Looking for all the best things to do in SA's wildlife-rich Kangaroo Island? Browse a range of top tours, activities and attractions in "KI" online here.
Looking for all the best things to do in SA's wildlife-rich Kangaroo Island? Browse a range of top tours, activities and attractions in "KI" online here.
Rich in national park and easily accessible off the South Australian mainland, Kangaroo Island is dense with both natural wonders as well as a handful of great man-made additions that have helped flesh out its culinary and entertainment offerings.
“KI”, as the locals call it, has become increasingly popular as a travel spot over the years yet still remains largely untainted by development – as a result, there are few better havens for taking in a diversity of Aussie wildlife and sampling fresh produce all in one. All of this is fringed by dramatically beautiful coastal surrounds, and just a few hours worth of car/bus-and-ferry from Adelaide to boot.
If you’re considering a trip to this must-visit spot, here are 10 of the top things to do on Kangaroo Island.
Location: Flinders Chase, Kangaroo Island
If there’s any single highlight that makes Kangaroo Island a must-visit, Flinders Chase National Park is it.
The crown jewel in what itself is one of South Australia’s key highlights, there’s a reason we ranked this hub of wonderful natural features at #1 in our South Australia’s Ultimate Bucket List feature back in 2016 – amongst many of Australia’s incredible national parks, the diversity on display here in terms of both geography and wildlife is a microcosm of Kangaroo Island as a whole.
Situated on the island’s west end, Flinders Chase National Park spans an impressive 326 square kilometres within which you’ll find a number of standout highlights ranging from geological rarities such as the massive, otherworldly spectacle of the Remarkable Rocks, the aforementioned Admiral’s Arch, a resident colony of fur seals and abundant other native wildlife including koalas, wallabies and more.
This is an expansive wonderland which blends together alien-like landscapes with traditional forested areas and dramatic stretches of stunning coastline that makes for a showcase of some of South Australia’s best bushwalks.
While it’s a fair hike from most of the civilised portions of Kangaroo Island – the entrance sits around 110km from Kingscote – reaching Flinders Chase is done via sealed roads which make navigation easy.
You’ll want to take things slow, however, as its heaping of wildlife can often be spotted trying to make their way across.
There’s a reason we ranked this hub of wonderful natural features at #1 in our South Australia’s Ultimate Bucket List back in 2016.
Visiting the park begins with a stop at the excellent and highly detailed Visitor Information Centre where you’ll pay your national park entry fee per person (and optionally enjoy some great coffee), with multi-day passes available for those wanting to cover all of its highlights.
Given the sheer scale of Flinders Chase National Park, its cavalcade of excellent walks, lighthouses, and gorgeous coast dotted with pristine beaches, there’s no shortage of things to see that make a multi-day itinerary all but essential.
Flinders Chase National Park is also very well maintained and easily accessible via both vehicle on foot – a sign that those national park fees are being put to good use by the authorities.
2WD vehicles can access the majority of the park’s highlights as well, so those with a standard rental car need not fear being restricted or missing out on anything essential. In addition, companies such as AAT Kings offer day tours to Kangaroo Island that put the emphasis on the park’s highlights for those short on time.
Above all, Flinders Chase National Park is a place where a lack of phone reception and seeing few other people is definitely a good thing; it’s been dubbed an “escape within an escape” for this very reasons, and there are thus few more enjoyable places within Australia in which to fully unplug from urban life. Geology, wildlife, greenery, pristine sands – Flinders Chase has it all in spades.
Location: Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
One of South Australia’s best examples of eco-tourism at work, the Seal Bay Conservation Park serves as another truly natural wildlife encounter quite unlike any other in the country.
This natural heritage area is home to around 1,000 Australian Sea Lions in total, ranking it as the third-largest of its kind in Australia, yet it’s the only such spot in which visitors can encounter sea lions up close in the company of a National Parks ranger.
Located around 45 minutes from Kingscote, the adventure at Seal Bay begins by visiting the visitor’s centre (tickets are purchased here) which provides some overview and background on the sea lions.
After that, you’ll have the option of experiencing its offerings in one of two fashions: a booked guided tour is required to walk the beach alongside the sea lions, while a dedicated boardwalk is also available for those who want to self-guide and view them from afar.
While the boardwalk still offers a solid vantage point, given for most visitors a trip to Kangaroo Island is a once-in-a-lifetime proposition, opting for the guided experience will be the go-to for the majority.
These tours begin by traversing the series of stairs and walkways leading out to the beach, then walking on sand on the beach proper and getting remarkably close to the sea lions.
The sea lion numbers are quite staggering when witnessed firsthand, both on the shore and playing in the waters beyond.
This natural heritage area is home to around 1,000 Australian Sea Lions in total, ranking it as the third-largest of its kind in Australia.
Once on the beach, it’s fascinating to watch the interaction between sea lions of all sizes and stages of their life cycle, male and female alike.
Seal Bay can be quite a lively scene when visiting during mating season in particular, as the territorial and competitive nature of the sea lion bulls often puts them into conflict with one another – an impressive sight, given some of these big boys can weigh upwards of 350kg!
As a result, it’s both mandatory and sensible to keep your distance (around 10 metres is the guideline), while during the tour your ranger will point out individual characteristics of some of the regulars, as well as their habits and what makes them tick.
There’s ample time for some excellent photo opportunities to be had throughout the 30 minute tour duration as well; Seal Bay has long ranked as one of the favoured destinations in Australia for wildlife photographers for this very reason.
Abundant birdlife such as gulls and plovers round out the scenery, making for a thoroughly enjoyable overall wildlife experience.
As with any other beach, it can get quite hot particularly if visiting during the middle of the day; bring a hat and some water, or visit earlier in the morning (pre-11am) or later in the afternoon (post-1pm) if possible.
Seal Bay is as memorable a wildlife experience as one can have in the state, and while it can be pricey if travelling in a group, the uniqueness of the encounter provides a highly worthwhile return on investment.
Location: Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island
One of Kangaroo Island’s most iconic natural features also ranks as one of the key highlights of Flinders Chase National Park (detailed further below).
Formed via the effects of thousands of years of erosion, Admiral’s Arch is a distinctive-looking rock bridge on the southwest portion of Kangaroo Island and is one of the most “Instagrammable” places on all of KI due to its combination of rock-meets-sea scenery and propensity for wildlife as well.
Reached via a 0.8km return walk that takes around 15 minutes, the area here is populated with a number of informative boards providing background information on the environment and other highlights.
The walk beings below Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and requires navigating a fair few stars to reach the lower portion of the arch, however the purpose-built boardwalk makes for convenient and stable access and offers some scenic viewing of its own along the way.
Upon reaching the arch proper, the site of waves of the Southern Ocean crashing against the rocks makes for a lively scene, with the sea capable of being quite roiling and boisterous depending on weather conditions.
Admiral’s Arch’s jagged, stalactite-dense mouth makes for a direct contrast to the smoothness of the rocks at the bottom, and coupled with the bright colour of the sea makes for a panorama that’s nothing if not photogenic.
Admiral’s Arch is an embodiment of all the elements that make Kangaroo Island great in a single spot.
It’s also not uncommon to see a colony of fur seals playing on the rocks and in the water which makes for some great additional entertainment in and of itself.
The scene looks particularly magical at sunset, and while you’ll typically have to share the viewing platform with plenty of other visitors, coming away with that one great snapshot as the sun casts its glow through the arch will likely make for one of your best South Australian travel keepsakes.
The exposed nature of being on the southwestern tip of Kangaroo Island makes bringing warmer clothes during a visit here advised, as it can get quite cold even during the warmer months.
A visit to Admiral’s Arch also requires paying the greater Flinders Chase National Park fee to access, but well worth the investment given all the other wonders the park has to offer.
Admiral’s Arch is an embodiment of all the elements that make Kangaroo Island great in a single spot – the wild and untamed environment, the care invested by authorities to make it accessible, and the natural incorporation of wildlife to top things off.
The waters surrounding Kangaroo Island are rich with wildlife and a 75-minute dolphin safari cruise will take you close to all the action.
Location: Kelly Hill Conservation Park, Kangaroo Island
Originally discovered and named in the 1800s as the result of an unfortunate mishap of a man and his horse, the Kelly Hill Caves are the main attraction of the conservation park of the same name and a fine example of a vibrant limestone cave system at work.
Owing to its fairly unique setting below a sand dune (one of only two known such types in Australia), the caves are home to a denser number of stalagmite and stalactite formations than the typical such cave network and are quite visually striking as a result.
The caves lie around 90km to the southwest of Kingscote and offer four individual caves available for visiting, with both regular show cave tours in the company of a guide and more involved adventure caving experiences – that will have you crawling through a veritable underground labyrinth equipped with a helmet lamp – on offer for booking.
The guided tour is a standard, 40-ish minute tour accompanied by an upbeat and knowledgeable guide who provides background on key formations and the caves’ history, as well as being happy to take any group photos upon request.
They’re quite adept at catering their commentary for kids as well, and given the caves accessibility and safety for kids to take part, are well worth the investment.
While you may have visited some of Australia’s other prominent cave networks, this system is different enough to warrant a visit in its own right.
Adventure cavers will get an extended experience for their additional investment, lasting 2 hours and crawling through smaller caverns where an array of interesting fossils and bones of creatures lone gone by can be found.
The caves themselves are quite ornate, and are explored via a steep staircase of 38 steps leading down into their depths (which those with any mobility issues should bear in mind).
They’re photogenic in their own right, and also double as a great way to escape the heat during summer visits in particular, with a cave temperature that hovers around a comfortably cool 16 degrees Celsius.
Outside the caves and back towards the main entrance area is a nice bushwalk to be had as well; one that comes with several informative plaques which highlight key local plant life and other natural features.
Bearers of National Parks passes will have Kelly Hill Caves covered as well, and while you may have visited some of Australia’s other prominent cave networks, this system is different enough to warrant a visit in its own right.
Whether it’s raining, hot or you’re just looking for another way to spend a memorable hour on Kangaroo Island, Kelly Hill Caves make for another essential stop.
Location: Cuttlefish Bay, Kangaroo Island
Having been in operation for over 20 years, the family-run Dudley Wines sits in a wonderfully picturesque spot overlooking the northern coast of Kangaroo Island – a blue-and-green vivid tableau that forms the perfect complement to some of the flavours on offer here.
Its increasing reputation among the domestic wine community recently earned it the South Australian Tourism Award for the Wineries, Distilleries and Breweries category, a testament for its combination of venue and produce that’s hard to match.
Its origins started in a shearing shed and two small acres followed by an initial hybrid Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and today it’s become a fixture of the Kangaroo Island sightseeing scene that offers a full-fledged dining experience to go along with all the views.
The hungry visitor can top up the tank with the likes of gourmet pizzas that include the use of lamb and fresh whiting (fish) to differentiate themselves from standard fare, while cheese platters and duck pate form the obvious ideal accompaniment to some great wine on offer.
The food menu has been intentionally limited with a quality-not-quantity approach to choices and a tapas-style focus, and everything is both prepared well and utilises quality ingredients.
You’ll need to leave space regardless, as the universal quality of the wines will make it hard to find a wine you do not like even after sampling several.
The universal quality of the wines on offer will make it hard to find a wine you do not like even after sampling several.
There’s a warmer and more casual approach to wine tasting as opposed to the occasional pretentiousness that can be encountered elsewhere, and comes with no hard sell.
“Funny”” and “informative” are instead the name of the game here, and guests are welcome to sample as many of the wines as they like before finding one that best suits.
Riesling and sparkling rose are standouts, striking a solid balance between price and quality, while there are some more exclusive and higher price point options to choose from for the aficionados out there.
Regardless of your wine selection, grabbing a glass and enjoying a drop outside on the verandah perched alongside the cliff is simply a marvellous outlook that’s one of the most unique of its kind in Australia.
It’s equipped with binoculars overlooking the bay to use for spotting sea birds, dolphins and whales, or simply gazing back towards the Australian mainland, too.
Situated just out of Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island, this is an essential stop that’s also on the way to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse mentioned above; combine the two and you’ve got the makings of a great KI itinerary already.
Location: Karatta, Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is nothing if not renowned for its ecological diversity; as a result, it’s not surprising to find that there are a handful of excellent – yet different – ways to encounter some of these cute, scaly and furry critters.
One such method takes the typically basic concept of accommodation and combines it with thrusting guests right in the midsts of an expansive sanctuary right on the beach.
While staying here isn’t mandatory to explore the surrounds, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary‘s cabins offer the chance to stay within 100m of a safe and visually impressive beach, with the self-contained accommodations offering excellent ocean views.
The conditions here are excellent for aquatic activities such as swimming or snorkelling, and also the ideal springboard to refresh overnight for more exploration the next day.
The Sanctuary proper is massive, clocking in at around 5,000 acres, and also incredible bio-diverse; it sits on the west end of Kangaroo Island and us packed full of easily-accessible wildlife encounters.
There are few places elsewhere in South Australia in which to encounter such a density of native wildlife, and kangaroos, possums, echidnas and more are all regularly spotted during a stroll here – not to mention dozens of varieties of colourful parrots in the treetops.
There are few places elsewhere in South Australia in which to encounter such a density of native wildlife.
It’s also home to a famous “Koala Walk” that provides the chance to see large groups of the Australian wildlife icon in close proximity.
If you’ve ever wanted to see upwards of 20 koalas huddled together in a single tree in the wild, this is your best bet to do so; international visitors in particular will likely be in their element here.
Trees that are known to contain a koala are flagged with orange markers to help make spotting them even easier during the day, while at night guided nocturnal tours by youthful and friendly staff open up possibilities to spy on an even wider variety of species such as bats, possums and a range of others.
For those just casually visiting, the site offers a nice little gift shop from which to purchase a keepsake or two of your time on Kangaroo Island, as well as some truly great coffee for those in need of a refreshing caffeine fix.
Location: Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island
Starting as a small passion project in the early 2000’s as a result of a dash of European inspiration and a smidgeon of stubbornness, Australia’s first dedicated distillery for gin has since blossomed into a much-acclaimed, award-winning business.
This cosy little venue certainly punches above its weight in terms of the quality of its offerings, and now offers both its signature gins as well as plenty of other enjoyable liqueurs.
Set in a rustic-style building that emanates warmth, visitors to Kangaroo Island Spirits will have their chance to taste-test the business’ mixture of vodkas, gins and other alcohols and be surprised by the number of flavour variations that are possible on a basic alcoholic spin.
Each of the gins on offer taste quite different to one another, and the tastings are accompanied by a helping of both distilling and general-KI-related information.
The tastings never feel rushed, either, or give the impression that customers are pushed to makes a purchase.
The staff are welcoming in the extreme, and more than happy to share the various methods that combine to make their gin shine.
Each of the gins on offer taste quite different to one another, and the tastings are accompanied by a helping of information.
If gin or clear liquor isn’t quite your thing, perhaps opt to sample one of the cocktails on the menu, or enjoy a delicious Affogato instead.
Non-drinkers are also accommodated for with coffee, tea, soft drinks and ice cream available – a boon for the kids, as is the outdoor play area to keep them occupied while the adults indulge their palates.
There’s a lovely outdoor setting available for enjoying a drop outside during the warmer months, where the regular presence of live music helps to add an additional communal atmosphere to the proceedings.
Perhaps the only downside is that its popularity means that the limited parking can sometimes be taken up, so it’s better to visit earlier in the day if possible.
Regardless, it’s hard not to at least come away with a sample pack of a trio of 200ml bottles of great-quality gin to take home and enjoy again once off the island.
Location: Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island
While the majority of a visit to Kangaroo Island is typically about soaking in natural highlights and indulging the palate, the option exists to embark on some more upbeat adventures, too.
The diverse terrain of Kangaroo Island is ripe for exploring from multiple different angles, and this is where operator Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action come in, providing a range of different vehicles on which to do just that.
Sticking to land, quad bike tours which occur aboard stable and well-maintained ATV vehicles are a great way to gain a perspective on some of the innards of the island, following trails through native bush and alongside creeks with some optional electrical assistance.
It’s a lot of high-speed fun, yet staff make a concerted effort to scale the pace of the ride to coincide with the confidence levels of the participants.
There’s breaks mixed in as well, both for the chance to rest a bit and admire some of the scenery, as well as take a more in-depth look at some of the local flora and fauna highlights encountered along the way.
The guides are knowledgeable about Kangaroo Island and its features, and will help you navigate the transition from bush, to creekside, to the island’s renowned sand dunes as well.
The diverse terrain of Kangaroo Island is ripe for exploring from multiple different angles.
The dunes themselves present another opportunity for enjoyment – the Little Sahara’s sands coupled with a specially-designed “sandboard” makes for some additional downhill fun.
The dunes vary in size enough that there’s a good balance of fun vs. difficulty available for all ages; kids can enjoy the smaller hills, while the more extreme and daring among us can opt for some of the strikingly huge mounds of sand on offer as well.
Those interested in alternative perspective of Kangaroo Island can instead select a kayaking experience down the Harriet River, with 2-person kayaks both stable and allowing for exploration at your own pace.
Some of the typically inaccessible parts of the island become available this way, while the river itself is calm and easy to work your way across even for inexperienced kayakers.
Having been in operation for around 25 years, this is both a reliably satisfying range of experiences and an ideal option for those looking to burn off some added energy during their time on KI.
Location: Cape Willoughby Conservation Park, Kangaroo Island
South Australia’s first lighthouse which was constructed back in 1852, Cape Willoughby Lighthouse not only offers a wonderfully scenic aspect from which to take in an ocean panorama, but also serves as a sort of “living museum” that’s great for first-time visitors to Kangaroo Island in particular.
Offering a wealth of information on the region’s maritime history including an information board that details past shipwrecks, the lighthouse can be explored either by yourself or via guided tours for extra insight, including a look into what the life of a lighthouse keeper is truly like.
There’s a $5 fee to enter the site itself, or instead opt for an $8 price for a guided tour that’s conducted with obvious enthusiasm, as well as the chance to ascent to the top of the lighthouse and absorb some sweeping views across the Backstairs Passage.
There’s even the possibility of spotting whales in the waters during migratory season.
The lighthouse can be explored either by yourself or via guided tours for extra insight.
The house itself offers plenty of additional details as well, while guests can also opt to stay in one of the keeper’s cottages should they so choose.
Capping things off is a cafe nearby overlooking the water that provides a lovely spot for refreshment, too.
Offering more convenient access for the majority of visitors to Kangaroo Island than its other lighthouse counterparts, Cape Willoughby can be reached in around a 90 minute drive from the launch point of Kingscote.