7 things you didn’t know about Kangaroo Island

Just a short hop from the South Australian mainland is a sanctuary for wildlife that’s as rugged as it is spectacular.

A lighthouse on Kangaroo Island during sunset.
  • Helen Martin
  • November 2019

While it is Australia’s third biggest island, there is much more to Kangaroo Island than its impressive size. From kangaroos, sea lions and bees to huge granite boulders, sand dunes and rustic cottages, it is quite unlike any other South Australian destination.

It is an impressive size

Only 110 kilometres south of Adelaide, KI is Australia’s third-largest island (after Tasmania and Melville) and its 4400 square kilometres are home to just over 100 sheep for every one of its 4700 residents.

It's teeming with kangaroos and sea lion

Apart from the eponymous kangaroos, which are smaller and darker than the mainland cousins they last saw about 10,000 years ago, the best-known wildlife drawcard of this richly varied island is the endangered Australian sea lion. Seal Bay is the only place in the world where you can literally get amongst them on the sand and watch them sleep, surf, sometimes fight and feed their impossibly cute babies.

Two sea lions at Kangaroo Island.
Roos and sea lions are the most famous wildlife attractions at Kangaroo Island.

You can stay overnight

Flinders Chase National Park turns 100 this month. Embrace its heritage by staying in a one-room stone hut that was the postman’s fortnightly stopover or a lighthouse keeper’s cottage with a wood-fired stove.

South Coast Road, Flinders Chase, (08) 8553 4450, parks.sa.gov.au opens in new window

The Remarkable Rocks are awe-inspiring

High on the island’s southern coast you’ll find the weathered granite boulders that are the Remarkable Rocks. Take a camera and capture their abstract shapes; look towards Antarctica from your perch 60 metres above the Southern Ocean; and take extra care when it’s wet and windy – the same forces that helped shape these landmarks over 500 million years are still going strong.

The Remarkable Rocks at Kangaroo Island
The Remarkable Rocks have been shaped by millions of years of wind and rain.

There are tonnes of wineries, distilleries, cellar doors and pubs

At almost seven times the size of Singapore, KI still retains about half of its native vegetation. Around 120 hectares of the island is under vine and there are 13 wineries, six with cellar doors. There’s also a distillery, pubs, a cider maker, microbreweries and a pop-up caravan bar on the beach where sandy feet are welcome.

A bartender makes a drink at a distillery on Kangaroo Island.
There's no shortage of wineries and pubs on Kangaroo Island.

You can slide down sand dunes

Get your heart pumping at Little Sahara, a dune system where you can rent a board or toboggan slicked with Ligurian beeswax (naturally!) and zoom down the slopes.

188 Jetty Road, Vivonne Bay, (08) 8559 4296, kioutdooraction.com.au opens in new window

A man surfs the sand dunes at Kangaroo Island
Adrenaline junkies will love surfing the sand dunes.

It is a sanctuary for bees

The year after its prized bees arrived from the mainland in 1884, Kangaroo Island was declared a bee sanctuary. It’s the world’s oldest and thanks to strict quarantine measures it retains the purest existing strain of Ligurian bees. In a good year the island’s 51 registered beekeepers can harvest up to an estimated 300 tonnes of honey from their 3333 hives.