Where we stayed:
– Penneshaw, AirBnB, $150/night
– Postman’s Cottage, Rocky River, Flinders Chase National Park, $75/night
– Woodward Hut, Cape Borda, $72/night
Where we ate:
– Sunset food and wine, 6 course degustation $89pp
– Multiple homemade picnics/platters due to a lack of shops!
What we did:
– Seal Bay
– Vivonne Bay
– Platypus Waterholes walk
– Remarkable Rocks
– Admirals Arch
– Cape Borda lighthouse tour
– Harveys Return walk and swim
How to get there
Either fly from Adelaide to Penneshaw, or drive 2hrs from Adelaide to Cape Jervis and catch the Sealink ferry to Penneshaw.
I’ve wanted to visit Kangaroo Island for a while but was somewhat deterred by the price of the ferry (apparently the most expensive ferry crossing by distance in the world!!!) unfortunately Sealink have a monopoly, so unless you have your own plane/boat, or want to pay for the flight from Adelaide then you just have to stump up!
Another thing that had prevented me visiting so far was the logistics of getting there, slightly too far for a long weekend from Sydney.
We spent 3 nights on Kangaroo Island, and whilst I’m sure you could spend much longer there if you’d like, I think it was a pretty ideal length of stay to get a good feel of the island and not feel like we were rushing around too much.
Ben is in the throws of Ironman training, so cycled from Adelaide down to Cape Jervis. For anyone thinking of doing this apparently there’s a great bike path down to McLaren vale from Adelaide.
I acted as support car which meant I could let him get a few hours head start. This gave me time to:
– Meet Sydney friends for a delicious brekkie at Coffylosophy in Adelaide;
– ‘Hire’ an Adelaide Free Bike from the OzBackpacker’s, one of the many free bike locations around the city. Just leave your driving license and get a bike, lock and helmet for the day!
– Cycle around the city to the Adelaide central market to buy some picnic supplies for Kangaroo Island.
– Stop off at a Buddhist temple with giant statue under construction on the drive down to Cape Jervis
The ferries were super booked out as it was Easter weekend, so the earliest we could get was 3pm. We arrived into Penneshaw an hour later and had a cup of tea with our AirBnB hosts before heading out for an amazing dinner at Sunset Food and Wines.
Kangaroo Island is definitely a ‘foodie’ destination, and Sunset’s head chef was previously at the ridiculously luxurious (and pricey!) Southern Ocean Lodge on KI.
We had a 6 course degustation menu, containing a heap of local produce and it was absolutely delicious. I’d highly recommend it.
Sunset is about 5ks out of Penneshaw, hence the reason we decided to stay in Penneshaw on our first night. You want to avoid driving between sunset and sunrise as much as possible on the island due to the sheer volume of wildlife on and around the roads.
When we’d arrived at Adelaide airport and gone to collect the rental car I naively thought the lady working there was being polite/genuinely interested when she asked what our plans were. The second I mentioned Kangaroo Island we were issued with a strict list of things we MUST NOT DO:
1. “Don’t drive at night”
2. “Don’t drive on unsealed roads”
3. “In fact you’re lucky we let you take the car there at all, most rentals don’t”
4. “Oh and as SOON as you get on the ferry, if anything happens on there, you’re not covered”….”Um if something happens on the ferry I’ll probably be more concerned with not drowning than the rental car, but thank you”
Pheewy. That’s all then?!
The next day we were up early and Ben was off on the bike again. He made his way towards our lunch stop at Vivonne Bay. I picked him up en route and we made a detour to Seal Bay, to see the sea lions!
Now Seal Bay is rather commoditised, there is no free option, either you pay $16pp to do the Boardwalk option (a ‘self-guided’ walk down to next to the beach but not onto the beach) or you pay more, maybe $30pp and have to book onto a guided tour, when we were there the wait was about 2 hours for a tour, the benefit of the guided tour is that you are allowed onto the beach closer to the sea lions.
We went for the boardwalk option and whilst the seals were quite far away down on the beach, on the walk back up we spotted a mum feeding her pup under the boardwalk!
Next we stopped off at Vivonne Bay to get fuel, prompted by my constant paranoia that once the fuel gauge drops to 3/4 full we should “probably get some more, just in case…”
It turned out that the Vivonne Bay general store/fuel pumps also did a rather delicious fish and chips so we ordered a seafood basket and happily ate in the sunshine.
We then tried to go to Vivonne Bay. Voted the ‘best beach in Australia’. Tried being the operative word…..we drove along the main road, followed the signs to ‘beach’, and ended up at a headland right at the western end of the beach, with no actual beach.
Next we ended up at a campsite and estuary, where an obese man was trying to get into a kayak, but not the beach.
Finally we drove practically back to the general store, and took the road off there, and finally found the beach. The locals obviously want to keep it a secret!!
Sad to say we were both a little underwhelmed. Perhaps the tide was just in too far, but it really didn’t ‘WOW’ me. It had lovely clean air, and fine sand, but so do a lot of beaches in Australia. I’m not sure what the judging criteria are….least people? That’s because there’s no bloody signs!!!!
After our beach fail, we drove on to the Flinders National Park at the west end of the island.
We were booked into one of the heritage cottages in the national park for the night.
The visitors centre closes at 5pm so we had to get there before to get a park pass for the car for the time we were there.
The Postman’s Cottage was absolutely gorgeous, a simple single roomed building with a new shower block added. It was super cosy and had everything we needed for the night, including a wood burner.
Before the sun went down we went on a run along the trail to the Platypus Waterhole. This is a 2hr walk but was about a 35 minute run.
Platypus are notoriously shy. They will hide away at the slightest noise. We did our best ‘standing quietly’ for a while but no luck. We tiptoed up to one waterhole (why would they make a gravel path?!) much to the amusement of the couple already waiting there.
There was an exciting moment when there was a big splash in the water, I dashed over to the boundary and then heard Ben giggling behind me…turned out he got bored and threw a stone in!
We gave up on Platypus spotting and ran back through hoards of Kangaroos and blue/grey geese. I’m so glad we saw the geese in the light because they made a very odd snorting sound, more like a pig than a goose. They were very vocal at night and I would definitely have mistaken them for some sort of crazy wild bore trying to break into the cottage and attack us.
Dinner was a little outdoor picnic as the sun set.
The next morning we were up early to go and see the sunrise over the Remarkable Rocks. Despite the visitors centre having opening hours, the national park is open 24hrs a day, and given we were staying in the heart of it the drive was only about 30 minutes.
As we drove over a headland a couple of kms from the rocks the sky turned a brilliant colour. I had an internal battle between driving at 100kmph to get to the rocks before the sun was up, and driving at 20kmph to make sure my driving was Kangaroo-conscious (I didn’t want to contribute to the already masses of roadkill along the highways!)
The Remarkable Rocks lived up to their name, and given the early start we were the only people there! I’ll let the photos do the talking:
Next we headed to nearby Admiral’s Arch, where once again it was just us. The rocks were covered in seals…probably not worth paying for Seal Bay given these little guys are free!
The seals under the Arch put on a real playful show for us, leaping all over the place, something I’ve never seen before:
Then it was off up north to our final stop on Kangaroo Island – Cape Borda. We spent the night in the Woodward cottage, next to the Cape Borda lighthouse.
The accommodation was more basic than the Postman’s Cottage, but the location was absolutely unbeatable.
We went on the 12pm lighthouse tour and learnt so much.
Just a couple of the facts:
– Cape Borda lighthouse was built short and square because the cliff is already over 100m above sea level, therefore the building doesn’t need to be tall for ships to see it. Tall lighthouses need to be strong, hence why they’re round which is more expensive, so Cape Borda could be built square!
– Every lighthouse has a different flash sequence so ships can identify where they are;
– Lighthouses would fire a cannon at 1pm so passing ships could set their clocks for longitude. If they didn’t hear the cannon they’d see the smoke. They were busy at midday using the sun to work out latitude.
We then drove the 5kms to Harveys Return. This is the closest safe place to Cape Borda for ships to moor, so it was where supplies were historically delivered every 3 months. The walk from the sea up to the road was strenuous enough without carrying anything. Historically supplies had to be ‘winched’ up the cliff and then carried 5km by road!
We had a magical evening watching the sunset at the lighthouse and an equally amazing sunrise!
After that it was back to the mainland to continue the SA adventures in McLaren Vale, Mount Remarkable, Flinders Ranges and Clare Valley!