Located off the coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island encapsulates the very essence of Australia but in a weekend getaway friendly size! Teeming with unique geological formations, beautiful beaches, wildlife, and artisanal cuisine, this is the perfect place for a side trip when visiting Adelaide. Ideally you should try and spend at least a week on KI but if you are short on time this guide should help you make the most of a short Kangaroo Island holiday!
Kangaroo Island is, in fact, the third-largest island off the coast of mainland Australia, so whilst it might look small, there is still a lot of ground to cover. The island officially reaches 150 km (93 miles) in length and spans 4,405 square kilometres (2,737 square miles) in total. It contains one national park, around 10 wineries and dozens of adorable townships.
There is a lot to see and do on Kangaroo Island which is why we recommend that you plan to spend at least a weekend exploring the sights and attractions. Our guide to Kangaroo Island is here to help you plan your visit.
Read on to learn when to visit, how to get there, where to stay and get inspired with fun and adventurous ways to fill your days.
When to visit Kangaroo Island
While there is no bad time to visit the island, the best time to visit Kangaroo Island will depend on exactly what you want from your getaway.
Winter (June to August) is considered the off-peak season which means the island is quiet and you are more likely to find deals on accommodation. If you do visit Kangaroo Island during winter then you will need to prepare for cold and windy weather, with temperatures lingering between 8ºC (46ºF) and a maximum of 15ºC (59ºF).
On the plus side, winter is the optimum time for spotting a breaching whale off the island, and when the resident sea lions are most active as they seek winter sunshine on Seal Bay.
For many people, Summer (December to February) is the best time to have a Kangaroo Island holiday when you can enjoy the beaches and beautiful wildflowers. This is when the island receives its warmest weather, with temperatures hovering around 20ºC (68ºF) and 25ºC (77 ºF).
In terms of hiking, the shoulder seasons of autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November) are perfect. Temperatures fluctuate but rarely surpass 20ºC (68 ºF) or drop into single figures. As with winter, you are more likely to find slighter cheaper deals during these months, and there are fewer crowds than during summer.
Pressed for time?
Ideally, you need a week to explore KI and really get around to all the main attractions.
If, however, you only have a day or two then it is possible to join an organised tour from Adelaide and have all your transfers and transport arranged for you.
How to get to Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is accessible from mainland Australia via ferry or plane. Adelaide is the most logical place to start your Kangaroo Island getaway or weekend trip.
The ferry to Kangaroo Island
Ferries depart from Cape Jervis and arrive in Penneshaw.
The journey takes 45 minutes and multiple connections are operated per day by Sealink, between 7 am and 7 pm. Fares vary based on when you travel and whether you travel solely as a foot passenger, or whether you are taking your car.
As a guideline, expect to pay 49 AUD each way if you’re travelling without a car and 99 AUD each way if you are transporting your car.
Flying to Kangaroo Island
Flights with QantasLink connect Adelaide Airport (ADL) to Kingscote Airport (KGC) and take 35 minutes.
Once you arrive on Kangaroo Island there is no public transportation available so you will need to hire a car or bring your own vehicle.
We recommend organising a car rental prior to travel to avoid disappointment.
Accommodation Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is divided into a handful of small townships and coastal resorts.
Accommodation is dotted across the entire destination and gives you the option to go off-grid or stay in one of the larger townships.
You can take your pick from campgrounds, self-catered apartments, humble lodges and guesthouses, boutique hotels, and luxury resorts.
You may choose to base yourself in one accommodation or relocate every few nights, depending on the length of your stay. To put the island into perspective, it takes around 90 minutes to drive from Penneshaw to Flinders Chase.
As the largest and most developed township on the island, Kingscote is one of the most convenient places to stay and if it’s your first time on the island this is where we recommend you stay on your Kangaroo Island holiday
Kangaroo Island Seaside Inn offers gigantic rooms with gigantic views of the ocean. Interiors are top-notch and there is a restaurant on-site. A 10-minute walk from the town, this beachfront hotel is a fantastic base for couples, families and travelling friends alike.
If you’d prefer to stay in self-catered accommodation then Cloudscape Apartment Number 2 comes with a simple kitchen, one bedroom and a quaint garden. You also get a fantastic sea view.
If you want to stay around the ferry the night before you leave, you can stay at the Kangaroo Island Seafront in Penneshaw. This immaculate resort features a swimming pool, sauna, and bar. In addition to rooms and villas, the property offers a collective of eco-friendly safari tents and deluxe bell tents that overlook Hog Bay.
Beach lovers will covet staying at the Baudin Beach Apartments which are a short walk from Baudin Beach and well situated for getting to other nearby swimming spots. These compact, funky holiday homes are fitted with a full kitchen and some benefit from a covered outdoor barbecue and dining area. Perfect for couples, families and travelling friends.
Located in the heart of the island among nature, Ecopia Retreat offers a selection of villas that suit families or couples. Lodges have been designed to maximise natural light and provide panoramic views of the surroundings, with huge windows, a porch and a scenic view from the bathtub. Keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos, koalas, porcupines, and more who roam around the property.
Further north, Wildlife Cottages Kangaroo Island provides direct access to Stokes Bay Beach. These individual units sleep two to six guests and are fully equipped with cooking and barbecue facilities. Each one provides sweeping ocean views from its private verandah that you’ll never forget. But the real highlight is the gang of kangaroos who share this beautiful spot with you and are frequently seen bobbing around the plains.
Down in the eastern corner of the island by the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, Sea Dragon Lodge & Villas is the perfect romantic hideaway for couples or honeymooners. This luxury, boutique guesthouse does not permit children under 11. Most villas come with fully-equipped kitchens and private hot tubs which provide breathtaking views over Pink Bay where you might catch a glimpse of dancing dolphins.
Camping on Kangaroo Island
For those who intend to spend a lot of time exploring the Flinders Chase National Park, you may benefit from staying at the Western KI Caravan Park & Wildlife Reserve.
Many guests report sightings of koalas, kangaroos, and possums within the grounds.
There is a selection of family cottages and fully self-contained one and two-bedroom cabins for couples to choose from. They also have satellite TV and reverse-cycle air-conditioning.
Other campsites on the island include Kangaroo Island Seafront Holiday Park in Penneshaw – which also have Glamping tents! and American River Camp Ground at American River which is very central and good for water activities.
There’s also Brown Beach Camp Ground, D’Estrees Bay Campground and Emu Bay Camp Ground. These are all Council owned and run and cant be booked in advance. Email them for more information at email@example.com.
Things to do on Kangaroo Island
Meet the stars of the island at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
You can’t come all the way to Kangaroo Island without seeing some of the resident roos that give the place its name!
There are lots of places where you might catch a glimpse of a passing kangaroo but if you want to guarantee a sighting, visit the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
This 2,000 hectare (5,000 acres) reserve is home to kangaroos and wallabies, as well as koalas, possums, echidnas, the Rosenburg Goanna, the Bush Stone Curlew, and heaps of native birds.
Ninety-minute guided tours provide the best chance to spot the wildlife and there are usually two scheduled tours each day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. You can also stay in very comfortable cabins here with incredible views.
You can check the latest schedule online before you visit.
The admission per adult is 30 AUD.
Observe the Seal Bay Conservation Park colony
Seal Bay is the home of a colony of endangered Australian sea lions who enjoy basking on the golden sand and are protected by local conservationists. From the impressive entrance to the Conservation Park, you can walk down the beach boardwalk and watch them in their natural habitat. Be sure to look under the boardwalk and in the sand dunes as there are often seals resting there.
The options are either a self-guided walk, that grants access down to the viewing platform or a guided walk.
This 45-minute tour takes you right onto the beach and provides an opportunity to learn about the creatures and the conservation efforts in place to protect them.
The self-guided tour is 16.50 AUD per adult whilst the guided option is 37 AUD.
Visit Cape Willoughby
Positioned on the easternmost tip of the island, Cape Willoughby provides wonderful views across the Great Australian Bight.
You can follow the marked trails through the conservation park, and along the coastal cliffs to take in the best panoramas from the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse.
This lighthouse once played a vital role in shaping Australias shipping and trade routes and keeping sailors at sea safe. Today you can take a tour of the lighthouse itself and even stay in the Lighthouse Keepers Cottage!
This part of the island is great for mountain biking, hiking and Whale Watching when the whales are in the local water between May and October. As Cape Willoughby is a tad off the beaten track, you can coincide your visit with a stop at False Cape Wines, one of our favourite South Australian wine labels!
Go Penguin Spotting
A Kangaroo Island holiday is almost always going to result in a penguin sighting.
It’s possible to see penguins right on the beach in Penneshaw but they are usually only active at night so it pays to do a guided tour with someone who knows where to find them and what they are up to. Book that with Penneshaw Penguin Centre.
Cost: Adults $25, Children $15, Concession $15 and Family pass is $70.
It is sometimes possible to come across Penguins when exploring the island, particularly from the sea. There is a great Ocean Safari you can do that focuses on Dolphins but you often see seals and penguins too (see below).
Kangaroo Island History
This is one for the history buffs and anyone curious about traditional life on the island. Originally constructed in 1859, Hope Cottage is the restored home of the two brothers, Charles and Michael Calnan, who made their fortune in the Victorian goldfields.
The quaint cottage in the heart of Kingscote provides insight into 1860s life on the island and is exhibited alongside buildings displaying farm machinery; domestic and communication equipment; and historic sea and air transport.
Also on the premises, you’ll find a sheep shearing shed, a blacksmith’s shop, and a 1950s garage.
Hope Cottage is open daily 1 pm – 4 pm (10 am – 4 pm in January) but closed for the month of August.
Admission is 6 AUD per adult.
Hop aboard a whale-watching expedition
Providing you visit during winter, you stand a high chance of witnessing migrating whales off the coast of Kangaroo Island.
You might catch a glimpse of them off the beaches of Kingscote and Penneshaw without needing to board a boat, but if you want to double your chances you can book yourself onto a whale watching tour.
The Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari runs cruises out to the likes of Dolphin Cove, Kangaroo Head and Snapper Point. These typically go out twice a day (usually at 9 am and 3 pm but do consult their schedule) and each cruise lasts 75 minutes.
Tour fees start at 88 AUD. Outside of whale season, you may still see dolphins, seals, and local seabirds.
In addition to the ocean safaris, the same company schedules excursions to swim and snorkel with dolphins and seals, helicopter tours, and sunset ocean safaris.
As these activities get busy, we recommend booking in advance to secure your spot.
Explore phenomenal nature in Flinders Chase National Park
Occupying the western edge of Kangaroo Island, the Flinders Chase National Park overlooks the Great Australian Bight.
This natural wonderland almost puts the Great Ocean Road to shame with its unique formations, such as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. Bushwalking in the national park provides you with sensational coastal views, pristine rivers and opportunities to experience the diverse native wildlife.
The major landmarks, plus a number of viewpoints, are accessible from the road so you can park your car and follow a short trail to see these without having to hike.
Hiking on Kangaroo Island
If you want to travel deeper into the park then there’s an array of trails that cater for all levels of fitness and hiking abilities.
A few that we can recommend are:
- Cape du Couedic Hike: a 2 km (1.2 miles) loop that starts and ends at the Cape du Couedic day visitor area and takes 40 minutes to complete.
- Snake Lagoon Hike: a 4 km (2.5 miles) hike that takes around 2.5 hours to complete and culminates at a natural lagoon by the beach. You’re unlikely to find any snakes bobbing around in the pool, so don’t worry!
- Ravine Hike: starting at the Ravine des Casoars trailhead, this one weaves its way 7 km (4.4 miles) through the vegetation and along a river before depositing you on a remote beach. The hike takes around 4 hours, excluding any time you spend relaxing on the sandy beach.
The national park is also the setting of the five-day Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail if you are planning an extended adventure on the island.
Access to the national park is 11 AUD per adult.
Kangaroo Island beaches
If you visit Kangaroo Island during the summer you can take advantage of the splendid beaches and devote a day to finding your favourite. Even in colder weather, they make for a lovely walk.
Emu Bay Beach in the north half of the island and Vivonne Bay Beach in the south are both lovely long, wide beaches that are perfect for walking and sunbathing.
Stokes Bay Beach is adored by families due to the rockpools which can keep children entertained for hours, and it’s worth bringing a snorkel and mask along. Access to the beach is through a cave of boulders and it’s only accessible at low tide.
Slightly on the wilder side, Bales Beach has great surfing conditions although we don’t recommend it for swimming.
Kangaroo Island Food and Dining
Not necessarily at the same time, but make sure you prioritise feasting on the gourmet produce of Kangaroo Island.
The Oyster Farm Shop in American River is the place to go for fresh, fuss-free seafood platters and oyster tastings. All seafood produce is sustainably sourced by the couple who own and manage the shop and its connected farm. There is a small dining area on-site (booking is essential for larger parties) or you may prefer to buy some pieces to barbecue at your accommodation.
You won’t find the traditional fish and chips offered at the Oyster Farm Shop. If you are craving a deep-fried supper you can head to Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood (Kingscote) and try the famous whiting or the Deck Cafe on the Wharf (American River) for the catch of the day with a view.
Located en route to the dreamy Emu Bay, the Emu Bay Lavender Farm & Cafe is a must-visit for anyone who loves a delicious brunch and excellent coffee!
The menu includes smashed avocado on sourdough, granola with seasonal fruits and classic bacon and eggs. You can also make this your lunch stop and dive into a vegan green bowl or the curry of the day.
Whatever you do, pick up one of the delectable lavender scones which are made on-site at the lavender farm. These have to be some of the biggest ( and best) scones we have ever had! You can team them with lavender tea or lavender gin and tonic.
Located just south of Kingscote, Clifford’s Honey Farm is a working honey production business owned by a local family. The farm welcomes visitors to purchase their goods and learn about the nature and techniques of honey making.
You may think you’ve seen honey making before but this is a pretty unique place as Kangaroo Island is actually the world’s oldest bee sanctuary and home to the only pure strain of Ligurian Bees (originally from Italy) in the world. It is too far ( and windy) for the bees to fly to the mainland so they have been happily protected from disease on KI.
The on-site shop presents several varieties of honey, including creamed and sugar gum, in addition to popcorn, biscuits, lip balm, and other takeaway treats. Whilst you’re deciding what to buy you can cool down with a honey ice cream.
There are not a lot of restaurants on Kangaroo Island but the few that are there are excellent. There is excellent food on offer at Dudley and False Cape Wines but be sure to book ahead on a weekend.
The Penneshaw Hotel is a great spot for a counter-meal with sweeping views over the bay and across to the mainland. Other offerings in Penneshaw include KI Fish and Chips, Fire and Smoke and Sorrento’s Pizzeria.
In Kingscote Bella Cafe Restaurant and Pizza Bar is a popular choice as is Zone Restaurant while Amadio’s is found in a beautiful heritage building and is perfect for a special occasion.
In America River, diners can choose between The Glossy Black Restaurant and Reflections Restaurant at the Mercure Hotel.
If you’re a total foodie you might want to book a gourmet food and wine trail tour.
Kangaroo Island wineries
No guide to Kangaroo Island is complete without mentioning the fabulous wines that the island produces and it would be a shame not to sample a few glasses for yourself.
In keeping with the rest of South Australia, Kangaroo Island excels in Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are around 10 wineries to choose from that are predominantly located on the eastern half of the island. If you want to savour your wine over a sea view, head to Dudley Wines (Penneshaw) or Bay of Shoals Wines (Kingscote). False Cape Wines (Dudley East) serves delicious food in a rustic and tranquil setting.
Where there is wine there is usually cheese and you will find cheese boards on the menu at most of the island wineries.
Visit a Brewery too!
Kangaroo Island Brewery is the first cellar door microbrewery on the island. It is situated just outside Kingscote and is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.
The sustainable brewery produces eight varieties that range from a hoppy golden ale to a glossy stout. You can pair a tasting paddle with a pizza or ploughman’s board subject to what day you visit or you can take your beer back to your accommodation for a crafty sundowner.
There is a roaring log fire in winter, heaps of grass for kids to run around and it’s even pet friendly! There sometimes live music too.
The brewery does yummy pizzas on Friday, Saturday and Sundays and Ploughman’s boards every day. They don’t take bookings but there’s usually room for everyone.
Immerse yourself in the Arts and Crafts Scene
Kangaroo Island Art and Artisans
We can’t leave the blossoming arts and crafts scene out of our guide to Kangaroo Island. Kingscote is the epicentre for the art movement on the island and where you will find both the Kangaroo Island Gallery and Fine Art Kangaroo Island.
Swing by both galleries to see paintings, drawings, photography, and jewellery all made by locals. It’s a great place to pick up some new pieces for your home, treat your loved ones or just have a chat with friendly artists and hear about local techniques.
There is a large number of artists and artisans living on Kangaroo Island and as well as the two commercial galleries there are also two community galleries staffed by volunteers and individual artist studios that are open to the public. Check out Janine Mackintosh, Darry Fraser Books and Eleanor Downs as well as jewellery makers By Blu and KI & Co.
Art Feast is held each October and there is also an annual Easter Art Exhibition.
Kangaroo Island Markets
Penneshaw Markets are held on the Penneshaw Oval ( or in the adjoining hall depending on the weather) on the first Sunday of every month, between October and April plus Easter Sunday. There is also a few held in winter.
The Kingscote Farmers and Artisan Markets are held on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month at Kingscote Wharf. Lots of delicious produce is sold here including cakes, preserves and coffee as well as arts and crafts.