A Weekender's Guide to Kangaroo Island
The South Australian island's wineries, beaches, oyster farms and accommodation are as beautiful as ever.
April 28, 2023
Kangaroo Island is known for its spectacular coastal views, wildlife, wineries and pristine beaches. It's clear to see how it got on the New York Times list of the best places to visit in 2023 and our own list of the best islands to visit in Australia.
To help travellers get the most out of a trip to Kangaroo Island, we decided to create this complete guide. It highlights the best places to stay, where to eat and drink and what special activities to book ahead of time — whether you're looking for adventure or a little bit of luxury. All you have to do is get yourselves there, either by ferry or plane from Adelaide.
EAT AND DRINK
Straight off the ferry? Head to Millie Mae's Pantry for a full brunch made with ingredients from the kitchen garden, or pick up something to take with you for lunch while you adventure through the island. If you've stayed in Kingscote, start the day off with coffee from Cactus. It's well worth coming back later in the day for dumplings, tacos or whatever is on the menu that night.
A winery tour is a must while you're in town, so make sure to hit Bay of Shoals Wines, which boasts the closest vines to the sea in the southern hemisphere. Nearby, there's also The Islander Estate Vineyards for vino made by a renowned Bordeaux winemaker and, for balance, Kangaroo Island Brewery where you can stop for lunch and try a few local cold ones. Also worth checking out on the far east side of the island is False Cape Wines — known for its minimal intervention drops — and Dudley Wines, which has incredible views and live music on the first Sunday of the month.
But if organising this alone seems like too much hassle or you'd rather someone else drive you around, then wine tours are the way to go. This full-day wine and nature tour starts from Kangaroo Island and this alternative food and wine tasting safari starts from Adelaide. On each of these Kangaroo Island day trips, you'll taste great local vinos, eat some tasty local produce and get up and close with friendly Aussie wildlife.
For the island's best fish and chips, we have to recommend KI Fresh Seafood in Kingscote. It's attached to a petrol station, but don't let that put you off — take away and enjoy on the water's edge.
For a finer affair, head to dinner at Sunset Food and Wine. The modern bistro looks out over American Beach and is owned by Jack Ingram, former executive chef of Southern Ocean Lodge, a Kangaroo Island favourite that was sadly destroyed in the bushfires of 2020. The menu is stacked with fresh local seafood and produce, including rock lobster, kingfish sashimi and Kangaroo Island honeycomb. Otherwise, the Penneshaw Hotel is perched on a clifftop and offers a decent pub feed overlooking the wide open sea.
And lastly, you should check out the monthly farmers and community market day at Penneshaw Oval, which also happens on the first Sunday of the month (between October and April).
If you're arriving by ferry, you'll get into Penneshaw — and from there you can head straight to Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari to swim with dolphins. In Lashmar Conservation Park, you can also watch out for wildlife as you kayak along the Chapman River to Antechamber Bay, where you'll find a lovely private beach perfect for a dip.
Making your way west, seafood lovers should spend an afternoon at American River, where The Oyster Farm Shop will sort you out with fresh local oysters, marron, abalone and King George whiting, before you explore the protected wetlands of Pelican Lagoon.
Of course, one of the best things about Kangaroo Island is the beaches: crystal clear, blue waters, long stretches of glittery white sand and lazy days spent soaking it all in. The best ones? Emu Bay on the island's north coast, where you can drive your car right onto the four-kilometre stretch of white sand and spend a day in the tranquil waters, or — a little further west — Snelling Beach for an epic sunset.
Spend a day exploring the shops and sights of Kingscote, the island's largest town, just south of Emu Bay. Stop in at the Spinners and Weavers Shop for handmade natural fibre treasures, take a tour of Island Beehive and pick up some local honey, shop art at Shep's Studio and Fine Art Kangaroo Island, and visit Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil distillery. Be sure to make time for a two-hour blend-your-own-gin experience at Kangaroo Island Spirits.
Next, you should head southwest to Vivonne Bay for surf and to sandboard down Little Sahara with the help of Little Sahara Adventure Centre. Alternatively, you cab join a quad bike tour to explore the grass and bushland before heading to the Seal Bay Conservation Park for a guided tour of the sea lion colony.
Kangaroo Island has lots of luxury accommodation and you can go off-grid in style at Stowaway Kangaroo Island. Imagine curling up in the window seat of a luxurious private cabin on the edge of Lathami Conservation Park and a privately owned sheep farm, soaking in views of the bush and ocean in the distance. Both of the cabins, aptly named The Nest and The Sleepy Hollow, come with a huge soaker bath with sweeping views, a hot tub out on the deck, a sauna and a local produce hamper.
Otherwise, make yourself at home at Ecopia Villas on a vast property in the middle of the island, complete with exclusive access to the Eleanor River and hundreds of acres of wilderness. Or you can book an all-inclusive package with bespoke 4WD tours at the Sea Dragon Lodge and Villas, or fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs of the island's eastern-most point at Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge within the Cape Willoughby Conservation Park.
If you'd rather keep it simple (and cheap), pitch a tent at one of these gorgeous camping spots that are all mere steps from the beach and have their own toilets, barbecues and picnic facilities. These stunning sites help place Kangaroo Island on our list of the best camping spots in Australia, as voted by our readers. We aren't the only ones who love Kangaroo Island — you guys do, too.
Feeling inspired to book a truly unique getaway? Head to Concrete Playground Trips to explore a range of holidays curated by our editorial team. We've teamed up with all the best providers of flights, stays and experiences to bring you a series of unforgettable trips in destinations all over the world.
All images courtesy of the South Australia Tourism Commission.
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