If you’re figuring what to do in Kangaroo Island and how to get around, you’re in the right place! This article will provide all the information you need for planning a trip to Kangaroo Island.
The closest island to Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is the third largest island off the coast of mainland Australia. Only about 4500 people live on this island. More than one-third of Kangaroo Island is dedicated to parks and wilderness protection areas. The island is also surrounded by marine parks that protect the oceans. Think bushland, sand dunes, cliffs and beaches.
Upon disembarking from Penneshaw, we were so excited to get roving! Seeing the perfectly arched crescent-shaped beach that wrapped the shore of the clearest blue waters, it was hard not to feel psyched.
Most of the rental car pick up points were not more than a few minutes walk from the ferry drop-off, so we very quickly picked up our fairly new car and equipped with the brief knowledge that the car hire receptionist shared of the island, off we went!
What we first noticed on the roads of Kangaroo Islands was how nicely paved and void of cars the roads were. It reminded me of the times we were road tripping in New Zealand, passing vast plots of farmland with animals grazing and random bales of hay.
We passed a section of the road with trees flanked on either sides, its crooked branches towering above us, casting strong, spider web shadows upon us. This is turning out into one of the best road trips we’re taking in Australia.
- Fun things to do in Kangaroo Island on your Australia road trip
- 1. Seal Bay Visitor Centre (optional)
- 2. Little Sahara
- 3. Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action (optional)
- 4. Vivonne Bay (Harriet River)
- 5. Kelly Hill Caves (optional)
- 6. Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary & Cafe (optional)
- 7. Flinders Chase National Park
- 8. Remarkable Rocks
- 9. Admirals Arch
- 10. KI Wildlife Park at Parndana
- 11. Kingscote
- 12. Emu Bay Lavender Farm
- 13. Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery
- 14. Clifford Honey Farm
- Where to stay in Kangaroo Island, Australia
- How to get to Kangaroo Island, Australia
- How to get around Kangaroo Island
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Fun things to do in Kangaroo Island on your Australia road trip
This is our 2D1N itinerary driving around Kangaroo Island. Feel free to reference the points as you plan your journey. If you look at the map, it is quite easy to plan a round trip around the island.
Our first stop, as recommended by so many websites and our car hire receptionist, was Seal Bay Visitor Centre. We popped into the store and entrance to learn more about what the centre offers. You can either pay for a self-guided walk down the beach through a boardwalk where the seals lounge, or opt for a guided one where you will be granted access to the beach to be closer to the seals.
Preferring watching seals from a natural habitat, we moved on, giving the seals here a miss. We had other attractions in store for us that fine day. On hindsight, this is a stop we could have easily skipped because we found an abundance of seals in their natural habitat in a more impressive location. More on that later.
2. Little Sahara
If you follow the main route, it will naturally lead you to Little Sahara. As the name suggests, it’s an area of undulating sandy curves. Unlike real sand dunes, this sahara stretches for only a couple of kilometres from the sea. You can rent a sandbar or toboggan for $27 for 2 hours.
3. Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action (optional)
Passing by Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action, adventure pursuers will want to stop here to get some action into your trip. You can rent quad bike and kayaks here.
Single Kayak: $47; Double kayak $77 9am-4pm
4. Vivonne Bay (Harriet River)
This is by far one of my favourite photo spots discovered, and it’s not hard to see why it is often plastered in postcards.
Don’t just stop at Vivonne Bay; head to the far end towards Point Ellen for a picturesque shot of the long jetty with the waters for a shot with a subject.
The waters here are extremely, extremely clear and turquoise in colour. You can see the swaths of seaweed, and the little fishes swimming ever so jauntily. The whole sight was so beautiful, it makes me want to join them in the water!
5. Kelly Hill Caves (optional)
This is one of the few dry limestone caves in Australia. It would be interesting to catch if you have spare time, although we’ve seen some more impressive limestone caves around Asia and New Zealand.
$20 for a 40 minute guided tour 10:15am-4:30pm
6. Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary & Cafe (optional)
Here’s where you want to pay a visit if you want to catch the wild animals in action. We gave this a miss as we thought it’s geared more towards family travellers. Besides, we had a golden opportunity to spot koalas in its wild habitat where we stayed! Watching them in their element was a whole different experience from observing them from enclosures – the challenge from trying to find them through their camouflaged furs made watching these koalas in the wild all the more precious. More on that when I share about where we stayed below. 🙂
Self-guided Koala Walk: $10/pax Guided 45 min Koala tour: $20/pax 9am-5pm
What I consider their selling point is their nocturnal tour, which allows you to catch animals you would otherwise not be able to see on your own in the wild here.
Nocturnal Tour: $40/pax, 5:30pm
7. Flinders Chase National Park
At the far western point of Kangaroo Island sits Flinders Chase National Park, where we will spend the remaining of our evening and come to rest for the day. There are plenty of walks you can do within the national park, ranging from 200m to over 61km over a 5-day trail. There are also campgrounds available within the national park if you have your own self-contained vehicle.
After obtaining our passes at the visitor centre to enter the national park, we head towards the famed Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. Here, speed limits are only at 40km/h, as animal crossings are extremely common, especially at dawn and dusk.
This is one park where you are guaranteed to find wild animals. This includes kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, seals, sea lions, birds and echidnas. Believe it or not, we encountered ALL of them on our drive around Flinders Chase National Park.
Note: Dogs and drones are NOT permitted in KI parks.
8. Remarkable Rocks
As we close in on Remarkable Rocks, its grandiosity is nothing we have come to expect. The surreal beauty of Remarkable Rocks has been sculpted by the elements over 500 million years.
Overlooking the vast expanse of the sea as the soft orange glow from the setting sun casts over the rocks, we play hide and seek on and around the rocks. There is no better timing to witness nature’s beauty.
9. Admirals Arch
Close by, the Admirals Arch remains to be astounded. Walking along the long boardwalk, we were hypnotized watching the giant ocean wave swells and crashes against the shore with such ferocity. It’s mesmerising.
Into the distance, we spotted huge sea creatures lazing against the rock faces. We let time pass us by as we watched from afar how the Australian sea lions and Long-nosed fur seals play with such childlikeness, without a care in the world.
By the time we reach the arch itself, no picture can prepare us for how imposing the rock bridge towers above us. It’s unbelievable how thousands of years of erosion can result in such beauty.
10. KI Wildlife Park at Parndana
KI Wildlife Park is another for the family if you’re interested in Dingo talk, Koala interaction, Snake-holding, pelican-feeding and penguin-feeding. They go on throughout the day at specific timings.
Kingscote is home to 40% of Kangaroo Island’s population. Everywhere else in Kangaroo Island feels like animals outnumber people!
We dug into what the best Fish & Chips at Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods, as voted by the locals. The fish is fresh and the locals go there to shop for fresh seafood. It is situated at a nondescript corner beside Caltex in Kingscote and is not an actual shop, so it might be a little hard to spot.
If you are into spirits and beer, you can also find KI Brewery and KI Spirits on the way to Kingscote.
12. Emu Bay Lavender Farm
13. Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery is another shop worth stopping at. A family-run business built entirely from scratch by the founders, you will find all sorts of organic oils and essences that is good for the body here.
On our visit, a baby joey keeps us entertained throughout. Adopted when her mum was killed in a car accident, the few weeks old joey sits in a wicker cradle and feeds from a milk bottle. It is very rare that we get to see wild kangaroos up close, much less get to pet them. I cannot help but carry her in my arms.
14. Clifford Honey Farm
Since you’re already on this gravel path, make a stop by the honey farm. While not as large scale as the ones we found in New Zealand, they do sell a very special beverage – Honey Wheat Ale!
Where to stay in Kangaroo Island, Australia
Just outside of Flinders Chase National Park, we put up a night at Western Caravan Park. Caravan parking, camping sites, and cabin accommodation are available here.
Sitting on 17ha of natural bushland and grassland, we were in for a treat for they have a Koala walking track with guaranteed koala spotting within their premises.
It made for a good morning activity trying to scout for koalas high up on the trees. I admit that us city people are terrible animal-spotters.
We were going to reach the end of the trail feeling disheartened, when suddenly one of us shrieked at having spot a lump in between the nook of 2 branches. There it was, perched up above, a cute, fat koala asleep!
It certainly brought cheesy grins to our faces watching the chubby koalas that morning. What a great start to the day!
How to get to Kangaroo Island, Australia
From Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, you can either fly or take a ferry across, but the best way is to take the ferry.
To take the ferry, you’d have to get to Cape Jervis first, which is a 2 hour drive (100km) to the south of Adelaide. Both companies offer pick up service from Adelaide central station to Cape Jervis ferry point at an extra fee. Alternatively, you can make the drive on your own and either park at Cape Jervis ferry terminal, or transport your car on the ferry over to Kangaroo Island.
There are 2 ferry companies that operate between Kangaroo Island and Adelaide:
- SeaLink – larger, more mass produced, older fleet. Allows vehicle transportation.
- KI Connect – smaller, family-run, very new. Does not allow vehicle transportation.
The ferry crossing takes about 45 minutes.
We went with KI Connect initially and really liked the personalised service and smaller but newer fleet that it offers. We also got our rental car from them. The receptionist who handled our Kangaroo Island car hire was extremely helpful with assisting us around the island.
The only problem was getting back. They had misinformed us of our return ferry timing and by the time we returned the car, the ferry had gone off without us! Weary and disgruntled, instead of apologising, we were told off by the management at KI Connect that we had not checked our emails (which was sent few days before while we were on the road with spotty WiFi) or picked up their phone call when they called on the day itself. The attitude towards their customers were most certainly appalling. Nowhere else in Australia were we treated with such rudeness.
In the end, we were put on the later ferry by SeaLink (which they wanted us to pay it ourselves!). I didn’t quite like the ferry experience as the lighting in the ferry was dim, as if we were sitting in a really old fleet. It was definitely more crowded and the seats were not as comfortable as KI Connect. While there were buses waiting for us at Cape Jervis in Adelaide to send us back to our hotels, the process was a long one as they were dropping individual customers off.
Daily flights to Kangaroo Island are available from Adelaide, operated by Regional Express. Plane rides are 30 minutes long.
How to get around Kangaroo Island
From Kangaroo Island, the only way is to rent a car to drive around. There is NO public transport or taxi service around. While there are only a limited number of attractions to do on this island, the attractions are all spaced pretty far apart on this island that measures 155 km long and 55 km wide!
A 2WD vehicle is good enough to drive around the island. The main roads are all paved, sealed, well-maintained and signposted. The rest are unsealed and on gravel, but the roads are all pretty wide and easy to manoeuvre.
A 2WD vehicle is fine to drive around the island. The main roads are all paved, sealed, well-maintained and signposted. The rest are unsealed and on gravel, but the roads are all pretty wide and easy to manoeuvre. If you can’t drive, you can consider hopping on one of the tours.
Fuel is available at Kingscote, Island Beach, Vivonne Bay, Parndana, Penneshaw and KI Wilderness Retreat (near Flinders Chase National Park).
Take caution when you drive, as you will encounter animal crossings, especially at dawn and dusk! Some animals, like the echidnas, have a one-track sight and take their own sweet time crossing the road. We very luckily encountered 2 during our overnight stay here and the more we look at them, the cuter they become. They look a little like a larger version of a hedgehog/ smaller version of a porcupine.
Along the way, you will also encounter hidden beaches, astounding cliff views and untouched beaches. Take your time and explore the island, stopping along the way!