Guide to Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is the picture of paradise, with pristine white beaches that lead into lush forests, delicious local wines, and a seriously good selection of animal encounters.

Though it’s just off the coast from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island feels like a world away, with incredible sunsets, striking ancient rock formations, and a backdrop that could easily have stepped out of a fairytale.

There is so much to see and do on the island, from watching native animals in their natural habitat, to marvelling at unusual natural landmarks and learning how the locals live life.

Kangaroo Island

The History of Kangaroo Island

Aboriginal Tribes

There is strong evidence of life on Kangaroo Island in prehistoric times. However, it is suggested that the island was isolated from humans for some time before the Europeans discovered it. The main reason for this was due to past artefacts including tools of the aboriginal people date back hundreds of years, but promptly stop after a certain period. The main theory is due to the large body of water separating Kangaroo Island to the mainland. With the Murray river too rough for canoes to cross, which was the only way of transport for the Aboriginal tribes. Therefore, historians believe there is an extinct island race in the legends of the Ngarrindjeri. The name of Kangaroo Island was known as the island of Karta, also known as the Island of the Dead. This title is said to be because of the dreamtime story of Ngurunderi, who crossed the island to travel up to the milky way. It is said the spirits of the dead follow Ngurunderi’s path across the island before going into the afterlife.

Why it was named Kangaroo Island

The first Europeans to discover the island was Captain Matthew Flinders and his crew in 1802. At the time of the island sighting, Captain Flinders and his crew were on the verge of starvation. Once the ship laided ashore, the crew explored the area, finding no inhabitants but something much more important to them; fresh food! The entire island region was covered by the newly named kangaroo animals. In Captain Flinders’ journal he states how the entire crew joined in on hunting, skinning, and cleaning of the large mob of kangaroos. Consuming as much of the fresh meat as possible while they explored the island. In gratitude to the animals for saving them from peril, Captain Flinders named the island ‘Kangaroo Island.’

European Settlements

After Captain Flinders’ discovery of the Island in 1802, another boat made it to shore only months after. Frenchman Nicolas Baudin arrived, and began mapping much of the island, naming certain sections of the region. After this, both sealing and whaling vessels soon arrived to exploit the rich waters. In 1836, the first settles came to the island, with the South Australia Company creating the colony. However, after only four years on the island, the colony relocated back to the mainland of South Australia, leaving behind only a few hardy settlers. These citizens established small properties along the river flats and tiny bays of Kangaroo Island, fishing, farming sheep and cattle, as well as producing wheat and barley.

How to Get to Kangaroo Island?

  • By Ferry

    The most accessible way to travel to Kangaroo Island is by ferry. The ferry runs three times a day, departing from either Cape Jervis and Penneshaw. It can accommodate either individual passengers or vehicles, so you are able to rent a car for the day or bring your own for your island adventure.

  • By Tour

    Save yourself the headache of organising your day and take a tour! A bus will pick you up from a selection of pick up points within the Adelaide CBD and drop you right off after the day is done. See the sights of the Kangaroo Island with a trusty guide that can answer all your questions. Listen to the interesting secrets and history of the island as you sightsee the incredible attractions on offer.

  • By Flying

    If you are interested in a luxury. The flight takes around thirty minutes, where you will land roughly twelve kilometres away from the main town. There are no taxis or public transport on offer, so we suggest hiring a car or arranging a private pick up. Make sure you plan to book your tickets in advance, as the flights are snatched up quickly in high season.

Here are some great ways to get to know Kangaroo Island in all its glory

  • Visit Remarkable Rocks

    Remarkable Rocks

    This incredible natural phenomenon makes up Kangaroo Island’s most iconic landmark. Made by sea spray, wind, and rain eroding their edges over 500 million years, the Remarkable Rocks now cast a unique silhouette against the island’s coastline. Visit the rocks, nestled right along the clifftop coast of Kangaroo Island, and be mesmerised by the rock’s natural beauty. You can also see the nearby Admiral Arch from here, where fur seals bask in the shade it casts.

  • Admirals Arch

    Another phenomenon due to millions of years of natural erosion. However, instead of a series of large boulders, the coastal clifftop has been cut away to create a large rock arch. Giving visitors a picturesque view of the ocean horizon. Travel here at sunset or sunrise to get an awe-inspiring snapshot of the soft orange glow reflecting along the island’s rocky border.

  • Penneshaw

    Visit the main town of Kangaroo Island; Penneshaw! The town is hard to miss, as it is the welcoming point for all ferries. But instead of simply using it as a gateway before heading out to the rest of the island, why not spend a couple hours here meeting the locals and taking in the friendly charm? The town has countless cafes, interesting museums, and great walking tracks nearby.

  • Take a Hike

    Flinders Chase National Park is packed full of amazing animals and native plant life. Covering 32,600 hectares, there’s plenty of fascinating sights to be seen, and a walk here is one of the best ways to discover the incredible scenes on offer. If you’re lucky, you might get to catch a glimpse of koalas, kangaroos, platypuses, and other cute critters.

  • Watch Seals Bask in the Sun

    Seal Bay is one of the most popular spots on Kangaroo Island. Here, hundreds of Australian sea lions and fur seals bask on the warm sands, enjoying their natural environment. The surrounding conservation park protects and preserves these amazing creatures, and there’s plenty of opportunity to get up close and personal with them.

  • Spend a Leisurely Afternoon at the Local Markets

    Kangaroo Island is a hub of good food and produce. At the local market, you can tuck into some of the region’s special dishes and pick up a few souvenirs along the way. Not only can you browse stalls piled high with fresh crayfish, sheep yoghurt, olive oil, organic honey, sticky figs, and fruit jams, but you can also get to see a slice of local Seal Spotting Seal Baylife on the island.

  • Take a Picture of a Penguin

    The Penguin Centre on Kangaroo Island is a fun way to while away an afternoon. Watch these cute creatures waddle along the beach, and learn more about their social and behavioural habits. Visit in the evening to see the penguins return from fishing for the best encounters.

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