As you head towards Cape Jervis along the west coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, KANGAROO ISLAND (locally referred to as KI), only 13km offshore, first appears behind a vale of rolling hills. Once you’re on the island, its size and lack of development – there’s only one person for every square kilometre – leave a strong impression. This is actually Australia’s third-largest island (after Tasmania and Melville Island, north of Darwin), with 450km of spectacular, wild coastline, and so takes some time to explore. To see all the island’s unusual geological features and wildlife habitats, you’ll need at least three days, though most people only visit the major attractions on the south coast – Seal Bay, Little Sahara, Remarkable Rocks and Flinders Chase National Park.
Although the island is promoted as South Australia’s premier destination for tourism, it’s still very unspoilt; only in the peak holiday period (Christmas to the end of Jan, when most of the accommodation is booked up) does it feel busy. Once out of the island’s few small towns, there’s little sign of human presence to break the long, straight stretches of road that run through undulating fields, dense gum forests and mallee scrub. There’s often a strong wind off the Southern Ocean, so bring something warm whatever the season, and take care when swimming – there are strong rips on many beaches. Safe swimming spots include Hog Bay and Antechamber Bay, both near Penneshaw; Emu Bay, northwest of Kingscote; Stokes Bay, further west; and Vivonne Bay, on the south side of the island.
A third of Kangaroo Island is protected in some form, and is consequently one of the best places in Australia for wildlife spotting; there’s an astonishing range of animals here, including kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, platypuses, Little penguins, fur seals, sea lions and, in passing, southern right whales. The island is also home to over two hundred other species of birds, as well as snakes, some of them venomous.