Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is Australia's third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. The island's economy is principally agricultural, with a southern rock lobster fishery and with tourism growing in importance. The island has a population of about 4500. The largest town, and the administrative centre, is Kingscote. The island has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals, with the largest and best-known being Flinders Chase National Park at the western end.

The British explorer Matthew Flinders, commanding HMS Investigator, named the island Kangaroo Island in 1802, due to the endemic subspecies of the Western grey kangaroo. Flinders was closely followed by the French explorer Commander Nicolas Baudin, who was the first European to circumnavigate the Island and and who mapped much of the island (which is why so many areas have French names). Although the French and the British were at war at the time, the men met peacefully. A community of sealers and others existed on Kangaroo Island from 1802 to the time of South Australia's colonisation in 1836. The first ship to arrive that brought settlers for the new colony was the Duke of York commanded by Captain Robert Clark Morgan in 1836.

The original colony was established at Reeves Point and it was South Australia's first colonial settlement. But soon it was realised the Kangaroo Island just did not have the resources to support a large population, and the capital of South Australia was moved to Adelaide

Today it is a short ferry ride from the mainland. They pack you on like sardines. I had to back onto the ferry and, once parked, the adjoining cars were so close that when we docked, I could not get into my car to drive off until the next car had done so.

We stayed 4 nights at Wanderers Rest at 240 dollars a night for a middle of the market motel room. Had we wanted breakfast it would have risen to 300 dollars per night for a double room. The accommodation is in a standard pre-fabricated eight room motel unit of some vintage. The redeeming feature is a great view from the balcony Things for us started badly as our reception was not good. We ate in the motel restaurant for two nights and the food was very good, but, as others have said, the menu is limited, so eating more nights would not have given us much change. The problem is that there is nothing else available locally, and the motel unit had no cooking facilities. Perhaps I was wrong in expecting a room at this price to offer more, but in six weeks in Australia we have found most properties offer much better value for money. The problem here may be that much, if not most, of their business is with group tours of one sort or another, so individual booking like ours are of little interest to them.

American River was a very quiet little town. Apart from a few hotels/B&Bs and a general store there wasn't a restaurant. Nearest restaurant was at Kingscote, and we were not fussed enough to make the half hour drive for restaurants that did not seem vale la pena. There were apparently "Glossy Black Cockatoo" to be seen, an endangered sub-species, but it was dificult to know what you were looking at when they were silhouetted - there were lots of colourful birds around. Chris found some samphire growing wild on the beach, and we had this with dinner once we had moved on to accommodation with cooking facilities.


Seal Bay Conservation Park. We took the boardwalk, rather than pay for the touristy guided and corralled trips to the beach itself. We walked several hundred metres along a boardwalk and got close to both the beach and the seals. The seals are obviously well used to humans, and are therefore easy to photograph. It was a nice spot.

Lunch at the Marron Cafe
The view from the Sunset Vineyard
Flies at Rockpool Cafe

We had lunch at the Marron cafe - Marron being small freshwater lobsters. I had expected to get a better meal than in fact we got. I had the chef's daily marron special, Chris had a marron salad. This not a restaurant, but as they do say, a cafe. You go to the counter to order, and pay with order. I thought the pay with order was odd till I found us waiting nearly an hour for our food - they obviously had people walking out after this sort of wait. The food when it eventually arrived was middle of the road tourist food. Service was middle of the road tourist service The glass of their own Chardonnay was very good. Given it is a long way along a dirt road, I was expecting better. In all honesty I would not, could not , recommend this cafe.

At the Sunset Winery we enjoyed their platter plus six wines to taste for 28 dollars for two people The winery has a magnificent view out over the sea from a high perch. The platter is good but not gourmet, and is certainly worth the price as you get six of their wines to try with it. The service was friendly and the view superb. I also bought their triple pack where you can have any three bottles of their wine for 50 dollars

The Rockpool Cafe is a small shack on Stokes Bay, a popular bathing beach miles from anywhere. We enjoyed fish and chips, squid and chips and two glasses of Chardonnay. It is simple, a bit scruffy, and the day we were there the flies were terrible. But the service is cheerful, and the food was well cooked. KI is not a destination known for fancy restaurants, and of the places we ate, this was as good as any.

The Flinders Chase National Park occupies much of the east of Kangaroo Island. You go there to see the Fur Seal Colony, Admiral's Arch and Remarkable Rocks.The Remarkables are indeed remarkable. They are a big cluster of weather sculptured granite boulders perched on a large granite dome that drops 75 metres to the sea. . The name of the game here is to wait patiently till there are no tourists in the picture, then snap it quickly.

A boardwalk leads to the viewing platform for Admiral’s Arch – the naturally formed rock bridge that towers above colonies of New Zealand fur seals. Originally an ancient cave, Admirals Arch has been shaped by the intense winds and surf that pound the coast of Kangaroo Island. Stalactites still hang from the rocky ceiling whilst the floor has been eroded to a smooth finish. The Arch has been designated a geological monument, and is one of 27 geological monuments on the island.


We were on the island for four nights, and managed to explore most of the island. We were lucky to see a koala bear in the wild, taking a nap up a tree. We enjoyed their trademark "whiting burger" at the Vivonne Bay General Store. We climbed Prospect Hill which is the highest point in the area, and well worth a climb. First climbed by Captain Matthew Flinders, the top of the hill was used by the famous explorer to survey the Island. There are 512 steps leading to a view over American River, Pelican Lagoon, the Southern Ocean and Pennington Bay. We visited the Cape Borda lighthouse at the eastern tip and the southern beaches.

Pelicans seem to be part of the way of life on Kangaroo Island. We eschewed the "Pelican Feeding with the Pelican Man" at Kingscote, but they seemed to get quite a crowd for their daily pelican feeding. A few miles further on we stumbled across a couple of anglers who were cleaning their day's catch. The resultant blood and guts was sufficient to attract a large flock of pelicans.

On to Coonawarra

Australia 2013/2014