Looking for the best things to do in Kangaroo Island? From exploring Remarkable Rocks to swimming with dolphins, this is what to do on Kangaroo Island!
I knew Kangaroo Island was special very soon after I landed. I met our guide at the tiny airport, jumped in her car, and drove to Flinders Chase National Park.
One of the first things our guide Nikki said to me was: “As we drive to the national park, keep an eye out for koalas up in the trees. They love it along this stretch of road.”
Obviously, 10 minutes after landing on Kangaroo Island, we saw our first koala munching on some eucalyptus leaves. It was almost as if it was there just to welcome us to the island. Immediately, I knew this was a place like no other.
There’s a reason why Kangaroo Island is known as the “nature island of Australia”, and it took just 10 minutes to prove it.
If you’re planning on visiting this jewel, then this is the Kangaroo Island guide for you.
In it not only will I tell you all the best things to do in Kangaroo Island, I’ll also tell you where to stay and other advice too.
Honestly, and I can’t stress this enough – if you’re travelling to South Australia then I implore you to visit Kangaroo Island too. There aren’t many places in the world that are bursting with wonderful wildlife such as here.
Kangaroo Island Guide
Where is Kangaroo Island?
Kangaroo Island is the ultimate nature lover’s paradise. It is one of the only places in the world where you can see echidnas, koalas, kangaroos and a whole host of other wildlife too.
Add in beautiful beaches, secret coves, rolling vineyards, and you’ve got one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia. It really is that good.
Kangaroo Island lies just 13km (8 miles) off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. Known locally as KI, it is actually the third largest island in Australia after Tasmania and Melville Island.
Kangaroo Island is an eco-haven. National parks and nature reserves protect more than a third of the island. In fact, the whole population of the island is just 4,500 people making it one of the least densely populated places in the world. That means at times it feels like you’ve got the whole island to yourself!
Getting to Kangaroo Island
There are two ways of getting to Kangaroo Island – flying and driving. Obviously I’ll go into both below.
I was amazed at how quick and easy it was flying domestically.
In Australia, they suggest arriving to the airport just 40 minutes before the departure giving you plenty of time to check in and clear security.
I thought 40 minutes was cutting it fine, but we managed to check in, send our luggage and clear security in just 10 minutes. Surprisingly it worked out to be plenty of time!
The flight to Kangaroo Island is even quicker. As soon as you’re up in the air you’re down again. In total, the flight takes around 30 minutes – just enough time for a muffin and a drink.
All in all, it probably took us around 1h:20m from arriving at Adelaide airport to landing on Kangaroo Island. If you’re short on time like we were, then this is definitely the quickest option.
Alternatively, if you want to take the slow road and enjoy some sights along the way (more on that at the end of this article), then driving is an amazing option.
From Adelaide to the ferry terminal in the Fleurieu Peninsula, it only takes around 1h:30m to drive. Then the ferry takes another 45 minutes getting to Kangaroo Island.
Obviously this isn’t much longer than flying. If you plan on hiring a car for the entire trip around South Australia, then it could be a good idea catching the ferry.
There is a reason why we didn’t do this option though!
Getting around Kangaroo Island – Organised tour vs. self-guided tour
One of the big questions when visiting Kangaroo Island is whether to go on an organised tour or drive around the island yourself.
Because we only had a few days on the island, and because we wanted to see as much wildlife as we possible could, we went on a tour with Kangaroo Island Touring Company.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier that we did. With Nikki as our guide, we went to all the secret spots we would never have found in a million years on our own.
For us, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we didn’t want to miss anything by being naive and not knowing what to look for.
I think if you’re an Aussie and you’ve visited Kangaroo Island before, then taking your own car and driving around the island is perfect.
However, if you’re a tourist and this is your first time to the island, then I’d really recommend going on an organised tour.
If you want to see echidnas, koalas, kangaroos, seals, sea lions and a load of other animals in their natural habitat, then it’s best being with a wildlife guide who can tell you all about them.
Nikki (also fondly known as Nikkipedia) is known on the island as being the naturalist. She is so passionate about wildlife and is a font of knowledge all about the island. I think I learned more about plant life and wildlife from her in 2 days than I did from being at school and uni combined!
Southern Ocean drive map
Here is a map of Kangaroo Island with some of the top places to visit in South Australia along the way. This is the map we followed when travelling around here.
Things to do in Kangaroo Island
When it comes to what to do on Kangaroo Island, you’re definitely not short of things to choose from. If you’re planning your Kangaroo Island itinerary, then check out these attractions and activities for the holiday of a lifetime.
Swimming with seals and dolphins
Yes, you really can swim with seals and dolphins on Kangaroo Island, and it is very bit as amazing as it sounds.
One afternoon we went on a tour with Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari. This was a tour where they say you can swim with seals and dolphins, but I thought: “come on, how likely is that to happen?”
Our tour kicked off with a little cruise along the coastline. After about 5 minutes, we had dolphins swimming alongside the boat, weaving in and out of each other as they played alongside us.
For most dolphin tours, that would be enough, but this is Kangaroo Island and they do things better here.
After we saw the dolphins, we drove to a spot to see the seals. As soon as we arrived, about 4 or 5 seals flopped in the water expectantly, ready to see if anyone would join them.
I couldn’t wait to get into the water. As soon as we moored up, I jumped in. I will say at this point the water is freezing, but it’s 100% worth it.
After a few moments I was with the seals as they swam up to me closer and closer. Seals are known as “the dogs of the ocean” and they couldn’t have been more curious and playful as they swam around me.
Again, as if that wasn’t enough, but soon after swimming with the seals we were off to find the dolphins again.
Once we found a pod, our guide put out a rope behind our boat. Once I jumped in the water again, all I had to do was grab the rope, and our guide would drag me alongside the pod to swim with them.
It sounds tricky but it actually worked! After I let go of the rope I was soon swimming alongside 6 dolphins. I’ve never swum with dolphins like this before so it was a real bucket list moment for me.
Honestly, this is up there with the best wildlife encounters of my life. This is one of those Kangaroo Island activities that you just have to do.
See the Australian sea lions at Seal Bay
Another incredible wildlife encounter is seeing the Australian sea lions at Seal Bay.
Don’t let the name fool you, they are definitely sea lions here at Seal Bay! In fact, these are one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world.
Now there are two options for seeing the sea lions. The first is by going on the self-guided boardwalk, and the second is by going on a guided tour.
The boardwalk costs AUS17.50 for adults, and the guided tour costs AU$39 for adults.
If there’s one thing you do on Kangaroo Island, it’s go on the guided tour!
The guided tour is the only way of getting down to the beach and seeing the sea lions up close. The boardwalk only takes you to a viewpoint overlooking the beach, so you don’t actually get to see the sea lions that close.
If you’re coming all this way to Kangaroo Island, it’s probably to see the wildlife, so it’s worth paying the extra $$$ to actually see the wildlife.
It’s so hard describing the feeling of seeing these sea lions for the first time. It’s surprisingly emotive, and you can’t help but have a tear in your eye when watching the sea lion pups follow their mums around or chase each other on the sand.
I could’ve stayed on that beach and watched the for hours. There definitely aren’t that many places in the world where you can get this close to wildlife in their natural habitat like this.
Drive through Flinders Chase National Park
Located on the south west of the island, Flinders Chase National Park is massive. The whole national park is the same size as Singapore.
Flinders Chase National Park is very raw and rugged. During the 2020 bushfires which nearly decimated the island, around 90% of the national park was burned away.
However, in just the 3 years since the fires the park is showing remarkable signs of recovery. You wouldn’t believe the before and after photos. Now, the park is back to its verdant green colour, and lots of the wildlife is finding new homes and habitats.
The entrance to Flinders Chase National Park costs AU$17 (if you’re on a tour then tickets will be taken care of for you). From here, you can drive around the national park and explore some of the top sites.
Just driving around the national park is an activity in itself, especially if you’re with a guide who can point out all the different flora, fauna and wildlife.
Walk around Remarkable Rocks
One of the top places to visit on Kangaroo Island is Remarkable Rocks. These are giant granite boulders that have been sculpted by wind and rain over the last 500 million years.
They look as if they were placed on the edge of the cliffs by titans; they really standout from the surrounding landscape.
The rocks themselves could be a Salvador Dali sculpture park. Each one is carved differently, some completely smooth, some like jagged teeth.
There is a boardwalk that takes you down to the boulders themselves, and from here you can walk in-between the stones as they tower over you. It’s a really cool place and an amazing photo spot too.
Visit Admirals Arch
Another must-see in Flinders Chase National Park is Admirals Arch. This is a natural stone arch where you can see the long nose fur seals lazing on the rocks.
One of the things that I immediately noticed was how big the waves were here. The ocean is a sea of white, and the waves really come crashing into the rocks below.
You’d think the seals wouldn’t be able to cope with the waves they are so strong and powerful, but every time you think you’ve lost sight of one, you see its head pop back above the water again in a completely different position.
A bit like with the sea lions at Seal Bay, I found watching the seals and waves crashing absolutely mesmerising. This is nature in its wildest form – pure and unadulterated, untouched by man.
Spot koalas up in the trees
What do you think is the more iconic animal in Australia – koalas or kangaroos?
Whatever you think, you’re bound to see both on Kangaroo Island if you know what you’re looking for!
As I mentioned earlier, we saw a koala after about 10 minutes of landing on the island. Our guide Nikki had a koala-radar and somehow managed to find them even when we were driving.
When we saw the first one, she pulled over and told us all about these fascinating animals. For example, did you know koalas sleep around 18-20 hours each day?
This is because they have an extremely slow metabolism. They eat around 1kg of eucalyptus leaves a day, which are very low in nutrients but highly toxic, so they need to sleep all day so they can break down the toxins.
They are really fascinating animals, and damn cute too!
Spot the Kangaroo Island kangaroos hopping about
The next Australian icon – the kangaroo.
Obviously you can’t come to Kangaroo Island without seeing kangaroos.
You might not know this, but there are 4 different types of kangaroo species in Australia. One of the most beautiful and most unique is the Kangaroo Island kangaroo, a sub-species of the Western Grey kangaroo.
These kangaroos are slightly stockier, a deep dark chocolate colour, and a lot fluffier than their brethren. Basically, they’re a lot cuter than other kangaroos!
Nikki took us to her favourite spot on the island to see these kangaroos, and we had the place to ourselves.
These kangaroos aren’t tame by any stretch of the imagination, but if you know what to do (like Nikki did) and you’re careful, you can actually get remarkably close to these animals without scaring them away.
Watching them eating is really captivating. I don’t know if it’s because they’re on the hind legs all the time, but there’s something almost human about these animals. I think because of that, you feel such a connection to them.
Keep an eye out for an echidna
Another animal that you’ll only find in Australia is the echidna.
If you’ve never heard or seen an echidna before, it looks a bit like a hedgehog or porcupine, but they are completely unrelated.
The echidna is actually a monotreme (an animal where the sexual organs and the anus is the same hole), and they date back to before the dinosaurs making them one of the oldest mammals in the world.
Echidnas are solitary animals and can be very hard to spot, but we were lucky to see one burrowing around the bushes just off the road.
It was another one for the Kangaroo Island wildlife bucket list!
Walk along the beach at Pennington Bay
It isn’t just about the wildlife on Kangaroo Island; they also have beautiful beaches too.
My favourite beach that we visited was Pennington Bay. This is a gorgeous golden stretch of sand. If you come on a clear sunny day, the water is a bright turquoise colour. If you’re lucky, you can see whales from the tops of the cliffs when it’s the right season too.
Go on a gin tasting experience at Kangaroo Island Spirits
One of the top things to do in Kangaroo Island is visit Kangaroo Island Spirits.
These guys were the first gin distillery in Australia, and over the years they have perfected a few different gins.
One of the things that makes Kangaroo Island Spirits so unique is all of their gins are infused with different botanicals found on the island. For example, their best-selling Wild Gin is infused with boobialla, a native berry very similar to juniper.
Being a Brit, I love my gin, so I couldn’t resist the gin tasting flight. This is tasting the 5 gins that they serve at Kangaroo Island Spirits. My favourite probably was the Wild Gin closely followed by Old Tom gin.
There’s a really lovely garden outside where you can sit and enjoy your favourite g&t. They also offer gin masterclasses at KIS where you can learn to make a number of different gin cocktails.
Dinner at The Odd Plate
If you’re looking for one of the best restaurants on Kangaroo Island, then look no further than The Odd Plate. This is proper high-end fine-dining that you’d expect to find on mainland South Australia.
Based around sharing plates, this is a 7-course tasting menu with inspiration from India and Japan, but using the best local ingredients.
My favourite dish was the kingfish wing with a caper and lemon butter sauce, and the Indian roasted cauliflower with daal.
I honestly can’t rave about this place enough. It was easily up there with my favourite meals while travelling around South Australia.
Kangaroo Island accommodation
Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel
One of the best places to stay in Kingscote is Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel.
This motel has been recently renovated to bring a new lease of life to the place. Each room is very bright and airy with seaside accents. Our room had a large double bed and a single bed in it, so it’s a great option for families too.
Also, basing yourself in the capital of Kingscote is perfect for exploring all the island has to offer. Oh, and another bonus. It’s next door to The Odd Plate, so you can go out for an incredible meal there and then stumble home afterwards!
Anther incredible option if you’re looking for the holiday of a lifetime is the Oceanview Eco-Villas. These are two-bedroom off-grid luxury villas that are the ultimate splurge.
The main ethos at this place is that you don’t lift a finger. It’s supposed to be the highest level of luxury where everything is taken care of for you.
Staying at the eco-villas means you get your own private chef who will cook you a 3-course dinner each night.
As I said, this is luxury with a capital L.
Driving from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island: Things to do on the way
If you’re driving down from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, then I’d really recommend breaking up the journey and stopping off at a few places along the way.
What I’d suggest is driving to either the McLaren Vale or the Fleurieu Peninsula. Both are around 45 minutes from Adelaide, and they are absolutely stunning. From there, you can visit some of the most beautiful beaches or wineries in South Australia.
If you are doing a big South Australia road trip, then follow the link for an amazing guide by Wanderlust Chloe. This is the road trip we did while travelling through South Australia.
The Cube at d’Arenberg
And down the rabbit hole we go…
The Cube at d’Arenberg is a vineyard like no other. It’s a place where art, architecture, fine dining and wine all come together in perfect harmony. It’s a concept that’s changing the face of what a vineyard is and what it offers. Again, I really can’t recommend this place is enough.
The building is modelled on a Rubix cube to highlight the complex nature of making wine – it’s a puzzle where all the pieces need to fit together.
At d’Arenberg you can walk around the Salvador Dali museum they have there, go wine tasting on the top floor with gorgeous views of the McLaren Vale all around, or dine in their new restaurant Singapore Circus.
This was actually one of our favourite foodie experiences in South Australia. You can check out our top 10 food and wine experiences in Adelaide and beyond here.
Surfing at Middleton Beach
Again, you can’t come all this way without going surfing. This is Australia after all!
It had been a fair few years since I last surfed, so I had a lesson with Jake from Surf & Sun at Middleton Beach.
Jake is exactly the type of instructor you want. Super enthusiastic, encouraging, packed full of useful tips, and most importantly, patient.
Even though we were only surfing the white fluffy just stuff off the shore, it felt amazing being back on the board again. You can’t quite beat the rush of catching a wave (no matter how big or small it is!), and I just loved every second in the water.
If you’re looking at surfing, especially for the first time or to improve, I can’t recommend this surf school enough.
Exploring the Fleurieu Peninsula
One of the beaches you just have to visit in the Fleurieu Peninsula is Sellicks Beach.
This place is constantly voted as one of the best beaches in Australia, and when you see it for yourself you’ll quickly understand why.
Just beside the beach are these rich red rocks that quickly transition into golden sands. Juxtaposed with this is the bright blue colour of the ocean. If you get to one of the viewpoints overlooking the beach it really is such a sight.
Star of Greece
The Star of Greece is known as one of the best restaurants in South Australia.
Their tagline is: “We’re all about the good stuff here. Good food, really good views and great wine.” After eating here I can attest that all are very true.
The menu is a celebration of local ingredients, and the quality of cooking really is top notch. I had the chargrilled wagyu steak with XO sauce, mushrooms and a sweet potato puree, and it was a knockout dish.
This post was in association with South Australia promoting the best things to do in Kangaroo Island. As always, views are entirely my own and without bias.
Are you planning a trip to Kangaroo Island? If you have any questions about it all, you can let me know in the comments below!
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