Watching the rolling hills, pristine white sand beach, and turquoise waters inch closer and closer, our excitement grew. When we saw a pod of dolphins cruising along the shoreline, our excitement grew even more. What a welcome to Kangaroo Island! We were to spend the next two weeks exploring all this island had to offer. After a trip on what’s considered the world’s most expensive ferry for the distance you travel, we figured two weeks would more than make up for that.
As soon as we got off the ferry we made our way north. Someone who used to do bus tours on the island recommended Stokes Bay, in the central part of the northern coastline of the island, as an ideal camping spot. Stokes Bay is most known for its secret beach. Huh?! Yep, a very well sign-posted, “secret” beach that numerous tour buses pull up to throughout the day. The secret comes from the hidden entrance through a narrow gap in the rocks to reach it. On the one side, you have a rocky beach that doesn’t look all too inviting, but once you get through the rocks to the other side, instant paradise awaits: crystal clear blue waters, white sand, a small rock pool protected from the surf in which you can swim.
The campsite itself isn’t much, really just a patch of dirt behind a cafe, but the beach more than makes up for that. Also, the northern side of the island is the least frequently visited side of the island, so except for a few tour buses of people coming to take a photo or two on the beach then heading off again, chances are you’ll be only one of a few people on the beach. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach and the pure relaxation that came with it. We also got more familiar with the locals, i.e, the Tamar wallabies, a miniature version of the mainland species.
The next couple of days we explored the northern end of the island, east to west. The northeastern corner of the island has a large expanse of driveable white sand beach at Emu Bay, but not wanting to have to do a thorough clean to the car afterwards, we chose to walk instead.
Once that was done, we continued on to Kingscote, the main town of Kangaroo Island. For us it didn’t have much except expensive fuel and required supplies, so once we had gotten that, we visited some of the local wineries and Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS). KIS is the first gin distillery in Australia and well worth a visit if you like or (as we do) at least appreciate gin. They have several types you can try for free and offer cocktails you can enjoy in the garden. The northwestern corner is most known for the Cape Borda lighthouse, which was unfortunately shut when we arrived, as well as having one of the worst roads we’ve ever driven on to get to it. Oh my, the corrugations! Bone-rattling corrugations that felt like they would never end, and I swear I could feel the rattle for the rest of the day. Being quite disappointed that we had travelled on that terrible road just to arrive at a shut lighthouse, we grudgingly started to make our way back when we saw a turnoff for a lookout, Scott Cove Lookout. The dramatic cliffside eased our frustration of the state of the road, and we had a very enjoyable lunch sitting on the tailgate looking out over that view.
In the afternoon, we walked the Ravine Des Casoars, which isn’t much of a scenic walk in itself but it leads to some fascinating caves that are only reachable at low tide.
On the way back, we also made a stop at King George beach for a snorkel, where we saw a fair few fish, such as zebra fish, leatherjackets, and even a southern eagle ray. At the end of each day, we couldn’t resist the draw to head back to Stokes Beach to while away the rest of the afternoon; it just has that something special.
From Stokes Bay, we headed to the southwestern corner into the only national park of the island, Flinders Chase National Park. Flinders Chase is mainly known for the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, as well as the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, a 5-day walk that covers a majority of the park from bushland to coastal landscapes. Not being setup for a 5-day walk, we hoped to simply complete a section of the trail as an overnight hike, but we were sternly informed by the information centre that the walk is one way ONLY (but what if we walked backwards the next day?) So that idea being scratched, we opted to stay in Rocky River campground, an idyllic car park being the best way to describe it. Nevertheless, it was a convenient base to explore the best of the park. Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, being popular tourist destinations, are best visited either early morning or late afternoon. We opted for late afternoon, pulling in just as the last tourist bus was leaving…perfect.
Admirals Arch is a great spot to see New Zealand fur seals, as well as being an ideal location to watch the sunset.
We also spent a day traveling out to West Bay, a rough road (again with the corrugations!) leading to a rough but beautiful secluded beach with a campground steps away. As we arrived, someone was leaving and suggested that while the surf was too rough to swim, there was a rock pool to the left of the beach that offered a protected spot to cool off. Just what we were looking for on a 30+ degree Celsius day. Closer to our campground is the Platypus Pools walk which leads you to, you guessed it, pools that are a known habitat for the peculiar-looking Platypus. We tried twice to witness these elusive creatures, getting up well before the sun did to make it to the pools by dawn but, alas, no luck. Guess it’s a good excuse to come back one day!
Our next destination was south, based at Vivonne Bay. Vivonne Bay was once rated as Australia’s best beach, but we had heard that it was a tad overrated. Having already seen several of the postcard-perfect beaches that the island had to offer, we couldn’t help but agree. Again, it was convenience that mainly brought us to that campground; from there we were in easy reach of many of the island’s other popular destinations, including Seal Bay and Kelly Caves. Seal Bay has the third largest colony of Australian fur seals. You have the choice of either the boardwalk self-guided tour or a guided tour onto the beach. We opted for the self-guided tour and were lucky enough to have a couple seals sunning themselves along the boardwalk for easy viewing. How thoughtful of them!
From Seal Bay we stopped into Kelly Caves and, having missed out on the adventure caving in Naracoorte caves, we decided to have a go here. We were able to see so much that is not available on the general tour as we went 28m below the surface, climbed up and down rocky scrambles, crawled through tunnels so small that we couldn’t even lift our heads to look up…we had a blast! From our tour guide there we were recommended to go to the Raptor Domain, a sanctuary for birds, reptiles, and venomous creatures…of which Australia has more than a few! Raptor Domain hadn’t been on our itinerary but that’s the beauty of travelling, getting tips from locals on where to go. We went to the In-Flight birds of prey display and really enjoyed seeing and interacting with various birds, as well as the show being so educational from an environmental sense.
Our last stop in the south was Little Sahara Desert, a long stretch of sand dunes along the southern coastline. It’s privately owned, so you have to sign a waiver just to walk on them, and tours are available at a decent cost. We opted to hire a sand board between the two of us, mainly because we knew neither of us had the energy to go down and back up those dunes for an hour on our own! It was a fun, active way to spend our last morning on the southern coast, and gave us some good entertainment, like this stack!
Our last stop for our time in Kangaroo Island was the Dudley Peninsula, particularly Lashmar Conservation Park. We have become involved with volunteering for National Parks South Australia (something we will write about in a later post), and for Kangaroo Island we were placed at Lashmar CP. Dudley Peninsula is commonly regarded as an underrated section of KI; it has amazing beaches, rocky outcrops that are great for fishing and snorkelling, and some remarkable lookouts. It was a perfect, laidback spot to finish up our KI visit. We visited the Cape Willoughby lighthouse, South Australia’s first lighthouse, to learn some of the history of the area, on a day where there was nearly 40 knot winds and we felt that we may possibly be blown off the side of the cliff. We returned on another, much calmer day at sunset to take some shots of the lighthouse looking back.
We also spent a bit of time enjoying the view at Dudley Wines, one of the most popular and scenic wineries on the island. Enjoy the cab sav out on the balcony or hit a few golf balls across the gully.
On our last day, we took a cruise with KI Ocean Safari to snorkel with dolphins and seals. For the dolphins, you hang on to a mermaid line (aka a rope) attached to the boat and get gently dragged through the water as the dolphins swim past. For the seals, you are plopped into the ocean and left to your own devices. The seals are naturally curious and enjoy swimming up and around you, probably wondering what sort of odd, lumbering creature you are, before darting off at incredible speeds. It was the highlight of our lap so far and the cherry on top of a magical couple of weeks.
The next day on the ferry was met with mixed emotion: sadness at leaving this beautiful place, and excitement as to what was to come next!