Kangaroo Island


A nice calm morning in Kingscote.

I've visited Kangaroo Island on severai occasions now, having just returned from another visit.

The first step is getting there and the easiest way is to utilise the ferry that travels from Cape Jervis (about 1.5 hrs south of Adelaide) to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island.  It's a 45 minute trip across Backstairs Passage.  Prices and schedules can be found here http://www.sealink.com.au/

There are flights from Adelaide to Kingscote too.  Hire cars are now available on the Island which makes this a good option.

It's a brilliant place, popular with overseas tourists, but it is not going to appeal to everyone.  I first visited in 1980 (or thereabouts) and it really hasn't changed much since then, except for holiday homes and the odd "touristy" shop.  The Island is still very much unspoilt, with half still native bushland.  If you're after an exciting after hours night club scene, or even a movie, then you are going to be disappointed.  There is only one after hours fuel outlet, which is unmanned and has to paid for by credit card.

The major towns are Penneshaw, where the ferry from the mainland berths, Kingscote, about 50 kms from Penneshaw, and Parndana, which is in the centre of the Island, about 40 kms from Kingscote.  Other towns aren't really towns at all, but holiday spots.  Fuel, groceries and takeaway food can be bought at these three centres.  Kingscote has a couple of restaurants, two pubs (where meals can be purchased), a pizza shop, a fish and chip/seafood shop and a bakery.  There is also an ANZ Bank and ATM which might be handy.  You'll pay a bit more for fuel and food than you would on the mainland.  Penneshaw is similar to Kingscote in the way of facilities, but Parndana has a grocery/bakery/takeaway food shop and not much else.

Accomodation wise things are on the improve.  At one time, you either had to fork out a considerable sum of money to stay in the more "upmarket" style accomodation frequented by overseas tourists or rough it on a camping trip.  Now though, there are a few places that offer cabins and more affordable holiday homes.  There is a caravan park at Brownlow, which is just outside of Kingscote and another caravan park on the southern coast near Flinders Chase National Park.

If you choose to camp, you can't go wrong.  Either of the above mentioned caravan parks are open to campers and there are numerous other locations all over the Island.  Inside the Flinders Chase National Park, you can camp at Rocky River or Snake Lagoon.  Rocky River is the larger of the two areas and is well facilitated with hot showers and water.  It's also within spitting distance of Park Headquarters, where you can buy drinks and food.  Snake Lagoon doesn't have showers or water and is about 7 kms from Park Headquarters.  These are good sites, although not particularly well screened from one another, especially if your focus is on the south coast of the Island.  Flinders Chase is home to Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, two big tourist attractions.  There are also several walks through some spectacular country and the coastline is incredible.  It would pay to book if intending to stay here during peak periods, because it can get busy.  Rocky River is home to the odd Platypus and Koalas are quite common.

If you don't book and these sites are full, don't worry too much,  The entire Island is only 150 k's long so you are not going to be too far away from another campsite.

Also on the south coast, Vivonne Bay has a camping reserve.  There are a few sites on top of a low hill above the beach.  They are well screened from one another and are excellent spots, although pegging a tent is sometimes a pain due to the rocky ground.  However, the hassle is worth it.  Vivonne Bay is a beautiful place.  The beach is pristine, with white sand and clear, green water.  It sees a bit of swell action, so at times, it's good for a surf.  Beach fisherman will love it here too.  Salmon can be caught in the gutters along the beach, as well as Tommies and smaller Salmon.  There is also a jetty which provides another fishing option.  Fishing off the rocks is productive too, although watch the waves if you venture west, where the rocks are more exposed. 

Seal Bay on the Island's South Coast, is a big tourist drawcard. 

There are no facilities at these sites.

Just before you reach the coast and the above mentioned camping spots, there is another camping ground on your left.  It is well sign posted, but the name of it escapes me.  It is set amongst bushland and appears to be a nice sheltered spot.

Vivonne Bay is a council run camping area. 

Heading back towards KIngscote, and a bit further south, you will find the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park.  Within this Park, you can camp at Murray Lagoon or D'Estrees Bay.  There is a ranger station at Murray Lagoon where permits for both sites can be purchased.

Murray Lagoon is a must if you like birdwatching.  A large wetland area. it is a very peaceful place and has toilets and water. 

D'Estrees Bay is usually quite sheltered.  It is a well set up camp area with toilets.  It's a good spot if you like fishing, and the shallow beaches provide a good opportunity to wade out and fish for Whiting and Flathead.

Between Kingscote and Penneshaw there are several spots to camp.  They are council reserves so please make enquries in Kingscote for prices.  The two spots I have visited are American River and Brown Beach.  At American River, near the boat ramp, there is a small area by the side of the road.  There are toilets and shower facilities nearby for the use of campers.  American River is situated on the banks of American River, and it is a popular spot due to the sheltered anchorage for fishing boats.  There are lots of holiday homes here and because the campsite is right next to the main road, it can be a bit noisy.  Having said that though, it's hardly ever busy enough to cause too many problems, even during peak season.  As mentioned it's only a small area.

Brown Beach is not far from Penneshaw and is quite a popular camping spot.  Again, there are a number of holiday homes here, so there will be other people about.  The beach itself is a nice calm location and it is visited at night by Fairy Penguins, so it's not a good idea to take the dog.  A nice little spot with water and toilet facilities.

Campsites are also available at Antechamber Bay and Western River (council reserves) but I have not visited them so am unable to comment.  I would imagine they would be pleasant, quiet places like the others.

On the north coast of the Island, there is a small camping spot at Stokes Bay.  It is just a cleared rectangular paddock really.  This is a popular spot and those of you who have visited Stokes Bay will know why.  The beach here is beautiful.  It is necessary to follow a walking trail  over and through the limestone cliffs.  When you emerge on the other side, you are greeted by a large rock pool with crystal clear, green water.  On the other side of this pool is a more exposed beach, again with clear water and white sands.  It is a great swimming beach, suitable for kids and adults.  The fishing on the more exposed beach can be good at times and, on calm days, the rocks are another good fishing option.  Because of many reefs, snorkelling and diving are also popular.

There is a bar and grill not far from the camping area too which is a bonus.  The only facilities are toilets.

Most camping grounds would be suitable for caravans and camper trailers, with the exception maybe of American River and Vivonne Bay.  However, the campground at Vivonne Bay before you reach the spots on the hill above the beach would be OK for caravans/camper trailers.  Anyway, if you have a look around you will find a nice spot for the van.

I'm sure there are other areas on Kangaroo Island in which to camp, but these are the sites I have visited.  I think the secret to visiting Kangaroo Island is being in the right frame of mind.  It is a place to relax and enjoy the abundant wildlife and peace and quiet.  By all means visit the tourist spots like Seal Bay. Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, but be mindful there is much more to Kangaroo Island.  Visit some of the "off the beaten track" places and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.

If travelling with the kids, then the wildlife parks at Parndana and Paul's Place are both must sees, along with the usual spots.  If visiting the Little Sahara remember to head into Vivonne Bay and hire some sand boards so the kids can go screaming down the sandhills.  They will be picking sand out of their cracks for weeks afterwards but it's all good fun.

Little Sahara is an area of largish sand dunes.  KIds love the place.

At all campgrounds mentioned, except those within the Flinders Chase National Park, campfires are allowed out of Fire Danger Season, but you have to bring your own firewood.  Within the National Park it's gas fires only.

Kangaroo Island can be enjoyed at all times of the year.  Summer is generally a bit cooler than Adelaide and there is always a seabreeze.  Spring sees wildflowers in abundance.  The good thing about the Island is that a sheltered location can always be found. 

The major roads are sealed and in good repair, but there are a lot of dirt roads to negotiate, especially if visiting some of the camping grounds and out of the way places.  These roads can be rough in parts, with corrugations and potholes being the norm.  A bit of care is all that is required and you will get through unscathed.  A 4WD makes travelling on these roads more comfortable, but is certainly not a necessity. 

If driving at night anywhere on Kangaroo Island, be mindful of the wildlife.  Kangaroos, possums and the small wallaby/kangaroo/potteroo jumpy things are very common.  During the day and in warm weather, you will see snakes and goannas on the roads, especailly the back roads.

As for the fishing, well it's hard to go wrong.  Some of the beaches are almost untouched and produce nice catches of Flathead, Whiting, Salmon, Tommies and Trevally at times.  The jetty at Kingscote is a great place to fish.  During the day, Squid, Garfish and Tommies make up the bulk of the catch.  At night, it's even better with Squid, Snook, big Tommies and the odd King George Whiting.  Yellowtail Kingfish lurk here also.  I have seen them swimming around the jetty pylons.  One night, whilst drifitng strips of squid around for Snook, I hooked a much larger fish which tore line off the reel in a run which headed for open water.  After about 20 metres, the fish turned and swam straight back in amongst the pylon, busting me off.  I suspect a Kingfish.  I saw a local catch a decent sized Snapper here on the same night.

On my last trip, my two kids and I headed down to the jetty at night for a spot of Tommy fishing.  We caught a couple, but things were a bit slow.  I noticed the berley, which I had soaked a couple of days before, was a bit on the nose.  I threw it out, mixed some new stuff and that did it.  Using gents for bait, with two number 10 hooks above a sinker, the kids would drop the rig down a few metres.  I would throw just a small amount of berley in every 5 minutes or so.  Fishing underneath one of the lights, they caught a few dozen large fish, the biggest measuring 25 cm, which is a big Tommy.  I didn't get a chance to fish, but was continually unhooking fish and baiting hooks.

Vivonne Bay jetty produces the odd Garfish and the ever present Tommies.  Salmon also put in an appearance.  The bottom here is almost entirely sand, with a bit of reef thrown in, so it does not attract the same variety of species as Kingscote.  Penneshaw also has a jetty, but once again the bottom is mainly sand.  Squid are caught though, along with Tommies and Garfish.

If you're into surf fishing, then there are 3 main beaches.  Pennington Bay, between Penneshaw and Kingscote, Snellings Beach on the north coast and Vivonne Bay on the south coast.  All produce Salmon at times, with the larger fish seeming to come from Pennington Bay.  There are other beaches at which Salmon are caught, but a bit of "seek and ye shall find" is required to pinpoint them.

Fishing from the rocks on the north coast is good fun and a variety of fish can be caught.  It is sheltered coastline, especially if the wind is from the southerly quarter.  Places like Stokes Bay and King George Beach are good starting points.  Cockles or squid are probably the most versatile baits, with gents not far behind.  Use berley and a float to keep the baits away from the bottom.  Sweep, Trevally, Salmon, Tommies and Garfish are all regulars along with some of the weird, funny looking fish you always seem to catch when fishing off the rocks.

Kangaroo Island has a lot to offer.  From great tourist attractions to complete peace and quiet, it is an excellent place to visit.  If you are a self sufficient camper who enjoys uspoilt places, then it would have to be close to the top of the list.