Kangaroo Island, Everything you need to know

Kangaroo island lies a short 45min ferry ride off the South Australia mainland. It is home to amazing beaches, wildlife and several nature reserves. Over a third of the Island is protected nature reserves home to wildlife like sea lions, koalas and diverse bird species.

How to Get There

There are two ferry companies that run transfers for passengers and vehicles to Kangaroo Island.

  • Sealink: Offers passenger and vehicle transport. This ferry runs from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, from 6am to 7pm. A passenger ticket costs $49pp and a vehicle costs $98, total cost for both $147 one way. You will drive your car on yourself, which may require reversing in or driving around tight spaces. If you don’t feel comfortable you can request one of the staff to do this for you. The ferry offers a small cafe and plenty of indoor/outdoor seating. The ferry can be rough, so if you are prone to seasickness, I recommend getting some travel sickness tablets.
  • KIC (Kangaroo Island Connect): This ferry only offers passenger transport. The route is the same as sealink, from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. A passenger ticket costs $30pp, $5 dogs and $10 extra for bikes or kayaks. KIC also offer private charters for groups up to 100 people.

Best Time to Visit

The weather on Kangaroo Island is moderate all year round, with temperatures averaging from 14C to 24C. You can visit the island anytime of the year however, the most popular time to visit is during the summer months. This is December through to February. Whoever you talk to will have a different opinion on the best time to visit and I think this is determined by the weather they experienced while on the island. I was told spring was a great time to visit. I was there in November and the weather was cold, windy and wet. Nevertheless, the island was still beautiful and fun to explore!

Where to Stay

There are heaps of accomodation options on Kangaroo island, camping, houses, caravan parks, units — plenty to choose from. Your budget and preferred location will determine cost. I based myself in Kingscote, which I found to be a great location. There are 7 regions on Kangaroo Island; Penneshaw/Dundley Peninsula, Kingscote, American River, South Coast, North Coast, Parndana and West End. Majority of the accommodation will be found in Penneshaw, Kingscote and American River Regions. You can drive from one end of the island to the other end in around 2 hrs. This makes it easy to base yourself pretty much anywhere, and be able to explore the island with fairly short driving times.

Getting Around the Island

The best way to get around the island is via car, preferably by your own. If this isn’t a possibility, you can rent one on the island. Car hire services are located near the Penneshaw Ferry. There are no taxis on the island and the only coach service provided by Sealink runs between Penneshaw, American River and Kingscote. Another option is joining one of the tour buses that operate on the island.

What to see

Emu Bay

A beautiful stretch of white sand and blue waters. This beach was one of my favourites and I can see how easily it would be to spend a whole day here! Located on the North Coast of Kangaroo island, 13 km from Kingscote. The bay has calm shallow waters, great for boating, swimming or kayaking. If you have a 4WD, you can drive a few km’s up the beach or set up for the day and soak up some sun.

Pennington Bay

I visited Pennington Bay twice and each time it was absolutely blowing a gale. Those 35 km/hr southerly’s made it very hard to enjoy this beach. If the weather was pleasant, I can see this beach would be lovely to spend the day. Surrounded by cliffs, with a shallow reef close to shore, it’d make for a great day of relaxing or maybe even snorkelling.

Stokes Bay

I was a little unimpressed with this bay to be honest. I loved the fact that you walk through rock and cave like structures to arrive at the beach, the beach itself was a bit boring. It’s a shallow bay surrounded by rocks, it would make a nice place to relax for the day. I just think there are better beaches to explore on Kangaroo Island. There is cheap camping available at Stokes Bay, payable on the day.

Western River Cove

The road down to Western River Cove is very windy and not suitable for caravans, it offers great views of the farm land and ocean. The cove like bay is protected by rocky headlands on each side, making the bay waters very calm. If you were up for exploring, you could explore the rocks on the right hand side of the bay, might even find some rock pools! Camping is available at Western River Cove, payable on day of arrival.

Snelling Beach

I loved this little stretch of beach! To get to this beach you will have to travel on some corrugated roads, which are some of the best I’ve been on. The beach is a long stretch of white sand and beautiful turquoise waters. The cliffs in the background make for great photograph opportunities. Towards the right hand side of the beach, the rocks make for some fun rock pools and exploring. If you have a 4WD you can drive onto the beach. The sand was very soft, so make sure to let your tyres down to avoid getting bogged.

Vivonne Bay and Rock pool

Vivonne Bay was once voted as one of Australia’s best beaches and I can see why. It had some of the bluest waters on Kangaroo Island. Vivonne Bay is located in the South Coast region of the island, cheap camping, a general store and house style accommodation are available in this area. The bay itself is 6 km long, with a jetty on the south end and sand dunes to the north.

There is a beautiful crystal clear rock pool located near the jetty. This is on google maps which makes it easy to find. This was one of the largest rock pools I visited in South Australia, an one of the nicest! To make the most of the rock pool visit when the tide is low and the swell is calm. I visited when the swells were rough which meant every now and then a massive wave would break on the outta rock causing the rock pool to fill up and become a bit choppy.

Little Sahara

Little Sahara is a dune system located a short drive from Vivonne Bay, offering activities such as sandboarding, sand tobogganing, buggy and fat bike tours. A great place to visit for a little bit of adventure. Buggy tours run for either 1 or 2 hours and will cost you between $77 – $110 per person. A fat bike tour will cost between $97 to $217 per person, depending on which tour you choose. They offer after hour tours for both buggy and fat bike tours. Renting a sandboard or toboggan costs $37 for an hour, offering the second hour free! If you are a photographer this landscape has some great photographic opportunities and is completely free.

Kangaroo island Wilderness Park

I wasn’t planning on visiting here, but I am happy I did. The park is fairly small, but offers a great range of wildlife. Barn animals, koalas, kangaroos (that you can feed), dingo’s, reptiles, the list goes on! There are heaps of shows and animal interactions you can see too. I got to hold a 3 year old Koala, named Pearl. She was a rescue from the 2020 bushfires, which is another reason to visit. It’s amazing to see and hear all the wonderful things that the volunteers and workers did to help save the wildlife. It can be a bit daunting to hear the reality of the devastation from the fires, but it is a very informative experience.

Flinders Chase National Park

Another place I wasn’t planning on visiting, and I kind of wish I didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because it’s such a tourist spot, or the sites just didn’t intrigue me, but I found it quite boring. The only thing I loved were the windy roads and the coastline. The Park is massive, and I only explored the bitumen areas, so maybe the better parts are down the corrugated road? If you have a few days on Kangaroo Island, go and check it out. If you only have a few days, I’d give it a miss. I checked out remarkable rocks, Admirals Arch and the ruins.

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