Kangaroo Island (KI) is a spectacular nature-based destination, featuring soaring cliffs, crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, sand dunes, rock formations, and 540 kilometres of raw and rugged coastline. As Australia’s third largest island, it is host to a bevy of locally produced food, wines, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes not found anywhere else in the world.
WORDS Cheryl Monkhouse
You could easily get lost for days on this island getaway, so we’ve put together a small sample of things to do and see on your first visit.
Flora and Fauna: Isolation from the mainland has enabled KI to remain a sanctuary for native wildlife, plants and trees, including endangered species. Popular island natives include unique kangaroos, called Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, that are smaller and darker with longer fur than their cousin, the Western Grey; Tammar wallabies (all but extinct on the mainland); koalas; Little penguins; possums; echidnas, and Ligurian bees, prized for their delicious honey, to name a few. The island is also home to an array of birds, including Boobook owls, Fairy wren, brightly coloured honeyeaters, and brilliant parrots.
Wildfire Regeneration and Wildlife: It’s been two years since KI was impacted by bushfires. As you traverse the island, you’ll notice its recovery, which is largely due to generous rainfall and focussed conservation efforts. The Western River Refuge was established after the bushfires and includes a 369-hectare, fenced, feral predator-free safe haven, which protects a suite of endemic and endangered wildlife.
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with some noisy KI neighbours, Seal Bay Conservation Park offers beautiful boardwalks navigating from the high cliffs to the sandy beach, giving you a front-row view of seals frolicking and snoozing in their natural habitat. Private guided tours take you onto the beach for an immersive and informative session about the playful pups, their territorial parents, and their unique breeding biology.
Natural Wonders: KI is home to numerous natural wonders, formed over time by the island’s intense weather. Flinders Chase National Park is a great place to spot several, including Remarkable Rocks, one of the Island’s signature landmarks. This 500-million-year-old natural sculpture, a product of the erosive force of wind and sea spray, is a picturesque place to watch the sun rise or set. A short distance away at Cape du Couedic is Admirals Arch, a spectacular natural rock arch formation that makes a gorgeous backdrop for photos. This area is home to nearly 7,000 New Zealand fur seals, which can be spotted swimming and sunning themselves on the rocks nearby.
Island Tipples: KI is part of the Fleurieu wine zone and produces more than a dozen award-winning wines. It’s one of Australia’s youngest wine regions and its cool climate plays an important role in moderating the ample sunshine, allowing for a long ripening season. Cellar doors abound on the island, showcasing the key grape varieties of the region, including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon.
In addition to cellar doors, several micro distilleries and breweries can be found throughout the island, featuring micro-brews, gin, vodka, and liqueurs infused with Ligurian honey, lavender, and other locally sourced essences.
Local Produce: KI produces food as it is meant to taste, with a keen eye on sustainability and ethical food production. Farms of sheep, cattle, and grain abound alongside kitchen garden crops, complemented by fresh-caught fish from the regional waters. The sea offers a bounty of seafood, including catches such as King George whiting, Tommy ruff, mullet, flathead, salmon, trout, squid, snook and blue crabs. Naturally, these are also skilfully prepared and dished up in the restaurants and pubs dotted across the island.
Surprisingly, given its relatively small size, KI is one of the largest organic honey producers in the country, producing more than 100 tonnes each year. It’s best known for Ligurian bees, which are exclusive to the island after first being introduced in 1881. These bees produce a pure honey prized for its hypoallergenic, moisturising, antiseptic, and potent antioxidant properties. KI Ligurian honey is used in everything, from hand lotion to local spirits, and is a key take-away from the island. Then there’s the cheese. And the olives. Let’s not forget Kangaroo Island sea salt. There’s a coffee roaster on the island, too. And more. No-one is going hungry here.
You won’t be short of things to do, see and taste on Kangaroo Island. Pristine beaches, local produce, and stunning landscapes make the island nature’s playground, firmly deserving a place on every epicurean traveller’s list.
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