Kangaroo Island is massive rock formations and free-roaming wildlife. It’s the highlights of Australia compacted into a nature lover’s and photographer’s paradise. We found endless things to do in Kangaroo Island.
Our visit was in late November 2019, about a month before the January 2020 fires raged across the island, changing it forever.
The fire’s devastation brought tears to our eyes and our hearts go out to those directly impacted and to the helpless animals that perished. Today, we share photos of things to do in Kangaroo Island, identifying those that are still open and the others that are temporarily closed.
Tourism is a significant piece of the island’s economy, and visitors are encouraged to keep coming. Much of the island remains pristine, nature will recover, and even in the scorched areas, the incredible caves and rock formations remain.
However, you want to be sure you know the current conditions as you make your plans.
Where is Kangaroo Island?
Kangaroo Island sits about 14 km off of the coast of South Australia, 105 km (65 mi) southwest of the city of Adelaide. The island, Australia’s third-largest, is 143 km (89 miles) long and takes about 2 hours to drive from one end to the other. Keep drive times in mind when you make your Kangaroo Island itinerary.
Things to do in Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island vastly exceeded our expectations. We opted for a two-day, one-night visit to enjoy nature, hike, and see animals in the wild. Two days kept us on the move in order to see most of the places on our wish list. In retrospect, a third day would have been optimal, thus allowing us the downtime necessary to appreciate better the incredible nature that surrounded us.
Kangaroo Island wildlife
Wildlife spotting is one of the most exciting things to do on Kangaroo Island. My heart skips a beat the moment I spot a koala in a eucalyptus tree, an echidna meandering alongside the road, or a kangaroo hopping down the street. We had to remind ourselves several times to pull off of the road before we stopped fully.
While there are plenty of commercial options that guarantee sightings, wildlife is everywhere. Kangaroo Island is the best natural wildlife experience we have had to date.
Pro tip: Animals often roam on the streets at night. If possible, avoid driving between dusk and dawn.
Vivonne Bay is turquoise water crashing over white sandy beaches along the base of craggy cliffs. The wild seas and blue sky create a stunning scene that is hard to beat. It’s considered to be one of Australia’s best beaches.
Flinders Chase National Park
Flinders Chase National park is the gold crown sitting at the far end of the island. At the top of just about everyone’s things to do on Kangaroo Island list, it is wildlife viewing, massive irregular rock formations, and refreshing hikes. We spent about half of our daylight hours on the island inside the park.
The visitors’ centre is everyone’s first stop. Here, we purchased a two-day park pass and a ranger helped us plan out our time based on our desires and abilities.
Flinders Chase National Park was badly damaged by the fires. The good news is that the park is currently open. Note that there is a temporary visitor information office at Rocky River, 5km inside the park entrance. More details here.
Update as of Dec 10, 2022
Appropriately named, these 500 million-year-old huge granite boulders are nothing short of . . . remarkable. There are safety warnings near cliff edges, but walking on the rocks is allowed, and we encourage you to do it. These huge boulders are much more impressive close up than they are from a distance.
Sculpted by wind and water, this arch frames a cove where fur seals frolic, play, and sleep. Plus, fur seals bask along the rocks that we pass as we walk along the boardwalk to the arch.
Pro tip: Remember to bring a jacket, as the 10-minute walk gets really windy (and surprisingly cold) in areas.
Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
Viewing the wild sea lion colony at the aptly named Seal Bay is one of the most popular things to do on Kangaroo Island. Here, you can get up close to the animals on the beach (with a guide) or view from a platform. Each carries a different cost.
We opted to wait and see if we saw sea lions or seals elsewhere on the island before we paid for entry, and sure enough, we saw them at Admirals Arch.
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
Also located in Flinders Chase, this lighthouse marks the trailhead for two popular hikes. There is a 3 km return hike to Weirs Cove (where supplies were once dropped off for the lighthouse keeper) or a stunning 2 km clifftop hike simply named Cape du Couedic hike.
Elusive creatures, platypuses thrive in the platypus waterholes in Flinders Chase. While dusk and dawn typically offer the best chances for spotting one, recent sightings when we visited had oddly been at midday. So, that’s when we went.
Following the suggestions, we were silent and patient. We waited and watched for ripples in the water. My patience lasted longer than Jeff’s but not as long as the platypus. While we never saw one in Flinders Chase, we have seen them in the past.
Owned and run by members of the Irwin family, this is the place to see birds of prey, venomous creatures, and reptiles. It’s not a zoo but rather an environmental, educational rehabilitation centre. Wander the grounds or enjoy one of their dynamic shows (Free flight birds of prey, Reptile presentation, & Private Experience). While this was on our things to do in Kangaroo Island list, we ran out of time before arriving.
Another stunning Kangaroo Island beach is Pennington Bay. With larger waves, it’s better known for surfing.
This is a spot for exceptional views, or so we were told. Honestly, for us, this was one of our last stops on the island. With only an hour left before our return ferry, we had the option of climbing the 512 steps to the island’s highest point and its reputed fabulous view or enjoying a very late lunch. Food won.
Kelly Hill Caves
Entry to these limestones caves is via guided tour only. While the massive number of stalactites hanging down is enough to hold my attention, our guide’s stories were the real highlight.
One in particular: “Kate Kelly” is the name of a horse that fell into a sinkhole in 1880, which led to the discovery of the caves. Rumour has it that the horse belonged to the sister of famous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.
Pro tip: The caves hold a constant 16°C (61°F) temperature year-round, so you might want a light jacket.
Update: Kelly Hills Conservation area and the caves are closed until further notice. The scheduled re-opening is for April 2023.
Update as of December 10, 2022
Other key things to do on Kangaroo Island that remain open or have re-opened
With only two days, we couldn’t do it all, or even close. Aside from those featured above, here are some of the other things to do on Kangaroo Island that are still open after the fires.
- Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary – reopened for guided tours only
- Emu Ridge Eucalyptus
- Old Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
- Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park and Aquarium
- Wineries and wine tasting
- Art galleries
- Hikes and walks
- Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail
- Cape Borda Lighthouse
- Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail (guided modified trail for walkers)
Add some adventure to your Kangaroo Island itinerary
- Kangaroo Island Quad Bike Tour: This highly-rated, exhilarating, guided adventure over dirt tracks, muddy trails, and off-road offers four itinerary options. Reserve your quad bike tour here.
- Kayak on the Harriet River: Choose between single or double kayaks and then enjoy this 4-hour self-guided kayak tour along the calm waters of the Harriet River. Reserve your self-guided kayak tour here.
- Sand tobogganing on the dunes of Little Sahara: Located in Vivonne Bay, Little Sahara’s larger white sand dunes reach heights of 70 metres (230 feet). While self-guided, you will get a few tips before you get started. Reserve your Kangaroo Island toboggan rental.
- Dolphin, seal and snorkelling tour: This two-hour tour from Penneshaw takes you out on a boat in search of wildlife. Depending on what you find, there will be a chance to swim and snorkel alongside dolphins or seals in the wild, or stay on board and enjoy the sites. Reserve your snorkelling tour here
Did we see kangaroos?
Despite seeing incredible wildlife everywhere, I will admit, I expected to see more kangaroos. In total, we saw one, and it was through our filthy car window. I am just glad I took a photo despite the conditions, as by the time we pulled over, it had hopped away.
Kangaroo Island accommodation options
Even before the fires, there were limited hotels on Kangaroo Island, many of which fill up early. Therefore, this is one island that we booked well in advance.
As the wilderness retreat that we stayed at has burned down, we cannot offer a personal recommendation, just a quick link to the hotel options.
How to get from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
There are two ways to get to the island, either fly to Kingscote or take a Kangaroo Island ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. We chose the ferry, but rather than getting up before dawn and driving to Cape Jervis, we spent the night at a resort.
Two ferry companies, Sealink and Kangaroo Island Connect, operate the same route several times daily. We opted for Sealink, a good choice, as our cruise offered comfortable seating, served food (and coffee), and could take our car.
We brought our rental car over on the ferry, and while this increased our ferry fare, we believe it was the best option for anyone self-driving on the island. The alternative would have been to take a bus to Port Jervis, a taxi to the port, and then renting a car on Kangaroo Island.
Pro tip: for the smoothest ride, sit on the main deck towards the back of the cabin.
And don’t forget to allocate a few days to explore Adelaide itself. The capital of South Australia, it’s a fun and fascinating city.
Kangaroo Island tours
While we opted to self-drive, there are a lot of details to attend to when building a Kangaroo Island itinerary. You will need transport to Port Jervis and on the island, ferry crossing, and accommodation if you are going to stay overnight. Tours attend to all of this.
Also, with the current post-fire status, a tour may be the best way to see the island. Guides know the current status and where to find the wildlife.
Day trip to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide
We have toured with Sealink on Rottnest Island, and therefore feel comfortable recommending them for tours on Kangaroo Island. This is a full day, but you will see amazing sites in your 16-hour tour, as well as having downtime to relax on the ferry and along the drive to the National Park.
In the current world situation, it’s good to note upfront that this tour offers free cancellation up to 24-hours in advance (with a full refund) and has extra health and safety precautions in place.
Tour highlights includes:
- Transportation from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island (bus and ferry)
- Transportation on the island
- Guided beach walk at Seal Bay Conservation Park
- A delicious 2-course lunch in an Australian bush setting
- Walk at the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park
- Hopefully, sightings of seals and other wildlife.
Kangaroo Island travel guide: quick reference
- Emergency number: (Police, Fire and Ambulance) 000
- Driving: vehicles drive on the left
- Credit cards: Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted
- ATM Machines: at Kingscote (ANZ and Bank of South Australia)
- Electricity: 230V 50Hz Type I connectors (same as used in Argentina and New Zealand)
- Water: Tap water is considered safe to drink even after the fires, although bottled water may taste better
- Quarantined items: Bees, honey, potatoes, foxes, rabbits, or declared weeds are not to be brought to the island. (They each carry hefty fines.)
- Tipping: It’s Australia, so tipping is neither required nor expected.
Save on your Australia trip with these resources
We usually start with aggregator companies as they do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews. However, we also added a few personal NZ favourites:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging in Australia, we use VRBO
- Cars and Campervans: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings. Use Jucy for small campervans.
- Activity discounts: we always check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on selected tours, activities, restaurants and more.
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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It was mentioned that the national park is one of the destinations that people should visit when going to Kangaroo Island. My husband and I are trying to think or a fun trip to take this year for our anniversary. Are there any tours of the island that we can take so that we don’t miss anything?
The National Park is amazing and definitely a highlight. I am not sure where you are starting from, but if you are looking for a day trip from Adelaide or Glenelg, check out this tour.
We were all set to visit Kangaroo Island post the fires with our son and his girlfriend flying in from Sydney to join us. We were all set to do volunteer work with Blaze Aid while we were there. Then we all went into lock down. Oh well. KI is high on list when we can travel again and your very comprehensive article will be a great help. Thank you.
Kangaroo Island seems like such a great place to visit. I’m still kind of bummed that I didn’t go there when I was travelling around Australia. Next time, I guess 🙂
Wow, you would need a lifetime to see everything on this island. It’s beautiful and so many things to discover and the animals are gorgeous. So happy that the fire got under control to get rid of it, but so sad that so many animals were killed. Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures. Amazing! Just Amazing! Thank you.
Kangaroo Island looks like the most incredible place to see all the wildlife that Australia is so famous for. I’d love to show our kids animals like koalas and platypus in their natural environment. It’s good to know that the fires haven’t devastated the entire island.
What an amazing place! I would have been photographing every spot – even if there were not as many kangaroos as you expected! I do hope it is recovering well and that one day things will be back to the way they were before the fires. You have updated your post really well.
We had never heard of Kangaroo Island, but now have it on our dream list for Australia. We, along with the whole world, I’m sure, were also heartbroken by the fires and their terrible toll. But if there is one thing Mother Nature is supremely good at, it’s recovering from these sort of disasters. Thanks for introducing us to this awesome island!
sounds like the perfect place for a wildlife adventure
Lydia C. Lee
Great job updating the post. I am hoping to get there on an empty esky tour….just not entirely sure when….
oh god, we couldn’t belive the devastation when we saw the fires on the news, just crazy how much it spread and how much wildlife was wiped out, hopefully they can start regenerating now.
It was heartbreaking to see the effects of the recent fires. Kangaroo Island is up there on our bucket list! It’s great to see your support for the place and I hope its tourism industry continues to thrive despite the devastation.
Great post. It’s so important to return to places that have suffered so badly from the bushfires. It is devastating the loss of animals and Kangaroo Island has suffered huge losses.
Thank you for putting together all of this information on Kangaroo Island, post bush fires. For a place that’s so dependent on tourism, and brimming with wildlife (usually), the fires must have been so utterly devastating.
Kangaroo Island is 1000% an island I would LOVE TO explore! LOVE IT!!!!
Kangaroo Island oils like fun time getting to see so much wildlife and beautiful coastline! I would love to see kangaroos and platypuses. It’s so sad the destruction from the fires but hopefully everything will be opened up soon!
Kangaroo island looks beautiful and intriguing, what with all those unusual rock formations, but it’s so sad to see how much of the island has been affected by the fires. Especially Flinders Chase National Park. Such a shame. I’m sure it will all come to life again some day, hopefully sooner than later. Beautiful post.
This place looks so amazing. I hope to visit one day. So disheartening to hear about the fires.
Kangaroo Island looks amazing. So much great wildlife. Too bad you didn’t get to see a platypus but you found so many other great animals. It’s good to see that post fire travel is happening
I think it’s so great that you have featured this as I’m sure Australia needs all the tourists now that it can get! I hear you on the food winning thing! Enjoyed this post!
Wow! This is going on my travel bucket list! I honestly hadn’t heard of it before!
wow, there are so many things to do on this island! And yea, great idea to share this post after such a big tragic fire happened in this country. Hope everything is fine now.
It looks like a lovely place to visit. Thanks for sharing it.
Hi Rhonda – it must be the most amazing place … I sincerely hope time will allow it to recover as much as possible – stunning part of Australia. I’d love to visit – thanks for all the details – cheers Hilary
Kangaroo Island looks incredible, I would love to visit one day! So sad about the fires though.. Very helpful that you added those updates though!
Ryan K Biddulph
Excellent, Rhonda. Good to see this. I learned one thing after circling the globe; life finds a way.
Ahhhhh…Take me there now…I would love to spend a couple of weeks exploring this gorgeous island…Soon i hope.
Chelsea Sauvé - Wandure
What a meaningful and informative post – such a beautiful spot. Such a tragedy that befell it. I absolutely hope to visit one day, thanks for sharing your special experience and detailing the realities post fire.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Sad so much of it is closed, but good many areas were untouched. That one rock formation that looks like an eagle’s head and beak would be great to see.
A Chronic Voice
The next time I visit Australia I’m definitely visiting Kangaroo Island. It sounds amazing. And I’m also sad for all the poor lives and wildlife lost in the fires 🙁
Wow those rock formations are stunning! That one looks like the mouth of a whale! So glad that so much has been saved despite the damage from the fires! It’s been heartbreaking to watch!
I am completely spellbound and amazed by the article. What a lovely place. You have detailed out the article so well and the pictures are heavenly.
The fires caused so much heartbreak. And you were there just a couple of months earlier. I haven’t heard updates recently. I hope many injured animals are being cared for. The Humane Society in San Diego where I volunteer recommended an organization in Australia and helped raise money. So very sad!
Fires are awful and they take such a huge toll. Lots of fires here in the past few years. Hate all the loss of the habitat and animals.
Have a fabulous day, Rhonda. ♥