Kangaroo Island, or K.I., is like a very compact Australia. Think crystal clear water, towering sand hills, winding creeks, limestone cliffs, hundreds of kangaroos, trees crawling with koalas, friendly locals, excellent seafood, and a chequered history.
Many a ship went missing on the dramatic coastlines of K.I. It’s unpredictable and a ‘four-seasons in one day’ kind of a place. It is also not as small as most people think.
There are a few companies that offer 1, 2 and 3-day tours of K.I. but I really struggle to understand how you would see the best of this magic dot of land in the Southern Ocean in such a short time.
If you really want to get a feel for the place and make every penny of your barge fee worth it, 7 days is perfect. Pack up your car, grab some mates and follow us on this 7-day adventure around Kangaroo Island.
There is so much to see and do in Kangaroo Island on a 7-day adventure!
A couple of things to consider first:
The barge is one of the most expensive in Australia. Look up ‘Kangaroo Island Sealink Ferry discount codes’, and you might just find a cheeky 10% off.
K.I. is wild, so download Willy Weather (or another reliable weather forecasting app) and get intimate with wind forecast and directions. The beauty of an island is that you can usually find shelter somewhere.
The majority of the roads that lead to the best places are gravel. These roads are actually pretty great, except for within the National Park. So, just consider what you are willing to put your car through.
If you are interested in visiting Seal Bay (loads of Aussie sea lions sunbathing), Kelly Hill Caves and spending a bit of time in Flinders Chase National Park, a Kangaroo Island Tour Pass may be worth your while.
Most campsites are council run, feature a drop-toilet, a small amount of rainwater, and on the rare occasion, a shower ($2 for 5 minutes). Council sites are about $17 per couple.
Lastly, check K.I.’s biodiversity rules and regulations. For example, you can’t take any honey products or potatoes to the island.
Purchase a KI Tour Pass ahead of time to explore Flinders Chase National Park with no dramas.
Rapid Bay – Cape Jervis – Penneshaw – Brown Beach
A good start to the trip, and to ensure you are not in a rush to the ferry terminal, stay a night (or more) at Rapid Bay on the mainland. With great squidding, beautiful water and caves to explore, this is a great place to get your holiday-mode switched on. Arrive thirty minutes prior to your scheduled ferry time and check-in. Loading on to the ferry often involves reversing in. If you are towing or just not comfortable with backing down on to the barge, the friendly staff at Sealink can do it for you. Just ask.
Avoid the rush to the ferry and stay the night before at Rapid Bay on the mainland.
When you hop off the ferry at Penneshaw, stop in at the Information Centre to pick up any maps, local knowledge and your K.I. Tour Passes. It will pay to ask them about local wineries, breweries and honey ice-cream to put on your culinary bucket list. If you are keen to fish before setting up camp, the marina just 500m down the road supplied us with some squid for an entree. We threw a couple of jigs around off of the rocks at the marina entrance.
Brown Beach is great for snorkelling, bird watching and stunning sunsets. The campsites are well protected and there are solar hot showers available. From here you can check out K.I.’s main surf beach, Pennington Bay.
Be sure to pack your snorkelling gear as they are plenty of rock pools to explore, like here at Browns Beach.
Brown Beach – American River – Emu Bay
Not far from Brown Beach is the American River. If you are a hunter-gatherer type you might like to try your hand at collecting Razorfish. American River is teaming with these shellfish all along the shallow weed beds at low tide. They are a bit of work, but fried up with a bit of a salt and pepper crust is really quite delicious. Or, you can just get your shellfish fix at The Oyster Farm Shop.
If like us, you decided to tow a boat over, this is the place to put it in. There is good crabbing and sandy patches that the King George Whiting love along the pylons heading out. American River also offers a well-protected campground with hot showers if you wish to stay longer. We also found it to be a great spot to wait out bad weather.
Emu Bay is the perfect place to swim with dolphins.
Emu Bay was one of my all-time favourites. It’s the only beach on the island that you can drive on and set-up for the day. The sand is even hard enough for a lot of two-wheel drives if you are game. The Emu Bay dolphins are well-known regulars and we saw them cruise past almost every hour the morning we were there.
If you want to swim with dolphins, now is your chance. You don’t need to swim out far, they seem to love the attention and will soon be coming to you.
Emu Bay allows vehicles on the beach, so set up camp for the day wherever your heart desires!
Emu Bay – Stokes Bay – Snelling Beach – Western River Cove
Today takes you over the rolling hills of the north coast to some of the most pristine beaches in Australia. First stop, Stokes Bay. If you can read the signs that say ‘beach’ and follow the arrows, you will find the “secret beach”. The path was blasted out years ago and winds through the cliff with a couple of narrow sections, before opening up onto a secluded beach. A small rock wall creates a calm pool, safe for the whole family, whilst waves break along its other side.
Snelling Beach is a bit bigger and a lot more open. The rocks on the left-hand side of the beach offer some good fishing options. We managed to land a few salmon and some Tommy Rough with a bit of squid from day one.
If you love fishing, then Snelling Beach the place to go.
Don’t be deterred by the comments on Wikicamps about getting into Western River Cove. It does have some steep sections and depending on what road you come in on, it is a sharp turn toward the beach (something you may need to consider if towing). Great things happen at Western River, other people have said it too.
Maybe it is because it takes a certain type of traveller to be out exploring these parts, but we met some great people here, shared dinners and wet a line together in the dark of night.
The calm waters at Western River Cove are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and more.
Western River Cove – Ravine Des Casaors – Harveys Return
Break up your swims with a hike. The Ravine Des Casaors hike is 7.5km return. Similar to the Snake Lagoon hike planned for tomorrow but with a lot less rock scrambling. The beach is bigger and surrounded by huge limestone caves to explore. The path down was alive with monitor lizards seeking a feed between bouts of hardcore sunbathing.
To keep the legs warm, get to camp and take the short and steep hike down to your private beach at Harveys Return.
The hike is steep but well worth it to find the private beach down at Harveys Return.
I’ll say it again, it is steep. But at the bottom, you will find a magic little beach, part of a bigger marine sanctuary. Whilst swimming we had huge fish dart out around us from the rocks on either side. It is a well-known habitat for the colourful Blue Groper.
The campsite is amongst the gums, some with very low hanging limbs. Make sure you have a parks pass as this is run by National Parks and Wildlife. Cape Borda Lighthouse is just 4km up the road and has daily cannon firing demonstrations and displays interpretative K.I Lighthouse-life information.
Take a break from swimming and catch the views on the Ravine Des Casaors hike.
Harveys Return – Snake Lagoon – West Bay
Snake lagoon is a shorter hike than Ravine Des Casaors at 4km return, but it feels a lot longer. The track meanders down alongside a tea tree stained creek, that eventually breaks over a small waterfall and opens up onto a small beach. If you are only going to do one hike on this trip, I would choose this one.
By the time you have returned from this hike, you will be looking for a place to set-up, watch the sun go down over the sea and hopefully catch some fish for dinner. West Bay will provide. The track out from Snake Lagoon is ‘4WD only’, but oddly the road gets better as soon as you go past the sign. A ploy to reduce traffic? Yes. The sites are fairly small, and site 1 may be the only one appropriate for a caravan.
We had quite a bit of joy casting slugs out into the gutters and catching good-sized salmon. The fish went a bit quiet when the evening dolphin show began. Turns out it is one of their favourite fishing spots too. They whipped around the bay with a few of their seal friends, surfing waves and dancing around. An unforgettable performance.
The seaside views of West Bay are a must see.
West Bay – Admirals Arch – Remarkable Rocks – Vivonne Bay
You can’t come to Kangaroo Island and not stop in at these top tourist attractions. If you are not too keen on paying to see the sea lions at Seal Bay, you can catch a huge colony at Admirals Arch for free. The seals are present all year round and can be found fishing in the waves, sunbathing on the rocks or fighting for pole position on the seafront. They provide hours of entertainment as their antics unfold, worthy of a reality TV show.
If you want to see some seals, head to Admirals Arch.
Remarkable Rocks are just visible from Admirals Arch, looking like tiny balancing stones, but when you get up close and interact with nature’s masterpiece you will see the grandeur of it. You can walk in, around, under, over and through these lichen coloured granite formations. A couple even makes for amazing lounge chairs for a spot of people watching.
Depending on what time of day you arrive at camp, the Vivonne Bay General Store is a must for a King George Whiting burger. So delicious and the service is always friendly. And, if you’re after more local advice, ask these guys, they are always happy to help. Another spectacular beach awaits you here.
Vivonne Bay has been voted as one of Australia’s top beaches.
Vivonne Bay – Seal Bay – D’Estrees Bay
Whether or not you decided to buy the K.I. Tour Pass, you may still want to drop into Seal Bay. You can take a self-guided walk along the boardwalk or get up close and personal on the beach with a ranger-guided tour. Along the boardwalk, you will still be within metres of the fur seals as they often come right up into the dunes to rest and recharge. They may even be right beneath your feet, close enough to see their beady eyes and cute little faces.
It’s sad to think this might be your last night on K.I. but we’ll finish it off with a beauty, D’Estrees Bay. The campsites are stretched out along a number of smaller bays that make up D’Estrees Bay National Park. Our advice would be to go into the further most sites for some serious peace and quiet.
Finishing your trip in D’Estress Bay will provide you with the R&R you need to return home with.
There are safe swimming spots on the beach and rock pools to float in at each point between bays. Again, the beach fishing is good, and it’s not hard to pick a spot to cast your line. The campsites are set in the dunes with your own pathway down to the beach.
Enjoy the sunset and wake up for sunrise to celebrate an amazing seven days on Kangaroo Island.
Are you planning on making the trip on the barge over to KI?
About the writer...
Touring Australia full-time in our Nissan Patrol, Max and I live life in the slow lane. Fishing, hiking, and camping is what we do at Powershala. Our favourite place will always on a secluded beach and we are always on the search. Check out more of our adventures at powershala.com or @powershala