Seal Bay Conservation Park is on the southern coast of Kangaroo Island about 45 minutes from Kingscote. The main park attraction the colonies of Australian Sea-lions. The Conservation Park was declared in 1972 to help protect the Australian Sea-lion and protect its natural habitat. Some parts of the park are not open to the public to protect the Sea-lion’s breeding areas. In 1994 a Visitor Centre was built along with a new boardwalk in 1996 through dunes. The boardwalk leads to a viewing platform for self-guided tours overlooking the seal colony. Access on to the beach is by Guided Tour only.
Adjoining Seal Bay Conservation Park is a marine Aquatic Reserve managed by the Primary Industries & Resources department of South Australia. The Aquatic Reserve together with the Conservation Park provides a protected environment for the Australian Sea-lion and parts of its marine and land habitat.
You have to pass through the Seal Bay Visitor Information Centre to get to the boardwalk and beach. Here you can buy tickets for tour to the Sea-lions here. The Visitor Centre has interpretive displays with information about the Sea-lions, history of the sealing industry, seal evolution, seal research etc. The Centre has a gift and souvenir shop. Outside the Visitor Information Centre , there is an exhibit of a jawbone from a young Sperm Whale.
There is an extensive 400m boardwalk from the Visitor Centre down to the Australian Sea-lion colony. The boardwalk provides great views over the Seal Bay Beach. You will also see the skeleton of a whale that was washed up on a local beach. At the end of the boardwalk there is a large viewing platform you can see the Australian Sea-lions resting on the beach and swimming in the water. From the platform you also have fabulous views out over the Southern Ocean and the southern coast of Kangaroo Island. Down below the lookout there is a small beach where you can see Australian Sea-lions breeding behaviors in the breeding season. (The Australian Sea-lion breeds every 18 months, with each season lasting for six or seven months. The 2009 breeding season is from June to December). The Boardwalk is a self-guided tour where you can walk to a number of platforms overlooking the colony and the beach (but not onto the beach itself). You can spend as long as you like on the boardwalks and at the lookout platforms.
If you want to get onto the beach and closer to the Sea-lions, take the Guided Tour. A guide will take you down onto the beach where you can wander amongst the colony and observe the Australian Sea-lions from a safe distance. The Guided Tour lasts 45 minutes.
During summer, there is a guided Sunset Tour that lets you observe the Australian Sea-lions as the sun sets. This is a great opportunity to see and photograph the Sea-lions in their natural habitat, in the warm glow of the setting sun. You will get to walk along the beach, sit down and observe the animals at this peaceful time of day, and learn about the animals from the Interpretive Officer leading your tour
Within the park there are three different plant communities. Nearest the beach is the coastal sand dune shrubland with plants such as the Grey Saltbush and Coastal Spinifex which help stabilise the dunes. The second plant is the stunted coastal limestone shrublands with shrubs such as Tea-tree (Melaleuca lanceolate), Common Boobialla (Myoporum insulare) and Coastal Beard-heath (Leucopogon parviflorus). The third plant community is mallee eucalypts with some of this habitat near the Seal Bay Visitor Centre car park.
Tammar Wallabies are often seen foraging or sitting alongside the walkways. You may also the Common Brushtail Possum and Short-beaked Echidna, but these are quite secretive during the day. Kangaroo Island Kangaroos are found in the Park and you may even see one wandering into the seal colony.
Whales pass Kangaroo Island between May and October, mostly along the south coast. The most common whale seen is the Southern Right Whales, and less commonly the Humpback Whale and Blue Whale.
The Heath Goanna may also be seen in the Park. Tiger Snakes can sometimes be seen from the boardwalks, sunning themselves. They are quite shy and will not harm you if you leave them alone.
There are several species of birds of prey around the island. You may see an Osprey or a White-bellied Sea-eagle, and the Wedge-tailed Eagle and Nankeen Kestrel are sometimes seen in the skies above the island. In the shrubbery, look out for honeyeater such as the New Holland Honeyeater and other small birds such as the Golden Whistler, Superb Fairy-wrens and occasionally the rare Southern Emu-wren.
Seal Bay is a 45-minute drive from Kingscote. From Kingscote, drive along the South Coast Road and turn off at Seal Bay Road. The visitor centre is at the end of Seal Bay Road.
Seal Bay Conservation Park is open daily except Christmas day. Opening hours are from 9am to 5pm. During the summer school break the park is open later from 9am until 7.45pm.
You can only gain access to Seal Bay beach by guided tour, and only at the times advertised. Guided tours to Seal Bay beach run throughout the day with first tour at 9am and last tour departing at 4.15pm. During the summer school holidays, last tour is at 7pm.
Bales Bay Picnic Area and the Bales are always open. There is no charge to access Bales Bay Picnic Area or Bales Beach. (Bales Beach is a nice picnic spot with beautiful long, white, sandy beach).
There are toilets, gas barbecues, and drinking water at Bales Bay which is 3km from Seal Bay Visitor Centre.