When you’re visiting the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, Kangaroo Island is an absolute must! Kangaroo Island, or KI as it’s also known, was on extremely high our bucket list, and we couldn’t wait to get there. We had seen so many incredible photos of the shimmering bays and had heard that the island is full of koalas and kangaroos! We were eager to experience all this for ourselves and to enjoy the island life to the fullest.
In fact, Kangaroo Island was so high on our list, that it was the first destination that we had planned to visit after arriving in Australia in December 2019. Unfortunately, bushfires were consuming much of the country at the time, and they were absolutely scorching Kangaroo Island, so it wasn’t possible. We had to change our plans, so we headed up to New South Wales. Little did we know that it would take us almost 2 years to finally get to the island.
But Kangaroo Island was so worth the wait!
We Go Overseas to Kangaroo Island
KI is just a stone’s throw from the mainland, and it’s possible to bring your campervan with you on the ferry. We booked our ferry tickets from the only ferry operator SeaLink and could hardly sleep the night before- we were so looking forward to this island paradise.
Tip: The ferry departs from Cape Jervis on the mainland. Only 20 km from Cape Jervis is the Rapid Bay campsite, so treat yourself to at least one night in this beautiful bay before you continue your travel to KI. There are camp spots with direct ocean views, and the sea is perfect for swimming. Even though there are no showers, camp kitchen, or other amenities, the location and views make up for the $25 investment.
The ferry ride itself takes a brief 40 minutes. The village of Penneshaw, where the ferry docks, welcomed us to a snow-white sandy bay, and the most brilliant turquoise-blue sea we’ve seen. Hands up, who else gets a smile on their face with such a view!
We had read that Kangaroo Island is as large as Bali, and we wanted to start our tour immediately so that we had enough time to see everything that we wanted to see. Maybe we should have booked more than a week! But we wanted to see the Yorke and the Eyre Peninsula. KI is divided into seven regions. We knew the time would be tight, but we hoped it was enough to see everything.
We picked up a brochure from the information center in Penneshaw and bought water at the supermarket. The $22.50-dollar campsites on KI don’t have drinking water, as they are usually sites without facilities.
From Penneshaw we drove over Pelican Lagoon. Our first destination was Clifford’s Honey Farm.
A Quick Change of Routes
After only a few kilometers’ drive, we saw breathtaking views of the turquoise shimmering ocean, and our original route was quickly forgotten. We Googled where we could get to the ocean the fastest and detoured onto Island Beach Road. The corrugated road shattered us and everything we had in the campervan – it was that bad.
But being shaken up was greatly rewarded. We parked in the first small bay we saw on Island Beach Road and walked down to a powdered sugar beach. In front of us was crystal clear water that sparkled in every turquoise-blue tone imaginable. Here we settled down, and a short time later a pelican even joined us. We had even wider grins on our faces than before. What a life!
After a great start on the island with swimming in the refreshing water, a lunch with the best view imaginable, and the company of a pelican, we finally set off for our actual destination, the Clifford Honey Farm. We must confess that the Honey Farm was rather a poor decision. The roads were getting worse and worse. Our campervan Putu became full of dust, and it felt like an eternity until we finally got there. All of this just for ice cream! We didn’t buy honey, the ice cream was tiny, and the taste, was, unfortunately, just ok. Maybe it’s worth it if you buy honey and sample a beer from their Drone Brewery.
Tip: There is only one main road on the island, which runs from Penneshaw to Kingscote. And a second road, which runs from Kingscote via Parndana and from Vivonne to Flinders Chase National Park. Both roads are good and sealed. Otherwise, the road conditions on the island are corrugated and very dusty.
A Beach with Seals
But our mood was in top shape. Because not only had we enjoyed our first great beach, but we were also now on our way to Bales Beach. Located on the rough south side of the island, we had heard that it is possible to see seals at Bales Beach.
Tip: If you are on a family vacation and are looking for a beach holiday, stay on the north side of KI. The south side is gorgeous, but it is extremely rugged, and not suitable for swimming!
Before you get to Bales Beach, you will pass the Seal Bay Conservation Park. There are guided tours here and you can experience seals up close. However, the gate was closed, as the last admission was at 4:00 pm. So, we decided to have a look around the corner. We walked over a sand dune to Bales Beach, and an endless bright beach opened in front of us.
To our right, we saw some dark towering cliffs. We walked towards them and saw something in the sand in the distance. A seal! However, it didn’t look like it was moving. We didn’t want to get too close, and unfortunately, we knew that it was no longer alive. That did a huge blow to our great mood, and we decided to move on.
Slowly it was time to find a place for the night. We decided to stay at Vivonne Bay, which was on our way.
On the way there, perched high in a eucalyptus tree on the side of the road, we saw a sweet koala which greatly improved our moods. What an adorable sight!
A Perfect Day Ends
This is how our perfect first day on Kangaroo Island came to an end. We had seen the most beautiful colors of the ocean you could wish for. We encountered a pelican and a sweet koala. And together with the insane beauty of nature, confirmed to us that KI is a destination that you can’t miss when you’re in Australia!
Our Second Day on Kangaroo Island
After a quiet night in Vivonne Bay ($22.50 per night, showers $2 for three minutes) we drove to the Vivonne Bay Jetty and had a delicious cup of coffee and cereal in our campervan at the lookout. The dirt road down to the jetty was very steep, so we didn’t drive down there. But we were content with the excellent view that we had from the lookout. Unfortunately, we completely forgot that there are rock pools where you can swim, and we took off without seeing them!
Flinders Chase National Park
Today, we had planned something very special, the Flinders Chase National Park! We had heard there are many opportunities to see wild animals there. It’s guaranteed they even said! And, that the campsite is supposed to be the most beautiful and cleanest on the island. So, we drove directly to the Western KI Caravan Park & Wildlife Reserve and booked in for one night.
And we agree with everything we heard! The campsite is beautifully situated, right on the edge of the National Park, in the middle of quiet nature, and is very clean. AND we saw a koala immediately!
We never tire of seeing koalas, kangaroos, cockatoos, and all the other unique wildlife of Australia. But the real highlight wasn’t just that we saw a koala. No, the real highlight was that the koala we saw had a baby!
I think I took about 9 million pictures, and I just couldn’t get enough of this sight. After a while, James called me to another nearby eucalyptus tree, and I couldn’t believe my eyes! Another koala mom and her slightly older baby!
We had parked in such a way that we could see both trees and both koala families from the bed of our campervan.
After this extraordinary experience, we hit the road to explore the Flinders Chase National Park. Incredible ocean views open up to us on the drive to the Remarkable Rocks, which was our first stop in the National Park. We could see the rocks in the distance at a lookout vantage point. The short journey along the rough coast allows us to see the azure to deep-sea blue of the ocean. The view is sporadically interrupted by green and exotic plants. Simply fantastic!
Arriving at the Remarkable Rocks we were in awe of the stunning formations. Some of the rocks are covered with a bright orange lichen, which forms a strong contrast to the blues of the ocean and sky. This wonder has been created by nature over the last 500 million years.
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
Only a few minutes’ drive from the Remarkable Rocks is the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. Our eyes light up as soon as we arrive. In a striking red, the top of the lighthouse rises brightly in front of the rich blue sky and offers us a beautiful photo opportunity.
From here we continue to Admirals Arch. Before we walk down to the Arch, we stop at an observation deck from where we see hundreds of seals.
Fairly recently, a new boardwalk to the Arch was built. Along the boardwalk, there are insane views, as well as informative signs. We read that this location is a shark paradise. It’s no wonder with all the seals here! We also learn that in order to survive, the native plants store all the salt that they absorb through the air into their leaves. And when the leaves are full of salt, they turn red, and the plant detaches them. Isn’t nature incredible?!
Everywhere we see seals lazily basking in the sun or playfully spinning in the sea pools below.
Admirals Arch itself is very dramatic and we take our time exploring.
The architecture of nature is always so impressive to us. Just then, a seal swims in and joins us. Framed by the imposing rock bridge, she shows off her swimming skills, and we wish we could join her in the refreshing water.
After the Arch, we visit the Weirs Cove Ruins and were fascinated by the views. The ruins are the former storage units for the lighthouse keepers and their families. Goods were offloaded from boats far below, brought up a 90-meter steep ramp, and placed in the storage units. We wonder how difficult life must have been back then!
The colors of the ocean are so stunning in the region known as West End. The coast is rough with huge relentless waves, and we wished that we would have more than just a week for KI. Then we could have taken one or two of the many hikes that you can do on the island. We decided to skip Hanson Bay because of the rough road conditions.
Tip: If you are into hiking, you can walk the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. Beginning at Flinders Chase, this 61 km long hike, offers the crème de la crème of nature for five days. The Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail has some of the wildest landscapes in Australia.
After our amazing day at Flinders Chase*, we head back to the campsite where we see the koala with her baby again. In the evening they are a bit more active. We are lucky to watch the mother climb the tree with her baby on her back where they enjoy fresh eucalyptus leaves for dinner.
We fall asleep blissfully with a view of the koalas, and we wake the next morning to kangaroos eating grass and watching us. Oh Australia, you amaze us every day!
A New Day Dawns
After coffee and muesli, and saying goodbye to the koalas and kangaroos, we leave the campground. We decide to skip the lighthouse at Cape Borda in the far northwest of the island. The roads are just too rough for Putu, and we were missing being at the beach. That’s why we decided to go to the north coast, to have more time in the shallow sea so we could swim. Our drive takes us over the smoothly paved main road to Stokes Bay.
Arriving in Stokes Bay, we immediately want to go down to the ocean. We read that the path to the beach leads you through a rock tunnel. Curious about it, we quickly parked at our campsite and walked the two minutes to the sea. On a rock, we saw a sign “Beach” with a narrow path to the right of it.
We’re really excited! The path through the rocks became narrower and narrower until we are completely surrounded. Wondering if this could be the right way, we courageously continue and force ourselves through the narrow and dark gap.
After a few minutes, we saw light again. Around the last corner, the crystal-clear water was glittering in the sun directly in front of us. What a jewel we had found! Of course, the beach is no longer a secret, but because we were almost the only ones here, we felt like great adventurers and enjoyed our well-deserved day at the beach.
Tip: At the beginning of the beach there is a rock pool where you can safely swim. Behind and beside it, the waves break. Directly to the right of the rock pool, there are dangerous currents. Read the many signs at the entrance to the rock tunnel so you don’t bring yourself into danger.
Stokes Bay Campsite
The campsite is located directly at the sea, separated only by a road and a parking lot, so you do not have to walk far. Like the other campsites on KI, there is only one public toilet, no showers, and the price is $22.50 per night.
We stayed here for two nights, overwhelmed by the tranquility of the beach, and the fact that you can watch kangaroos at the campsite itself. They come and go as they please, much to our delight.
At the entrance to the campsite is the Rockpool Cafè where we shared fries and a ginger beer and had a chat with the waitress. She is from Hamburg and has been in Australia for three years. What a small world!
The next morning, we drove to Snelling Beach. The beach is supposed to be fantastic. We believe this because we had not been disappointed by any beach on the island so far. But before we went, we make our way down to “our” beach at Stokes Bay, simply to put our feet in the cold water again and soak up the sight one more time before we leave. We didn’t get far, because a local started chatting with us. We had a small chat and just like that, get a dozen fresh farm eggs as a gift. A friend from the Fleurieu Peninsula once wrote to me: “Yes, the Aussies are a friendly bunch!”
After spending a little time at Stokes Bay Beach, we’re off to Snelling Beach. The road there isn’t too rough, and after about 20 minutes we arrive. We see a few cars down on the beach, but it was easy to find a parking spot. The snow-white beach is only about a half kilometer long, but it’s not at all crowded.
Tip: King George Beach is on the way to Snelling Beach. The road to King George Beach is a rather bad gravel road. But if you can make it, take a look at the pebble beach in the small bay.
We ended the day comfortably back at the campsite. All Putu’s doors were open, and we spend the evening watching kangaroos busily scratching their bellies and hopping past us.
Kingscote and our Onward Journey
Located in Nepean Bay, Kingscote is a cozy little town full of nice shops, cafes, and restaurants. Half the population of the island lives here. We liked the town very much and enjoyed being able to eat out. At Cafe Cactus, we treated ourselves to a great breakfast and the coffee tasted really good.
We walked through the small village and visited the Tidal Pool before continuing.
We want to explore the next beach, Emu Bay. On the way there we stopped at the KI Brewery and bought some locally brewed beer.
Afterward, we enjoyed lavender ice cream with blueberries at the Emu Bay Lavender Farm.
Emu Bay is a very beautiful bay, and we spent the rest of the day on the beach swimming and taking a long walk. Our favorite activities besides golfing 😊
Tip: You are allowed to drive your car on the beach in Emu Bay.
In the evening we went down to the Jetty. We heard that penguins are often here. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. But we can’t complain, because while we were in Tasmania, we had many encounters with penguins that we fondly remember. We were content knowing that they were probably here somewhere and enjoyed our delicious beer from the KI Brewery.
More Sights on KI
The next day we just let ourselves drift and we end up down on a dirt road. One look at the map and we find a place called Red Banks. It sounds great, and although we had never heard of it, we decide to go there. We drove through a beautiful tree-lined alley, which looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale.
Then suddenly, the road comes to an end, and it feels like we have arrived at a cliff. Feeling queasy, we get out of Putu and walk toward the horizon. We realize that we are very high up on a cliff, which goes down steeply. Under our feet, we see thousands of industrious giant ants. We know how much their bites can sting, so we try to go around, always with our eyes on the edge of the cliff. When we find a small spot without ants, we finally dare to take a look and see enchanting rocks that are shining red and yellow in the sun.
The ants find their way back to us, so we tear ourselves away from this amazing view.
After a quick stop at the American River, we continue to Prospect Hill Lookout. 503 steps lead to the viewing platform, which promises a brilliant 360° view of the surrounding nature. We make it to the top and have a view over Pelican Lagoon on one side. And on the other side, the rough southern coast, Pennington Bay.
That’s where we want to go! And when we arrive at Pennington Bay, a dazzling spectacle once again takes over us! We see Tidal Pools and behind them large waves crashing thunderously against the rocks. At the edge of the pools, the water splashes peacefully and we instantly fall in love with this place. There are three more bays, one of them with a long sandy beach, which we walk along later.
Our KI Stay Comes to an End
We drive via Baudin Beach back to Penneshaw.
Our plan is to check in at the campsite nearby and then visit the Penneshaw Market. Unfortunately, we learn that there is an extra charge of $15 for check-ins before 1 pm! We decide against the campground and go straight to the market, where we buy our breakfast and take it down to the sea to eat. Behind us is the Sculpture Trail, a short trail that we take before moving on to our next destination.
The Dudley Cellar Door promises incredibly beautiful views. The wine is also supposed to be very good. When we arrive, we understand the reason for all the hype. The location is really fantastic., and guests can even practice their golf swings! There is a small teeing-off area, and a bucket of 20 balls costs $10. It is too crowded for us and we decide to drive back to the much quieter Pennington Bay. But not without first buying a bottle of wine.
But before Pennington Bay we have another small change of plan, we want to see the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. Admission to the museum is free, and a few hikes start at the lighthouse. The views of the ocean are once again breathtaking. And we see more kangaroos, which still is a sight that enchants us every time!
We spend the evening once again in Pennington Bay and experience a fantastic sunset.
Very early the next morning, there was a surfer beside us, pointing out to the water. Dolphins! There are at least 8 dolphins frolicking in the ocean. They play in the waves, and I even see a dolphin jumping out of the water! We can’t imagine a better farewell to the island than this!
Time seems to stand still on Kangaroo Island. From our very first second until our departure, we were amazed. It’s unbelievable what we saw on this island. The harmony of the people with the animals, the incredibly beautiful nature, and the insane colors of the ocean all make Kangaroo Island a unique holiday destination. Despite its small size, there is something for everyone here!
We were so surprised by the diversity of this sleepy island. Active people will have everything, from long hiking routes in breathtaking nature to awesome surf spots, where surfers sometimes find themselves surrounded by dolphins*. And animal lovers can observe wild animals on virtually every corner.
Gourmets* will be able to eat their fill of fresh seafood and enjoy excellent wine, beer, and gins. Families can find gently sloping beaches on the north, and fun sandboarding or guided nocturnal adventures in the bush. Kangaroo Island is just perfect to spend an unforgettable holiday!
If you asked us what we liked the most, we would have a difficult time answering. But Pennington Bay was certainly one of our favorites. Also, Stokes Bay where we found time to enjoy the beach and the sun. And last, but of course not least, were the animals, who live in paradise.
Of the campgrounds, we liked most, Western KI (cleanliness, nature, proximity to Flinders Chase National Park, friendliness, and koalas), Emu Bay (cleanliness, size, layout, and proximity to the beach), Stokes Bay (kangaroos, and proximity to the beach).
Kangaroo Island has about 4700 residents on a total area of 4400 m². It is said that KI, as the island is affectionately called, is as big as Bali. The length from west to east is 155 kilometers. If you want to experience the diversity of the island, you should see all seven regions. We spent 7 nights on the island, but it is also possible to book day tours* to Kangaroo Island.
SeaLink Ferries serves the crossing from Cape Jervis on mainland South Australia to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. The journey takes about 40 minutes and can be very stormy at times.
The ferry ticket prices depend on whether you had a car or a campervan/caravan.
Due to COVID, we had to change our arrival date several times, which SeaLink kindly did without questions. It certainly was a 5-star experience in terms of friendliness, service, and cleanliness on board.
Book your SeaLink Ferry tickets here.
Tip: KI also has an airport. You can hire a rental car directly on the island. Our recommendation, of course, is 4wd! This way you can get over the bumpy roads more easily, and can also explore the island off the beaten path.
If you would like to save money and want to visit several attractions, you should get the KI Pass. The Kl Pass costs $78 and includes:
1-year admission to Flinders Chase National Park
Guided Tour Seal Bay
Entrance to the Cape Bourda Lighthouse
Cape Willoughby Lighthouse Tour
Note that the camping fees are not included.
If you only have a short time, or only want to visit a few things, it would be cheaper to pay the unit prices:
|Seal Bay experience (includes boardwalk self-guided tour)||$38||$30.50||$21.50||$93|
|Seal Bay boardwalk self-guided tour||$17||$14||$10.50||$45|
|Flinders Chase National Park entry||$12||$10||$6.50||$30.50|
|Cape Bourda Lighthouse self-guided tour||$5.50||$5.50||$5.50||$5.50|
|Cape Willoughby Lighthouse tour||$10.50||$10.50||$10.50||$10.50|
Best Time to Visit KI
Kangaroo Island is a good destination during every season. We wanted to experience the island in the summer so we could enjoy the white sandy beaches. With a maximum temperature of 28° during the day, it was never too hot. In the Flinders Chase, we had a cool but pleasant night. But the temperatures are also not too bad in winter. With an average of 15° during the day and 7° at night, you can do a lot of outside activities even in winter. And then cuddle up at a cozy fire at night.
The 7 Regions of Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is divided into 7 regions. And in order to get to know KI comprehensively, you should see as many regions as possible. Here is a list of the regions with their most popular places.
Penneshaw and Dudley Peninsula:
Penneshaw, Baudin Beach, Island Beach, Antechamber Bay, Cape Willoughby, Pennington Bay
Kingscote and Districts:
Brownlow, Bay of Shoals, Cygnet River
Emu Bay, Smith Bay, Cape Cassini, Stokes Bay, Snelling Beach, Middle River, Western River Cove
Parndana and Districts:
Flinders Chase National Park, Cape Borda, Handson Bay
D’estrees Bay, Murray Lagoon, Seal Bay, Vivonne Bay, Flour Cask Bay
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