I went into my 5 day Kangaroo Island road trip last week armed with a stack of brochures I picked up somewhere between Adelaide Airport and Penneshaw.
I swear I don’t normally hoard pamphlets, but geez – there’s really not much information online about Kangaroo Island. I actually did try to do some research before my trip and kept coming up short. Travel bloggers, why aren’t you visiting Kangaroo Island? Or if you have, why do you only write about the same few highlights?
Nevermind now, ’cause I’ve got the remedy right here you guys. This travel blogger went to Kangaroo Island and saw and did SO MANY COOL THINGS – and I’m gonna tell you all about them so that you can visit and enjoy them too.
Kangaroo Island is an incredible little spot in Australia. It’s a place where pristine landscapes and native wildlife abound, though tourists not so much.
If you should ever find yourself on Australia’s third largest island, here are 20 things you must do here:
Eat All The Seafood
KI is renowned for its excellent seafood, so unless you’re some form of veggo you’d be nuts not to sample some of it.
- Whiting was my fish of choice, and you can find it in several forms across the island from whiting pizza at Dudley Wines, to fish and chips at the Chase Cafe, to the island-famous whiting burger at Vivonne Bay General Store.
- Oysters are plentiful across the island, but for the ultimate experience head to the Oyster Farm Shop. While not a restaurant, they do oyster tastings and offer takeaway oysters if you want to grab and go.
- Marron was new to me, but I soon learned that it’s a freshwater crayfish (aka not my thing). You can sample fresh marron at the Marron Cafe (and wash it down with some wine at the adjacent Two Wheeler Creek Wines afterwards).
Be aware that many restaurants aren’t open for dinner outside of summer season, so I’d recommend getting your seafood fix for lunch if your schedule permits.
View from Dudley Wines.
If you’ve spent any time in South Australia, then you already know that this region is all about wine. But what you may not know is that Kangaroo Island has in on the action. There are at least 10 wineries open for business across KI (hard to say exactly how many, as they are constantly opening new ones or transitioning wineries to full-fledged restaurants)… which is kind of a lot for an island that only takes about two hours to traverse by car.
Kangaroo Island, like the rest of the South Australian wineries, does Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon exceedingly well. Like, so well that we kept buying bottles at all the tastings to enjoy at our campsite in the evening, which basically means red wine was coursing through our veins all day long for 6 days straight. Many of the wineries had some interesting dry white wines as well (I’m not much into whites, so pardon the distinct lack of enthusiasm).
If you only have time for one or two wine stops, without question make them Dudley Wines (east coast) and Bay of Shoals (Kingscote). Both have sensational waterfront views framed by rolling hills. Dudley is ideal if you’re looking to have a nice lunch as well.
Koalas on Kangaroo Island.
Stay at Western KI Caravan Park
I’m not sure if I’ve ever enthusiastically recommended a stay at a caravan park, but hear me out!
We ran into a fellow traveler while wine tasting and he told us about this campground right outside of Flinders Chase National Park where koalas and kangaroos roamed freely around the property. That was enough to sell us on Western KI Caravan Park!
If you stay here, there’s a Koala Walk you can do that starts right by the reception building and winds through the bush. We passed enough roos and wallabies to last the whole trip and then some, but the koalas took a bit more effort to spot amongst the tree branches. I’m amazed that we managed to witness a mama koala scrambling up a tree with a baby on her back when these guys typically spend 22 hours a day sleeping!
There aren’t too many other places in Australia where you can go to see koalas in the wild, so for that reason alone it’s VERY worth staying at this caravan park. Unpowered sites are $30/night.
Gin tasting at Kangaroo Island Spirits.
Gin and Liqueur Tasting
Here’s something I bet you weren’t expecting to find on this list! I only knew about it beforehand because I’d already sampled KI’s amazing gin during Tasting Australia when I was in Adelaide earlier this year.
Kangaroo Island Spirits offers gin, vodka, and liqueur tastings at their boutique distillery. I loved their O Gin, mulberry gin, and lime & ginger liqueur – all so good you can enjoy them on the rocks. They’ll recommend you sample each spirit alone first, and then with a certain mixer added to it.
I can’t rave enough about how delicious everything was here. Even if you’re not that into gin or liqueurs, you should definitely stop and try a few anyway.
Cheese tasting at Kangaroo Island.
Where there are farms, there is cheese! And with all the cows and sheep we passed while driving around the island, I can assure you that Kangaroo Island is certainly not lacking in farms.
Island Pure Sheep Dairy produces cheese made from sheep’s milk, which they claim is healthier and tastier than cow’s milk (though my palette is not refined enough to agree or disagree with this!). You can stop in to pick up some gourmet cheese and local products, take a tour of the sheep dairy, or enjoy a cheese platter for lunch. Highly recommend the latter option – their cheeses totally hit the spot and filled us right up!
Watch The Sea Lions At Seal Bay
One of the best things you can do on Kangaroo Island is visit Seal Bay. Here you can view Australian Sea Lions up close in their natural habitat, lounging on the beach as they recover from several days at sea. Some of them like to waddle up to the sand dunes to take their rest, so the odds are good that you’ll spot one hiding underneath the boardwalk you’re standing on!
I loved watching the seals, but I was taken even more by the glorious beachy landscape at Seal Bay. Between the deep blue gradient through the sky and water and the swirl of green and white among the sand dunes, the whole scene was devastatingly picturesque.
It costs $16 to walk down the boardwalk to watch the seals, and $35 to take a 45-minute guided tour down a different boardwalk to the beach. The tour will get you closer to the sea lions, but you’ll be in a flock of tourists the whole time. You can learn more about these options here.
Tour the Kelly Hill Caves
We aren’t really cave people (then again, who is a “cave person”?), so we gave this one a miss. But!… these limestone caves looked pretty cool from the photos we saw, so if you enjoy caves you should check these out. A guided tour costs $18 and an Adventure Caving Tour costs $70. More info here.
Vivonne Bay beach.
Hit The Beach At Vivonne Bay
If you’re looking for the best beach on Kangaroo Island, Vivonne Bay is it.
Blinding white sand meets deep blue sea at this beach, but you might be equally impressed by the rocky coastline and the views from the jetty. I also enjoyed the contrast of the orange dirt road that runs along the bay here. Whichever way you look at it, Vivonne Bay is a stunner!
Hike to Hanson Bay
Unfortunately we didn’t have time for this, but one of the best day hikes you can do in South Australia is the trail from the Kelly Hill Caves to Hanson Bay and back. It’ll take you the better part of the day to cover the 18km, but the landscapes you venture through are meant to be incredible.
Note: This is also the segment from the last day of the newly-opened 5 day Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, which I hope to someday hike and hopefully add to this list.
Sandboarding At Little Sahara
Make your desert frolicking dreams come true at Little Sahara, an outcrop of sand dunes in the southern part of the island near Seal Bay. It’s free to go in and play in the sand, but you also have the option of renting a sandboard or toboggan to take out to the dunes.
Book A Quad Bike Tour
Unfortunately plans didn’t quite work out for me to try this one out, but next time I’d love to do a quad bike tour with Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action. Their tours get you onto trails you can only access by ATV. Or if you prefer your outdoor adventures without a shot of adrenaline, you can book a kayaking trip down the Harriet River.
Hanging out at the Remarkable Rocks.
Check Out The Remarkable Rocks
You absolutely can’t miss these aptly (though not so creatively) named rocks in Flinders Chase National Park! They’re similar to the orange-streaked rocks you’ll see on the east coast of Tasmania and no less gorgeous.
As you drive toward the Remarkable Rocks, you’ll glimpse what looks like dozens of oddly shaped rocks sitting on top of a massive boulder dropped onto the KI coastline. You can actually walk right up onto this boulder and wander around the rocks on your own. When we were there, it was absurdly windy – too windy to even use a tripod for photos. But you can still goof around and have your own photoshoot if you have someone to take the photos for you there.
The Remarkable Rocks are part of Flinders Chase National Park, so you’ll need to purchase a park pass to access it ($11 per person).
Visit Admirals Arch
Another iconic landmark in Flinders Chase National Park, the Admirals Arch is an impressive open cave inhabited by sea lions. Don’t miss it!
If I’m honest, I was even more captivated by the coastal views while walking down the boardwalk to get to the arch. Man, there is some seriously strong surf around these parts. Whenever I see massive waves, I can’t help but stare and watch them crash into anything and everything in their path. Magical, hey?
Admirals Arch is part of Flinders Chase National Park, so you’ll need to purchase a park pass to access it ($11 per person).
Tour Cape Borda Lighthouse
If a picturesque lighthouse and a cliff top walk sound like your jam, you’ll love Cape Borda. I’m bummed we didn’t make it out to the rugged west coast, but if you have a 4WD vehicle you should definitely brave the corrugated road to get there. Apparently you can sometimes spot whales and dolphins from atop the cliffs out here.
Cape Borda is part of Flinders Chase National Park, so you’ll need to purchase a park pass to access it ($11 per person).
Snake Lagoon hike in Flinders Chase NP.
Snake Lagoon Hike
Don’t let the name of this hike put you off – we didn’t see a single snake along the way!
In Flinders Chase National Park, you can drive to the trailhead and follow this trail to the coast and back. The signs say it’s a moderate 4km hike that takes 2.5 hours return, but we completed it in half of that time with a stop at the beach… so I’m thinking that estimate is geared more towards really slow walkers.
The Snake Lagoon hike is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a quick and mostly easy walk with varied (and beautiful!) scenery. You’ll pass through bush, walk along a creek lined with smooth brown rock that looks like something straight out of the Kimberley, and end up at a gorgeous beach with sand dunes.
Walk For Miles on Emu Bay Beach
Emu Bay hosts a glorious and lengthy stretch of white sand beach on the north coast of KI. I’m sure it’s stunning on a sunny day, but sadly we visited when it was cloudy so we weren’t overly impressed.
What I did love, though, was how smooth and widespread the sand was at Emu Bay. If it weren’t so windy, I’d have kept on walking!
Take A Penguin Tour
In Penneshaw, you can take a night tour along the waterfront to try to spot some little penguins coming onto shore to feed their chicks. I missed out on seeing these penguins when I was on Phillip Island earlier this year (darn you motion sickness!), so I was keen to have a go at it on Kangaroo Island.
Unlike on Phillip Island, you’re not guaranteed to see any penguins because there are only a handful that nest here. But if you do, I think it’s a lot more exciting. I mean think about it: would you rather watch hundreds of penguins flock to shore while sitting in bleachers with a bunch of other tourists, or head out into the night with a few other adventurers and watch a lone penguin making its way up the rocks to feed its babies that have been waiting all day in their nest?
Penguin tours cost $13 and run at 8:30 and 9:30pm during warmer months (earlier during winter), just look for the penguin tour signs along the Penneshaw waterfront.
Rock Hop to Stokes Bay
Stokes Bay is meant to be one of the best beaches on the north shore of the island, but unfortunately we never quite made it there because we arrived at high tide! You see, this beach is only accessible via a jaunt through some massive boulders. We had no problem with the rock scrambling, but once we reached the end of it we realized it was high tide and that we’d have to swim if we wanted to go any further. Even if we were camera-less, there was no way these two wusses were going to wade through freezing cold water.
The beach we parked at was pretty nice, though, so the trek wasn’t for nought!
Camping at Pennington Bay.
Camp at Pennington Bay
We found this gem of a campsite thanks to the WikiCamps app and ended up camping here for 2 out of our 5 nights on the island. Both times we had it all to ourselves and watched both sunset and sunrise over this south coast beach. Absolutely glorious!
I should probably mention that it’s not exactly allowed to camp outside of designated campsites and campgrounds on Kangaroo Island, but no one bothered us at Pennington Bay. We just parked our van in one of the parking lots and slept inside the vehicle, dozing off to the sound of waves and wind. There was even a toilet block nearby, which you know I needed after all the wine I drank most days.
Drive Out To Cape Willoughby
It’s slightly out of the way to get to this point on the far east coast of Kangaroo Island, but the dusty drive along dirt roads is well worth it to reach Cape Willoughby.
Here you can enjoy near-360 degree views of the coast and greenery, get close to the lighthouse, and stop in for a drink at Zest Cafe. When we visited it was exceptionally windy out here, so a warm jacket and hat would probably be helpful no matter the time of year.