Was Kangaroo Island connected to Australia

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 03/27/2020

Reading time: 3 mins

The stunning Kangaroo Island is just a short ferry ride away from mainland Australia, but has the island always been disconnected?

Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island is just 13.5 kilometres from the nearest mainland point. There was once a shallow passage that connected the island to the mainland. It is believed that the island separated from the mainland as sea levels rose.

Aboriginal History

Aboriginal tribes on the mainland referred to the island as Karta, Island of the Dead. Excavation of the island shows that the island was inhabited as long as 16,000 years ago. However, we now know that the island has only been separated from the mainland for approximately 10,000 years.

There is a mainland Aboriginal story that explains why the island separated from the mainland.
Ngurunderi’s two wives ran away from him. As he followed them they led him along the beach to Cape Jervis. When he saw them wading across a shallow channel he became determined to punish them. He angrily ordered the water to rise and drown them. Though the wives tried hard to swim to safety they were powerless and drowned.

European Settlement

Europeans intermittently settled on Kangaroo Island, using it as a short-term refuge after spending long stretches of time at sea. The first recorded European landing was in 1802. When the sailors discovered there was an abundance of kangaroo they could hunt for their first taste of meat in months they rejoiced. As such, they named the island Kangaroo Island.

Animals on Kangaroo Island

Due to is separation from the mainland many of the animal species on the island are endemic, meaning native only to the island.

What might be surprising to learn is that two of the most popular animals to try and find, platypus and koala, are actually introduced species. Neither specie had populations here before they were introduced in 1920. In fact, the introduction of koala, in particular, was so successful that they became a pest, with the population growing to over 200,000!

The island is missing some other common pests in Australia too. As animals cannot get here unless they are specifically brought to the island, foxes and rabbits have not made their way here. This is fantastic for local native wildlife as there is no new predator threatening them. No rabbits is also great for agriculture in the region as they are known to cause havoc for many farmers.

Modern connection to mainland

Today the island is easily accessed from the mainland by ferry. The island is powered by subsea cables that run electricity from South Australia’s grid to Kangaroo Island. Many goods need to be imported to the island and a small airport facilitates air deliveries to the island. Interestingly the island does have its own water supply and currently isn’t connected to the mainland catches.

Though separated from the mainland Kangaroo Island is far from forgotten by its mainland neighbours. This fantastic island is well worth a visit by anyone taking the time to enjoy South Australia.

Related article: What is the difference between a Kangaroo and a Wallaby?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.