Kangaroo Island is the third biggest island in Australia, behind Tasmania and Melville Islands, and is 155 kms by 55 kms. That’s about the same size as Long Island in New York State – except that nearly 8 million people live there and only 4,600 live on Kangaroo Island – many of them farmers or fishermen.
The island was named by Mathew Flinders and he chose well, as the name alone helps bring international visitors in. And they will see kangaroos. Lots of them. And as the Kangaroo Island kangaroos are a unique species, you won’t see them anywhere else. The kangas here are darker than those on the mainland, and don’t reach the size of the Big Reds. The island is virtually roo heaven, with no predators, plenty of food and wilderness aplenty to graze the day away.
Southern Ocean Lodge
Mathew Flinders would be pretty impressed if he could see the magnificent Southern Ocean Lodge, hugging the clifftop on the island’s southwest coast. He could only have imagined the architecturally striking lodge with its sleek lines snaking down the coast, surrounded on three sides by mulga bushes so entwined that it would be almost impossible to get through. The view to the wild, crashing Southern Ocean can be viewed from everywhere – and I mean everywhere. All 21 rooms and suites open up to the coast and you can sit in your bathtub, out on the day bed or in your lounge room and no one can see you. The Great Room is just that. Great. Better than Great actually. When we walk in from the driveway, up the boardwalk and through the doors, we are almost struck dumb by the vistas we are seeing. The Great Room has really high ceilings, glass floor-to-ceiling walls and an abundance of lounges and armchairs, in clusters, from which you can just sit and take it all in – wine in hand of course.
The 21 rooms and suites are all named after a shipwreck that occurred off the island with its treacherous seas and rocky hazards sending 88 ships in all to the ocean floor. We are in the Osmanli room, an Ocean Retreat room that we absolutely love. The sunken lounge with its EcoSmart fire place, the lounge area outside, the magnificent rainshower in the limestone bathroom, the lavish king-size bed and the welcoming plate of home-made lamingtons … not to mention the mini bar (all-inclusive) with its generous range of beverages – all from South Australia. Just spectacular.
Almost as spectacular is the Southern Spa, separate to the main building and with its own majestic views over the mesmerising coastline. The L’ Itya treatments are out of this world, and I highly recommend booking more than one massage while you are there.
Guests of the lodge enjoy some quintessential KI experiences that are a must for first-time visitors or even frequent visitors. However, any visitor to Kangaroo Island can see these sights, with an abundance of tours on offer, or just drive yourself.
Flinders Chase National Park is where you will find the aptly named Remarkable Rocks – they look like a sculpture sitting on a ball of rock by the ocean. And they are a sculpture really, carved by the wind and the sea over thousands of years. You can walk amongst them – very carefully or admire from the boardwalk.
Admirals Arch is not far away and has a number of sights to take in. You can see Cape du Couedic Lighthouse, then walk down the boardwalk and stairs to the Arch, which has fossiled tree roots hanging off it like stalactites. Below the arch there are gently sloping rock shelves, on which a number of NZ fur seals are sleeping. We also see a tidal pool with a number of seals playing in it just like kids do.
We also visit Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where we are guaranteed to see koalas – and we do. We spot seven or eight of them and learn a bit about them at the same time. It is quite special as I had never seen koalas in the wild.
Just driving around we see echidnas, tammar wallabies, wedge-tailed eagles, rosellas, galahs, and Cape Barren Geese and at Kelly Hill Conservation Park we walk amongst a large mob, quite a thrill to the international guests on the tour.
Further afield we see Australian sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park. We join a tour and head down the boardwalk to the beach, where we have our first look at the beautiful Australian sea lions sunning themselves on the sand. We follow single-file behind our guide, stopping here and there to listen as he talks about these doe-eyed sea creatures. We see mothers and babies lying side by side, young ones waiting for parents to come in from a hunt and others slide into the water for a frolic. They are so endearing; it’s impossible not to melt when you look into their eyes.
Other things to see and do
Swim with dolphins on a half-day Island Explorer tour with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures
Visit the beaches on the north coast – especially Stoke’s Bay, which is accessed by a secret walkway
Do a quad bike tour with Outdoor Action or you can do a tour (not included) through Southern Ocean Lodge
Outdoor Action also hire out sand boards so you can ride down the dunes at Little Sahara – be warned, there is no ski lift back up and it is quite a workout!
Try the ice cream at Clifford’s Honey Farm
Taste award-winning gins at KI Spirits
Regional Express (REX) Airlines operate regular flights to the island from Adelaide – they take about 30 minutes. You can also take your car on the Sealink ferry from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Stay at Southern Ocean Lodge and they will pick you up from the airport or the ferry.
In Adelaide, stay a night or two before you go to Kangaroo Island at The Mayfair – a new hotel in a historic building right opposite Rundle Mall. This property is fantastic, with its rooftop bar and its excellent restaurant absolutely top shelf. The rooftop beehive produces divine honey – some of which we devoured on the extravagantly delicious lemon meringue tart that greeted us shortly after checking into our room. It was heavenly.