Introduction to Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Kangaroo Island (KI) is off the coast of South Australia. 160km wide by 60km north-to-south, most of KI’s settlements and accommodation are on the island’s eastern shore.

The island is very laid-back, with just four towns: Kingscote, Penneshaw, Pardana, and American River. These towns provide visitors with opportunities to shop for food, sip a latte at a café, read at a bookstore, eat or drink at one of the restaurants or bars, fill up with gas, and explore the island’s history.

KI is known for its wineries, with 30 growers on the island.


Kangaroo Island was part of the mainland until about 10,000 years ago, and has been inhabited by Aboriginal populations for the last 5,000 years. Starting in the 19th century, the island was visited – and then settled – for various purposes, including sealing, farming, and whaling. By the 1830s, the seal populations had been virtually eradicated from the island, slowing the trade.

Parts of the island were preserved from the 1880s onwards, with Flinders Chase National Park created in 1912.

Natural environment

Kangaroo Island is known for its wildlife, natural scenery, and beaches. Most of the island’s protected areas lie in the north.  The southern parts of the island are more wild – with higher cliffs and bluffs, stronger currents, larger waves, and a few notable geological structures, called Admirals Arch, Kelly Hill Caves, and Remarkable Rocks.

The island has large tracts of unspoiled forest.

Many species call KI and its surrounding waters home, including koalas, wallabies, brush-tailed possums, pink pelicans, kangaroos, giant cuttlefish, penguins, echidna, platypus, New Zealand fur seals, and Australian seal lions.

Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)

A variety of activities await visitors to the island:

  • Wine tasting: Wander around the island, stopping in at friendly vineyards and tasting the variety of wines made on the island
  • Animal watching: visitors keep their eyes peeled for individual sightings, but can join guided tours for a bit of added help (such as the guided evening penguin tours at Kingscote and Penneshaw). Visit the Seal Bay Conservation Park on the south side of the island to take a guided tour to their beach habitat. Feed Pelicans behind the KI Marine Centre.  To be sure you see wildlife, visit the Parndana Wildlife Park.
  • Bird watching: Take a nature walk – Murrays Lagoon, Bald Hill, or Timber Creek – to see the island bird life.
  • Walking: Hike up to Prospect Hill, a 20-minute climb with steps the whole way, with an awarding 360-degree view at the top
  • Swimming and surfing: The swimming season is short, just the summer holidays from school. Spring and Autumn are too cold for swimming.  The best beaches are along the northern shore. Swim on deserted beaches at Stokes Bay or surf at Vivionne Bay.
  • Fishing: Fish from Emu Bay.
  • Diving: The island offers great diving opportunities for temperate waters. Divers can swim with Seals and Leafy Sea Dragons.
  • Sand-boarding: Sand-board in Little Sahara.
  • Kayaking


There are several accommodation options on the island:

South Coast:

  • Southern Ocean Lodge (premium lodge located along the coast, with great views, a spa, and a great communal dining, drinking, and relaxing area)

North Coast:

  • Aquamarine (private self-contained three-bedroom and two-bathroom cottage located 10km west of the Penneshaw ferry terminal and right next to a swimming beach)


  • Central Backpackers (budget hostel with friendly staff, located three minutes walking distance from a penguin colony and beach; hostel offers a communal kitchen and lounge area, as well as both dorm and standard rooms)
  • Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel (offers a wide array of standard rooms, with ocean views, suites, and apartments available)
  • Aurora Ozone – Kangaroo Island Hotel (located on the shore at Kingscote)


Camp sites are located at Vivionne Bay and American River.

Getting There

By air…

Regional Express operates 35-minute flights between Adelaide and Kingscote on the island.

By land…

There are two coaches that provide daily bus transfers from Adelaide to Cape Jervis.

Once on the island, coach transfers link the port town – Penneshaw – with Kingscote.

By sea…

Kangaroo Island is a 45-minute ferry ride off the coast of southern Australia.  Ferries connect Cape Jervis (mainland) and Penneshaw (island). The ferry is known to be rough on passengers, as the route does not afford travelers the comfort of traveling through comfortable and wind-protected areas.

Related posts:

  1. Penneshaw Penguin Centre, Kangaroo Island
  2. Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre, Kingscote Wharf
  3. Hanson Bay Holiday Accommodation and Wildlife Sanctuary, Kangaroo Island
  4. Alkirna Nocturnal Tours, American River, Kangaroo Island
  5. Seal Bay Conservation Park, Kangaroo Island

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