism Australia.
If spectacular sunsets are your thing, head to Snellings Beach where the sun slips below the cliffs and the white sand turns golden. It’s also home to a pod of friendly dolphins. If you’re lucky you'll see them silhouetted against the setting sun. If you don’t mind sharing your beach, the white sands at Seal Bay is home to Australia’s largest colony of sea lions. You’ll see them sunning on the beach or playing in the crystal-clear water.
For solitude, you can’t beat Western River Cove. Don’t be surprised if you get the whole beach to yourself.
3. To admire the dramatic landscapes
Separated from the Australian mainland by rising waters 10,000 years ago, Kangaroo Island has been shaped and transformed by the elements into one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Australia. The aptly named Remarkable Rocks is a great example. These otherworldly granite boulders sit beside the Southern Sea in the heart of the Flinders Chase National Park, looking like modern sculptures created by Henry Moore or Salvador Dali. Pounded by the wind, rain and sea for millennia they have been carved into extraordinary shapes that glow with the rising and setting sun.
Just a little further along the coast you’ll find Admiral’s Arch. Here the elements have carved out a natural arch, leaving a fringe of stalactites to frame the spectacular view out to sea. The shallow rockpools here are a favourite of the long-nose fur seals, dolphins and whales.
Just a 10 minute drive from Vivonne Bay you’ll come across the Little Sahara Desert. These wind sculptured sand dunes are some 70 metres high, drifting towards the ocean. They stretch for two kilometres and are a popular spot for sandboarding and tobogganing.
4. To get hands-on with conservation
Conservation is a part of everyday life on Kangaroo Island and as a visitor, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. At Cygnet Park you can help with the ground-breaking habitat restoration programme turning former farming pastures back into diverse bushland. The team from Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures are always looking for people to help them with their ‘dolphin watch’ programme, a visual recognition system used to track dolphin movement between pods.
At the Seal Bay Conservation Park, a new research tour take you behind the scenes, giving you exclusive access to the research that is currently underway to help monitor the Australian sea lion. Learn methods of scanning sea lions and collect valuable data to enter into a scientific app that sends vital information straight to the South Australian Research & Development Institute (SARDI).
5. To sample the incredible local produce
Kangaroo Island is a foodie paradise offering fine dining spots that match the incredible local produce. It is artisanal, it is seasonal and it is always close to the source. In many ways it is the distillation of all that is great about Australian food and wine.
A great place to start your gastronomical adventure on the island is Sunset Food and Wine. This modern bistro-style restaurant specialises in matching local seafood with locally produced wine. The American River's Oyster Farm Shop is the place to go for super-fresh oysters, marron, abalone and King George whiting. In the evening, try Gastronomo the Enchanted Fig Tree. Here you’ll dine on gourmet food under the entangled limbs of a 150-year-old fig tree, covered in twinkling fairy lights.
You’ll want to sample the local wines, of course. The Dudley Wines Cellar Door offers great wine and spectacular coastal views. The Islander Estate’s intimate Cellar Door offers personalised tasting experiences of Jacques Lurton’s unique, elegant, and cool climate wines. Or if you prefer cocktails and world class spirits, try the local award-winning gins at KI Spirits. They use native coastal daisy to impart sweet, piney notes to their O Gin and offer visitors the opportunity to make their own.
Overwhelmed by the choice? Local operators offer one-day ‘food safaris’, sampling the best the island has to offer.
6. For the birdwatching
In Australia, twitchers are called ‘birdos’ and they’ll happily tell you that Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to watch birds in Australia. It’s not just the island’s compact size and incredible variety of habitats. It’s the fact that the island is home to over 250 species of birds, 17 of which are sub species unique to the island.
Its most famous avian resident is the endangered king island glossy black cockatoo. In 2017, this sub-species had recovered from 158 birds to 370, but they still top every self-respecting birdo’s bucket list. You’ll find them feeding in the she-oaks and sugar gums in the north and west of the island. You’ll also spot other cockatoos and parrots as well as honeyeaters and other popular bush birds here as well.
The south coast and Flinders Chase is the place to go for brush bronzewing, beautiful firetail, painted button-quail and tawny-crowned honeyeater. And the Bay of Shoals Sanctuary Zone is a great place to spot osprey and white bellied sea eagles as well as an abundance of migratory seabirds.
You could take your chances seeking out the furtive southern emu wren, white-bellied whipbird and shy heathwren yourself. Or engage the services of one of the knowledgeable local birdwatching guides.
7. To glamp under a million stars
One Kangaroo Island perches right on beautiful Brown Beach. It is arguably the best private luxury beachfront accommodation and has been featured in design magazines around the world. Ecopia Retreat sits right in the middle of the island and is surrounded by 60 hectares of natural wilderness. Designed to be using 100% pure Kangaroo Island rainwater and an off-grid solar energy system, the retreat offers eco-friendly luxury and front row seats to the untouched bushland and native animals that roam here. Indulge in the best quality, style, and comfort Emu Bay, and in fact Kangaroo Island has to offer at Dune House which commands the best absolute beach front position on Kangaroo Island. Nestled on the crest of a protected sand dune, with a natural bush setting, overlooking the length of pristine, North facing Emu Bay.
Glamping, camping and caravanning has become increasingly popular on the island too. It’s a more affordable option, of course, but the views, the surroundings and the connection with nature are priceless. Especially at night, under a blanket of stars that seem close enough to touch.
Make it happen
Fly to Adelaide with Qatar Airways, named World’s Best Airline at the 2022 Skytrax Awards. Stretch out in comfort, onboard one of the youngest fleets. While you dine, sleep or watch some of the 4,000-plus entertainment options, you’re sure to enjoy the inflight experience.
A 12-night holiday to Australia with Trailfinders including flights, 2 nights Adelaide, 10 nights motorhome hire and return ferry transfers to Kangaroo Island costs from £2,399 per person (based on two sharing). Call Trailfinders on 020 7368 1354.