Kangaroo Island - 16-20 October 2016

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October 20th 2016
Published: October 26th 2016
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Kangaroo Island – 16-20 October 2016

Leura & Doug Cathcart, my sister Sheryl, Tom and I set out in our two 4X4s, heading for Kangaroo Island. Our aim was to see the Fleurieu Peninsula west side on the way down to Cape Jervis to catch the Sealink ferry to KI. We then planned to see the southern and eastern side of the Peninsula on the way back to Freeling. I will include the information on the Peninsula in a separate blog.

We arrived at Cape Jervis on the SW corner of the Fleurieu Peninsula and lined up at the ferry terminal around 2.00pm ie 1 ½ hours before departure. The 45minute trip across to Penneshaw was smooth sailing. On our arrival, it didn’t take too long for Tom & Doug to drive off the ferry, picking us up at the terminal.

We drove almost to Kingscote before turning SW towards the centre of Kangaroo Island, to Parndana. We had rented a 4 BR, 2 story home half way between Parndana and Stokes Bay. It was a lovely home owned by people who lived in Greenock in the Barossa Valley. They named the home Boobook after the owl. It was a bush setting with 100s of Xanthurias of all different sizes and ages. All bedrooms were large, as was the very well-appointed kitchen and lounge. There was a fire place and plenty of wood, as well as a split system a/c.

The lounge also had a stack of DVDs, CDs, books and games. One game we played was called “Mid Life Crises” which was hilarious. We had a lot of fun.

It didn’t take us too long to settle in and Leura was fantastic with cooking the dinner. Tom and Doug built a fire as it was reasonably cold. Over the next 2 days we decided the fire wasn’t a good idea as the fire alarm kept going off!!! It was loud!! No problems as we still had the split system.

As we were having 4 days on the Island, we decided to divide the Island in 4 so on our first day we drove up to Stokes Bay, Snelling Beach and then across to the NW corner of the Island – Cape Borda Lighthouse and Scott Cove.

Stokes Bay was spectacular. We were lucky to be there at low tide because to get to the beach, you have to walk through a giant rock-enclosed pool which protects the secluded Stokes Bay from the surf.

Some of the Southern Hemisphere's tallest cliffs surround Snellings Beach, best known for its surf-fishing and rock-fishing. This was the next beach we visited.

We then drove about 50 kms to Cape Borda Lightstation which was first constructed on Kangaroo Island's northwest coast in 1858. Today, Cape Borda is Australia's only square lighthouse as well as South Australia's tallest lighthouse. We decided not to take the guided tours which take place at 12:30 include firings of a signal cannon first built to warn people about invading Russian ships. The lives of the people now buried in the nearby light-keepers' cemetery demonstrated the great difficulties and isolation that lighthouse keepers and their families experienced.

The Cape Borda Lightstation may no longer have full time lightkeepers, but weather observations are still conducted and guests may stay in the old cottages on this Flinders Chase National Park property.

Our plan was to get back for dinner to the Marron Restaurant which was south of Parndana. As it was very cold and windy at Cape Borda, we didn’t stay too long so we were in plenty of time to drive back to the Marron Restaurant.

We had the BEST meal at the restaurant. We were served 4 large half marrons topped with very tasty lime and chilli dressing with a magnificent salad and rice. Of course, it was accompanied by a fine white wine. They also had many tanks of marron which they also used to show visitors the farming method used to grow the marron.

The second day was forecast to sprinkle with rain and with strong winds so we decided to drive around the NE corner which included Kingscote, Emu Bay, Cygnet River and American River.

First stop was at Emu Bay. Emu Bay is just a brief drive west of Kangaroo Island's largest settlement, Kingscote. The number of holiday homes equals the number of permanent residences in this seaside community on the island's peaceful north coast.

Emu Bay may lack shops and campgrounds, but its beach ranks among the most popular on the island due to its clear waters, long shoreline, and the fact it is one of the few Kangaroo Island beaches with direct vehicle access.

The unique Emu Bay shale geological formation is another signature landmark, while a small fishing jetty dates back to 1918. We saw no fairy penguins where there used to be a colony.

Next we visited the largest town on Kangaroo Island, Kingscote which is also the island's commercial and business hub. It is situated on the northeast corner of the island on the coast of Nepean Bay and has an extensive selection of cafés, restaurants and shopping facilities.

The town is surrounded by hills and cliffs that descend down to Reeves Point (Old Kingscote), which is one of South Australia's most important heritage sites.

The first European settlers to come to South Australia migrated here and the area features paths with monuments, such as an old mulberry tree, the old jetty, the island's first well and the old post office.

There were many places to visit including the Island Beehive, Bay of Shoals Winery, KI Spirits (which was famous for its flavorsome gin) and Island Pure Sheep Dairy, the latter 2 of which we visited on our last day on the way back to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

Every day at 5.00pm a local man buys large fish head and small fish to feed many of the local pelicans and seagulls. Although one may say that wildlife should not be hand-fed, it was very entertaining and fascinating to watch the antics of the birds.

We had a yummy meal (fish of course) at the local pub before heading back to Parndana.

Our visit to American River was more of a reminiscing opportunity for Tom & I as we stayed there for our honeymoon. We noted that the town was a little ‘tired’ although it has a beautiful 5km Island Beach. Known locally as The River, Kangaroo Islands American River region sits on the western shore of Eastern Cove.

The main village of American River sits on a hillside surrounded by bush land and boasting spectacular views of the cove and mainland Australia. The channel houses Kangaroo Island's most protected harbour where numerous yachts, sailboats and fishing boats dock.

The inner bay, also known as Pelican Lagoon, is a protected Aquatic Reserve thanks to its natural fish nursery. The Pelican Lagoon Conservation Park, is a 397 hectare nature reserve just south of the region's main town. The park is spread across the island and includes five small inlets that provide habitat for woodland and wetland birds.

American River also has a strong oyster industry and oysters are available seasonally in restaurants along the harbour and in the town itself.

On our 3rd day we visited Flinders Chase. Flinders Chase National Park, which occupies much of Kangaroo Island's southwest coast, is home to two of the island's most significant lighthouses. The Cape du Couedic Lighthouse was first constructed near Weirs Cove standing guard over Kangaroo Island's southwest coast since 1909. The second lighthouse is Cape Borda.

The small stone storeroom close to the base supplied the kerosene used to power the lighthouse, while the former lighthouse keepers' cottages have been converted into holiday houses.

We walked to Wiers Cove and saw where the lighthouse keepers pulled their 3 months worth of suppliers from ships over 50 metres below, on a flying fox, up to their storage shed.

In addition to the lighthouses, Flinders Chase National Park also includes the Remarkable Rocks, often compared to Henry Moore sculptures, and Admirals Arch. The Cliff Top Hike was a relaxing trek through a lovely rock garden to a stunning stone lookout where visitors can watch for dolphins and whales.

No Kangaroo Island holiday would be complete without a trek to one of the island's signature landmarks, Remarkable Rocks. It took 500 million years for rain, wind, and pounding waves to create these aptly named granite boulders which are now part of the Flinders Chase National Park.

Many of the rocks were covered by golden orange lichen, and interpretation signs describe even more details about the formation of the rocks.

Black mica, bluish quartz, and pinkish feldspar comprise most of the granite of Remarkable Rocks. These flat rocks were easy and safe to walk on during dry weather.

The wooden boardwalk leading to the Remarkable Rocks provided us with an ideal vantage point to see the surrounding bays and the historic Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse. The equally photogenic Casuarina Islets could also be easily seen from the Kangaroo Island Remarkable Rocks.

We then drove to Admirals Arch which is one of Kangaroo Island's most impressive and unusual natural landmarks. It took thousands of years of erosion to create this distinctive rock bridge near the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse on the island's southwest coast. The boardwalk leading to the Admirals Arch is nearly as scenic as the landmark itself.

The Admirals Arch viewing platform was also an ideal place to observe the New Zealand fur seal colony that has established itself below the landmark. These dark brown seals rest and breed on land, but find food in the water. Summer is the primary breeding season, and the rock pools underneath Admirals Arch are a popular place for seal pups to play. We stayed and watch them swimming strongly amongst the powerful waves and rocks.

Another unique thing about Admirals Arch is the stalactites which dangle from the rocky ceiling of this former cave. The floor, on the other hand, is very smooth. Whale migration season takes place between May and October, but dolphins are frequently spotted throughout the year.

Admirals Arch is just one of 27 officially designated geological monuments situated throughout Kangaroo Island. This landmark is also the starting point of several hikes throughout Flinders Chase National Park.

We set aside all day so that we could fully explore Flinders Chase which is Kangaroo Island's largest national park, and we were glad we did.

Next was the Kelly Hill Conservation Park's cave network but we decided not to take the tour as we had all seen many caves. This network of caves was dry – with no river.

On another day, we visited Seal Bay. This now has an impressive Visitors Centre but unfortunately, you are not allowed on the beach unless you pay $70 for a guided tour. We decided to pay $16 for a self guided walk along the boardwalk and view the beach and seals from above.

About 110,000 visitors come to see Australia's third biggest sea lion colony at Seal Bay Conservation Park each year. They are fascinating animals to watch, particularly the young seals who are very energetic.

Little Sahara was another special feature on the Island. It was a very large sand dune where you can hire sand boards and ATV. When we were on the top of the dune it started to rain so by the time we got back to the visitors centre we were wet …. And the rain stopped!! It was worth it though.

On our last day we drove to the most eastern coast of the Island to see another lighthouse. Kangaroo Island lighthouses are not only some of the island's most popular attractions, but have also saved countless lives since they were first erected during the middle of the 19th century. Navigating the narrow Backstairs Passage between Australia's third biggest island and mainland South Australia before lighthouses were built on Kangaroo Island resulted in several shipwrecks along the island's coast.

Cape Willoughby, now part of the larger Cape Willoughby Conservation Park on the island's east coast, was the first lighthouse constructed on not only Kangaroo Island, but all South Australia. A small museum and a spectacular Backstairs Passage view from the lighthouse's highest point are Cape Willoughby's main attractions.

The property of this lighthouse first built in 1852 from limestone slurry and granite now contains several lighthouse keepers' cottages as well as a small museum.

We then had a lovely light lunch at the Zest & Thyme Café near the lighthouse before driving up the east coast to Dudley Winery before arriving at Penneshaw.

One interesting aspect of the Dudley Winery was it provided golf clubs to hit balls into the valley were there was a hole. There was a big prize for anyone who could get a hole-in-one. It was a really windy day so we didn’t even try!!!

We then drove onto Penneshaw. Home to Kangaroo Island's main ferry port, Penneshaw is a small town that sits on the north coast of the Dudley Peninsula. Australia's mainland is just 16 kilometres across the Backstairs Passage, a strait in which the town overlooks. Penneshaw is an attractive little town and a great welcome for visitors arriving on the island by ferry.

The town's beach; Hog Bay, was named after the fact that numerous pigs were released here long ago.

We wandered around the town until it was time to board the ferry at 4.30pm. The trip back to the mainland was a lot rougher than going over but as it was only 45 minutes, our stomachs were OK. It was a fantastic 4 days and we would all recommend anyone to visit Kangaroo Island.

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