Kangaroo Island: Australia’s answer to the Galapagos Islands
Kangaroo Island is one of those places that you immediately fall in love with. With just over 4,200 inhabitants on this third largest island in Australia, you’ll immediately notice that it’s still pretty untouched here. The vast majority of this place is protected area.
Rugged beaches flirt with the transparent azure waters and in turn are covered by entire colonies of (stinky!) Australian sea lions. On the vast plains you can see hundreds of (!) kangaroos hopping around, but also koalas, echidnas, wallabies, penguins and other fantastic animals can be watched from up close.
Not only the many species of wildlife, but also the fantastic views will make you fall in love with this place. Rocky landscapes transform effortlessly into wild jungles, which then turn into paradisiacal beaches.
I think Kangaroo Island is one of the most beautiful places in Australia. It goes without saying that you can’t skip this piece of earthly paradise during a trip to Down Under!
What to do on Kangaroo Island?
The proof that this is a paradise on earth: eight things to do on Kangaroo Island.
1. Stand eye to eye with the various wildlife
The extensive wildlife is undoubtedly the draw for most tourists, and thus spotting these animals in their own environment also makes it one of the most thrilling activities on Kangaroo Island
The name ‘Kangaroo Island’ of course refers to the abundant presence of Australia’s mascot: the kangaroo.
On this islet you can only find one species (the western grey kangaroo), but you’re in luck, because this species is widely seen as the ‘cutest’ of all roos. They might look very cuddly, but always remember that they are still wild animals. Once you notice the sheer size (and sharpness!) of the nails on their hind legs, you might think twice before running towards them to aggressively…
You have the greatest chance of seeing Skippy once the sun starts to go down or very early in the morning. You can spot them pretty much everywhere on the island, but a good tip that I got from some locals might help you too: Drive to open plains where water (a little lake) is present.
Places where you’re guaranteed to see them:
- Around the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary they are always hiding under trees in fairly large numbers.
- In the area of Flinders Chase National Park you also spot them very often.
If you approach them quietly, you can get very close.
While you’re walking or driving around on the island you’ll undoubtedly see many more wild animals. Koala’s are quite difficult to spot if you are in a moving vehicle, but if you stay focused on the trees during one of your walks, chances are that you’ll see a few of them. The super cute echidnas are slightly less visible, but with a bit of luck you’ll encounter these thrashing cousins of the hedgehog. Wallabies are very shy, and so you really have to go looking for them. You usually find them under bushes or bushy trees. Here they take shelter for birds of prey.
In the surroundings of Admirals Arch you can always meet some noisy sea lions that splash in and out of the water. If you prefer to see them from up close, you can even swim with these smooth animals (+/- $80 pp)! The same goes for the beautiful and curious dolphins.
Seals and sea lions show a lot of interest and if you stay calm under water, they will eventually come up to you to say hi. Dolphins love the opposite: the more weird sounds you make and the more you move, the more interested they are in you and the closer they come.
I didn’t see penguins myself, but that is mainly because they only come back to land by the evening or at night. When you book a tour to see these animals, you are almost guaranteed to see them. Exciting!
There is no shortage of birds here either. Beautiful eagles float high above this archipelago in search of their next prey, but also colorful (and less cheerfully feathered) tropical birds call Kangaroo Island their home. I personally liked the hundreds of black swans around Cape Gantheaume a lot too.
2. Seal Bay Conservation Park
If you ask me what to do on Kangaroo island, this was probably my favorite activity. If you prefer not to splash in the cold water to see seals or sea lions, then you should go to Seal Bay Conversation Park.
This beach is one of the favorite spots of the Western Australian fur seal, an endangered animal species. In the past, these creatures were almost hunted to extinction, but due to great efforts to keep these animals alive, the number of seals grows again year after year.
There are two options to plan your visit. You can choose to buy a ticket where you can watch the animals from a (rather far) distance (16 Australian dollars), or you can opt to walk with a guide to the beach (35,5 Australian dollars). From this beach, you’ll obviously get to see the West-Australian fur seal from way closer. And believe me… That’s really exciting! Your guide will tell you very interesting facts about these animals and all your questions will be answered.
I really recommend to climb up the large wooden platforms for some amazing views over Seal Bay. The dunes, the beach that is packed with beautiful seals and the turquoise water really make this one of the most beautiful things to see on Kangaroo Island.
3. See koalas in the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
If you stay focussed, you can admire koalas on the entire island. But nowhere I saw them in such big numbers as in the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. After only two minutes walking I already spotted three, and at the end of my self-guided walk I saw more than thirty. Moreover, I also saw some peculiar scenes, such as a male who tried to court me and a mommy koala with her little one: SUPER cute !!!
To enter this sanctuary, you pay ten Australian dollars. Do you prefer a guided tour with lots of info about these creatures? Then that is possible for twenty Australian dollars.
As a visitor you are also helped to spot the koalas in the trees a bit more easily. Handy signs show you in which trees you can see some of the sleeping or eating creatures.
Besides the many koalas you can also see other wildlife around the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. There are a lot of kangaroos on the adjacent site and I also saw one very cute echidna and a very shy wallaby.
4. Discover the incredible beaches of Kangaroo Island
Would you like to take a rest from all the close encounters with the cute animals from Kangaroo Island? Then head to one of the beautiful beaches.
Vivonne bay is often mentioned as one of the most stunning shores on this island. And I can’t object, because the white sands are reminiscent of dreamy paradise islands. This long beach is surrounded by beautiful cliffs and high dunes. You’ll always find a quiet place for yourself here. When I was there, there were barely two other people visiting this seemingly unending stretch of paradise .
Emu Bay is a bit smaller, but also a must if you’re looking for a quiet place to discover the beauty of Kangaroo island.
Stokes Bay is yet another piece of paradise. Moreover, it’s definitely the most adventurous beach to get to. You have to climb through a labyrinth of rocks before you arrive at this pristine place. Be sure to climb the cliff behind the beach as well. From there you get a fantastic panoramic view over Stokes Bay and if you’re lucky, hundreds of kangaroos are grazing here! As I said before, I also liked the beach at Seal Bay Conservation Park, especially because you get a nice overview from the wooden platform. If you’re visiting Cape Gantheaume, feel free to drive all the way to the end of this national park. There you’ll also find some unspoilt beaches, which you probably get all for yourself.
My favorite beach on Kangaroo Island? That was without a doubt Pennington Bay. I could spend hours here enjoying the pearly white sand with the rugged rocks and the beautiful blue water. Have lunch at this place, because a picnic in such a beautiful location is really heavenly. And the best of all? There is often no other tourist to be seen anywhere in the area.
5. Flinders Chase National Park
In the west of the island you can find the most stunning and dramatic landscapes, but also the most fascinating diversity. In this large national park you can make many enjoyable walks. Work your way through the beautiful vegetation and learn a lot about Australia, the (much needed) forest fires and the strange animals that live here. In this environment, chances are high that you will see some kangaroos, koalas, echidnas or wallabies.
Another must-see in Flinders Chase are the ‘Remarkable Rocks‘, a collection of gigantic pebbles in strange shapes and colors. These granite mastodons look a bit like giant skulls left here. Of course, the strange shapes have everything to do with wind erosion, because the strong gusts can be treacherous over here! From the place where these rocks are located, you also get a very nice view over the rest of the island. Not far from the Remarkable Rocks you’ll also find Admirals Arch. Dozens of steps lead you down to this stunning natural attraction of Kangaroo Island. The wind and sea created, as it were, a gigantic stone mouth with razor-sharp teeth. The wildly sloshing sea changes the view here every day and that clearly appeals to the many sea lions that live here! Check out these active beasts from the viewing platforms, or gaze at the beauty and strength of Mother Nature.
Flinders Chase National Park is without a doubt one of the most impressive things to do on Kangaroo Island.
6. Kingscote and Penneshaw
Probably this is one of the least impressive things to do on Kangaroo Island, but I still think you should visit the two largest towns during your stay. If you take the ferry, you’ll automatically arrive in Penneshaw. A very small -but cozy!- village in the east of the island. Apart from a few restaurants, a neighborhood shop and a few accommodations, there is not much to do here, but the views here are top notch.
Kingscote is at least twice as big, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere here. This is also the perfect base to explore the island further. Moreover, you can find some very nice restaurants and super cool boutiques.
Perhaps discovering the cities is more something what you can do on Kangaroo Island when the weather isn’t that great. But believe me… That can happen quite a few times during your visit!
7. Cape Gantheaume
During a visit to Kangaroo Island, Cape Gantheaume is often overlooked. Yet I find this very extensive park also worthy of a visit. You can plan in some nice walks and the animal (and plant) diversity that you find here is also pleasant.
Do you like birds? Then go to Murray Lagoon. There are a lot of beautiful waterfowl to be spotted here, of whom the many black swans are definitely the most magical creatures. During your walk around this lake (or up to the viewpoint) you should really try to peek under the bushes now and then. It seems that many Wallabies hide around here.
If you continue to drive a bit further in this nature reserve, you’ll also reach some unspoilt paradise beaches. The perfect place to completely relax!
8. Search for the best viewpoints
It may have already became clear that this places truly is heaven on earth. There are actually countless of other things to do on Kangaroo Island, so it’s difficult to list them all. To give you some last tips, I recommend to just drive around to discover the most beautiful viewpoints around the island. On the whole islet you’ll find sublime views to dream away!
If you drive from the visitor center in the Flinders Chase National Park towards the Remarkable Rocks, you’ll pas a spot on a twisting road that gives you a very nice view over the Eucalyptus trees of this nature reserve.
Also the drive to the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse is beautiful and the view from the steep cliffs over the turbulent sea is also quite nice.
From Penneshaw it’s only a short drive to Dudley Cellar Door, a vineyard with exceptionally stunning panoramas.
Exploring Kangaroo Island on your own
One of the things that makes Kangaroo Island so unique is that human interference is still very limited here. On the archipelago there are actually only a handful of cities (well… villages) and the roads are fortunately limited to a minimum. This also means that certain facilities are not here at all, or are indeed very restricted.
You’ll not find any public transportation on Kangaroo Island. So if you want to explore this island on your own, then you are forced to rent a car. And honestly? That’s also the best and most fun way! Because now you get the freedom to visit everything at your own pace, to discover secret treasures (and believe me… there are many!) and to relax completely on this fantastically beautiful island.
Car hire on Kangaroo Island
If you plan to drive around on Kangaroo Island yourself, I recommend renting an all-in rental car from Sunny Cars. This can be done at the airport of Kangaroo Island, or in Penneshaw (where the ferry arrives from Adelaide).
A rental car with full insurance is certainly not a luxury here, because the wildlife might cause accidents more easily.
Because the island has so much wild animals (kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, ant-gullies, …) it’s quite possible that you hit one of these creatures. While you explore Kangaroo Island you’ll also notice how much roadkill there is on the side of the roads… Especially during the nightfall it can be very dangerous to drive a car on Kangaroo Island.
During the three days that I stayed here, I tested the brakes of my hire car very well! Every once in a while a kangaroo (and they are big!) jumped out of the bushes onto the street, and that is pretty scary. Koalas, possums and wallabies are just as careless and cross the road without looking.
At most car rental companies, a collision with animals is not included in the price, but with the all-in rental cars from Sunny Cars that is fortunately the case. That immediately reassures you, because damage caused by such a beast can get high…
Of course, your rental car can also be damaged by other accidents, so a rental car with insurance is a good idea anyway. Another advantage of Sunny Cars is that everything is handled by them. You only need to pick up the key and bring it back and for the rest you can enjoy your visit to this magnificent island carefree.
Getting to Kangaroo Island
There are two ways to get to Kangaroo Island on your own.
Either you take the plane to Kingscote Airport, or you take the ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw.
Plane to Kingscote Airport
Getting to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide airport only takes half an hour, but flights are anything but cheap. If you, however, book in advance, the cost of flying isn’t that bad. The ferry takes you much longer (keep in mind that you need to take a shuttle bus from Adelaide to Cape Jervis and from there hop on the ferry to Penneshaw. In total you’l lose about 2 to 3 hours), so if you care about your comfort, a flight is the best choice.
Moreover, Kingscote is also slightly more centrally located on Kangaroo Island compared to Penneshaw.
A single ticket from Adelaide Airport to Kingscote Airport can cost $100 per person. A return ticket can sometimes cost as much as $200 per person.
Ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw
Getting to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide with the ferry is a (often) cheaper way, but it’ll also take a lot more time. From this cozy city it takes you about an hour to drive to Cape Jervis. You can arrange this with your own transport, but a much better way is to arrange the shuttle bus.
From Cape Jervis you have to take the ferry to Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island. With the SeaLink boat there are five sailings per day.
From Adelaide to Cape Jervis
I advise against renting a rental car in Adelaide already. Most car rental companies do not allow you to bring your rental car on the ferry to KI. Are you doing this anyway? Then you’re not insured. Moreover, it costs a lot to bring a car on the ferry, and since there is a car rental company on Kangaroo Island itself, it seems more logical to pick up your car there. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely recommend the all-in rental cars from Sunny Cars.
From Adelaide you can book a shuttle bus that takes you to Cape Jervis and from there you can immediately hop on the ferry. The ferry will wait for all shuttle bus passengers, so your connection is guaranteed.
From Cape Jarvis to Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island
It’s not a bad idea to book the ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw for some time in advance. The longer you wait, the more expensive the trip will be.
If you book a few weeks in advance, you pay $40 per person for a single ticket. Are you taking your car on the ferry? Then you’ll pay around $100 for a single ticket.
In total you’ll sail for about 45 minutes on the rough sea, before you arrive on the magical Kangaroo Island.
Tickets for the ferry from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island can be booked online through this page.
Total price if you organize everything yourself
What should you expect to spend if you’re getting to Kangaroo Island on your own and plan everything yourself? I was there for three days and I paid this:
- $110 for the shuttle from Adelaide to Cape Jervis and the ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw (return). For the plane from Adelaide you pay about $200.
- $80 for four nights at a youth hostel in Penneshaw. An accommodation with more privacy costs on average $95 per night (between $75 and $110).
- $ 250 for a rental car for three days.
- +/- $150 for petrol (about +/- $1 per liter). Kangaroo Island is the third largest island in Australia. The distances are sometimes quite long, so be prepared!
- Count on $25 – $40 per day per person when eating out. Self-catering or ready-to-eat meals costs about half.
For a short visit to Kangaroo Island you’ll definitely spend $660 – $700 if you arrange it yourself and do so fairly cheap. If you travel alone, it’s therefore more advantageous to book a tour.
Tour to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide
Are you not looking forward to arrange your visit to Kangaroo Island yourself? Or would you rather keep your eyes available to spot some of the wildlife on the island? Then a guided tour to Kangaroo Island is also an option.
From Adelaide, there are several trips departing daily to this beautiful islet.
You and your fellow adventurers are picked up in Adelaide and then taken to the wonderful Kangaroo Island for one or more days.
The advantage of such a tour is of course that everything is arranged for you, but also that the entire trip is guided. This means that your visit will become a lot more interesting, but also that you’ll often see places that you might otherwise not find yourself.
If you travel alone, a tour can also be cheaper than if you have to book everything yourself. Are you planning a visit to this island with the whole family? Then planning your visit to KI is the cheapest way.
Personally, I wouldn’t really recommend choosing a one-day excursion. The trip to and from Kangaroo Island already takes a few hours, and so you don’t have much time left to explore the island itself. This long day excursion costs at least $200 per person.
Two days is a much better idea. You get to see a lot more and your visit to the Galapagos of Australia is way more relax. A two-day excursion can be booked from $300 per person.
For me, three days were ideal. In this time frame, you get to see almost everything and feel completely relaxed in this natural setting. The annoying things with tours of three days is that you have to arrange your own transport to the island. (So count $100 extra if you come from Adelaide with the ferry or $200 if you take the plane). A three-day tour starting on Kangaroo Island itself will cost about $300 per person + (minimum) $100 extra for transport from Adelaide.
Are you following me on Social Media?
Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.