Your tour of Australia’s southern coast is nearly complete. You fell in love with cosmopolitan Melbourne, hung out with the penguins on Phillip Island, watched the waves crash against the Twelve Apostles, sipped Shiraz in McLaren Vale, and checked out up-and-coming Adelaide. It’s time to turn around. But there’s one more place you just can’t resist visiting for its name alone: Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island. It sits off the coast of South Australia, the only Australian state that borders all the other states on the mainland. Aboriginal Australians lived here until the sea level started rising more than 10,000 years ago, and the island was cut off from the rest of the continent. Whalers and sealers arrived in the 19th century. Lighthouses, farms, and Kingscote, South Australia’s first colonial settlement, followed soon after. The island remains rugged and largely undeveloped to this day.
It’s a 45-minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis across the Backstairs Passage to reach Kangaroo Island. You arrive in Penneshaw, a cute, little town on the northern coast. Pennington Bay is your first stop, though. The white-sand beach is between towering cliffs. Climb the steep hill for an amazing view of the coast, the island, bobbing surfers, and a pod of dolphins. Emu Ridge, Australia’s only eucalyptus distillery, is nearby. Tour the solar-and-wind powered facility, and buy soothing oil and lotion. Just down the road, taste pure honey made from Ligurian honey bees.
Seal Bay is your next stop. Join a tour, walk along the boardwalk above the beach, and observe the huge Australian sea lions. Most of them are sleeping on the sand, but every once in a while, one lets out a load roar. The sea lions will make you even more excited to see the island’s namesake animal.
Kangaroo Island kangaroos and smaller Western grey kangaroos, plus tammar wallabies, call the Flinders Chase National Park home. Don’t miss the New Zealand fur seals at Admiral’s Arch and the granite Remarkable Rocks. Then follow the trail to the Cape Borda Lighthouse. You might see koalas, echidnas, or goannas along the way.
During the rest of your time on the island, explore the Kelly Hill Caves and the Little Sahara sand dunes. Hike Prospect Hill for a 360-degree view of the entire island. Pair Bordeaux-style wines with southern rock lobsters, prawns, and sheep’s milk cheese. And pull over to take photos each and every time you see kangaroos grazing in an open field, since they’re what lured you to this beautiful island in the first place.