There are approximately 5000 kilometers of dirt roads on the island; this far outnumbers the amount of paved roads. In general, the dirt roads are very well maintained and signed. During dry weather they are easy to drive on (other than some washboard in places). During rain they can become muddy and slippery.
The “Natural Food Movement” is very much alive and thriving on the island. Ingredients are unique here – dramatically so at times based on various culinary elements that incorporate wild and or native plants – some of which only grow on Kangaroo Island. Many of the residents are producers of gourmet foods – seafood, local cuisine, wine and other natural products. In fact farming is still the number one producing industry on the island slightly ahead of tourism.
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery – a tour with proprietor Larry is informative and educational; he is somewhat of a character! During our visit he and his wife were living in a school bus on the property while they were waiting for a new home to be built. They are one of the few Eucalyptus distilleries in Australia and the only one in all of South Australia. You don’t realize how many products this tree can produce until you visit their gift shop. Insect repellents, decongestant, stain remover, oils, and even a eucalyptus infused candy is available for you to try. Visit: www.emuridge.com.au
Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal place to spot Koalas. These animals spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping so most likely you will spot them high in the Eucalyptus trees fast asleep. These are ‘wild’ koalas and they come and go as they please. Although with a Eucalyptus forest planted several decades ago there is plenty of foliage on site for them. Visit: www.hansonbay.com.au
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park – boasts a strong representation of various birds, kangaroos, koalas and more. You can pet a koala – chances are this animal will be asleep (as they spend up to 20 hours sleeping) and chances are it will not even awaken as you pet it. The female kangaroos can be fed right out of your hand. You can watch the intriguing looking sharply spiked Echidna wander around, be frightened initially by a good sized crocodile contained in an area with relatively short walls (but then you realize its a “freshie” rather than a “saltie” and is much less dangerous. Local staff can guide you around the park. Visit: www.kiwildlifepark.com
Pelican Feeding. John, or “Pelican Pete” feeds large numbers of pelicans at the main pier in the small town of Kingscote. These are the world’s largest species of pelicans and they gather around well before John shows up with a bucket of slimy fish and fish guts. John is an entertainer and loves discussing these birds and their various eclectic behaviors. It is worth your time to show up early to watch these birds interact – some of the larger ones will wrap their entire bill around the necks of the smaller ones – until they somehow wrestle their way out of this choke-hold. They are messy birds and the pier will be covered in poo. But they are entertaining to watch and views here become even more entertaining when John shows up!
Raptor Domain. Steve Irwin’s legacy lives on with his immediate family – but one of his cousins, Dave Irwin has also been involved in wildlife conservation and heritage since he was a young boy. Along with his wife Leeza, he runs Raptor Domain on the island, an entertaining and informative show featuring a wide range of raptor birds, both small and large. Let an owl perch on your lap – or put on one of the thick hand protectors and let one of the raptors land on your hand. Their shows are interactive and they welcome questions from the audience.
Seal Bay Conservation Park – this is money well spent for a guided walk on the beach to view the sea lions up close in their natural habitat. You can walk up to about 20 meters from the closest sea lions – although if you are lucky enough to find one perched under the boardwalk you can enjoy very close views. In the summer they tend to hang out near the shoreline – in the winter they move inland away from the ocean for more protection from the cold wind. Allow about 45 minutes for the guided tour.
Stokes Bay is a beautiful rocky surrounded bay at the end of the road on the north side of the island. A short hike through some craggy and narrow rock formations brings one to an exceptional white sand beach with blue and green water. This beach is popular with surfers and body boarders – but note that there is a good rip tide off shore. The nearby Rockpool Cafe makes a great stop for ice cream, drinks or food.
Flinders Chase is a fairly decent sized National Park located on the western tip of the island. Much of this park is covered with native bush plants – some of it extremely thick. Early day ships would run a ground on the rocky outcrops and if the people on board were “lucky” enough to survive the nasty rocks and big waves and somehow reached shore they soon discovered there was no water and they were surrounded by bush scrub so thick you could not even walk through it.
A necessary stop is at the Visitor’s Center at the entrance to the park where you will need to check in and pay the admission fee. The center has a small cafe and gift shop and interpretive displays focusing on the flora, fauna, history and geology of the region.
Some local attractions within the park are the following:
– Admiral’s Arch is well worth hiking to despite often blustery conditions along the sea cliffs here. A boardwalk leads to the base of the sea cliffs where you will be treated to a spectacular natural arch which formed over time through erosion. The water pounds with veracity against the rocks and the splashing spray below the arch makes for dramatic viewing. And New Zealand Fur Seals breed here.
– Cape du Couedic lighthouse was completed in 1906 and built from local rock. The original cottages for the lighthouse keepers have been restored and are currently rented to visitors for overnight stays. This part of the island has certainly seen some horrific ship wrecks. With relentless waves, rocky reefs offshore and often terrible winds – a number of shipwrecks litter the waters in this area.
– Remarkable Rocks – what a perfect name for these wind sculpted granite rocks. They are perched on the edge of a granite dome overlooking the ocean – one edge falls off into a cliff. There are no safety fences here so stay well away from the cliff faces – and when wet the granite becomes quite slippery. A short boardwalk leads to the granite dome and the rocks.
Taste and Eat
Clifford’s Honey Farm. Dave Clifford and his family started this honey farm in 1993 which was 20 years after he started keeping a few hives as a hobby. Today it is entirely a family run affair and Dave still personally gives tours from time to time. A visit is educational – learning how honey is made and processed. Natural honey can last indefinitely. The island is home to the only pure strain of Ligurian Bee (originally from Italy) in the world; amazingly – these bees are also still disease free.
A small gift shop has some really tasty treats including honey coated chocolate snacks and honey tasting.
Island Pure Sheep Dairy focuses on 100% pure sheep’s milk product. A visit here is an educational experience – you will watch several how to videos followed by a delicious tasting of some of their products. They produce a plain yogurt (amazingly creamy) and a honey infused yogurt – both are delicious. A number of cheeses are offered including a manchego and a feta. The sheep are housed right next to the dairy; they can be called over for photographs and petting. Location 127 Gum Creek Road, Cygnet River. The dairy is only located a few minutes from both the airport and Kingscote.
Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods – any local will tell you this is the place to come for the island’s best fish and chips. It is located right across from the Caltex station in Kingscote. Along with several sizes/types of Fish n” Chips they also serve a variety of other meals. They are open 7 days a week, the only exception being Christmas Day!
Kangaroo Island Spirits. A visit here is a unique and memorable experience. This under the radar distillery is in a setting that is as low key as you can imagine. There is no glitz and glamor here – pull in on a dirt driveway, a tin walled rusted building greets you, several dogs might be lying around – this is all part of the charm. When you walk in you are warmly greeted like family.
The focus here is on hand crafted small lot liqueurs and spirits, with an emphasis on using local and native ingredients. They are South Australia’s only boutique distillery. Their tiny Still used for all of their production sits right behind the tasting counter – it doesn’t look much larger than about 60 liters. Using this, is about as hand crafted as you can get.
A must try is their Affogato, Drunken Kis Ice Cream, which is made with walnuts, Brandy, spices, and organic honey among other tasty ingredients. They prepare this with a drizzle of the Honey + Walnut liqueur and is served with a small glass of deep rich espresso. If you think you’ve had memorable desserts, you haven’t had this amazing flavored one before!
They have a number of unique vodkas including the chili infused vodka. It is spicy but not overly so. But then take their Samphire, Lime and Pepper vodka. This has much more heat and a particularly spicy finish. Samphire is a local plant that when eaten by itself is rather salty – it used in local restaurants in salads and for other garnishing but this is the first we have seen it used in a spirit.
Ozone – this restaurant is conveniently located in the Aurora Ozone Hotel, located just across from part of the Nepean Bay in the town of Kingscote. Preferred seating is in the large windowed room which boasts great views overlooking the water. The food is created using local ingredients where possible. The food is prepared well – samples from a recent dinner include a delicious pumpkin soup and a very well prepared salad (all fresh lettuce) with perfectly cooked chicken on top.
Yellow Ash ‘n’ Chili – can be a popular spot with both locals and tourists alike. It centrally located in Kingscote. The menu features a number of Mexican dishes. Mexican you might ask? Here in Australia? The owner is originally from San Pedro (Los Angeles County). There are even Mexican beers served. Good coffee. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Independent travelers have several rental options on the island including including the primary rental business, Budget Rent a Car in Kingscote. Cars can also be taken over from the mainland on the SeaLink Ferry. No insurance is provided between sunset and sunrise as the possibility of hitting wildlife on the island in the dark is very high. By numbers of kilometers, most of the island’s roads are still dirt – during dry times these roads are actually in quite good shape. During wet weather, that is another story.
Alternatively if you want a break from driving, Sealink (the same company that provides the ferry transport) offers bus tours to many of the highlights on the island. One driver / guide who is extremely knowledgeable about all things Kangaroo Island is Calen Twedden. He has lived on the island for many years and makes a tour very personalized – often describing the quirkiness and unique insights that only a local can provide. You can request him as your guide (if he is available). Visit: www.sealink.com.au/kangaroo-island-tours
Aurora Ozone Hotel is conveniently located in downtown Kingscote right across from Nepean bay. They offer a full service restaurant (fine dining along with nice views of the nearby bay), a spa and pool. This two part hotel features large rooms – with reception and rooms located on one side of the street and a three story building just across the street It is Kangaroo Island – when crossing your going to more likely see a few people walking around then you will cars!
The official visitor’s guide: www.tourkangarooisland.com.au
Good Food Kangaroo Island – a regional island food promotion organization.
News and stories about Kangaroo Island: www.theislanderonline.com.au
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