Kangaroo Island: a photographic report

For six days beginning on Thursday 14 March, my parents and I visited Kangaroo Island, a tourism hotspot located 100-200km from my home. I’ve visited the island once before, but I was ten years old then and don’t remember much.

Before the trip, I’d obtained a copy of the Island Intrigue CD, which contains audio tracks about the wildlife, history and key locations on the island, with an accompanying map that shows the best places to listen to each track. It’s designed to be listened to in the car as you drive from place to place. I also did most of the research on where to go.

This blog post is a report on what we did there, but for the most part I’ll be brief with my descriptions and let the photographs tell the story. Kangaroo Island is renowned for its photogeniality, and the pictures you see below are only a fraction of the ones I have. If you’d like to see additional pictures of certain places, then I may be able to oblige.

— Day One —

We took the 6pm ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, and it was a good ride.

The photographs below show: (a) View from inside the cafe as the ferry arrives outside; (b) A dramatic view over the upper deck of the ferry from on board; (c) A piece of Kangaroo Island as seen from behind the ferry as we enter the bay; (d) Our efforts to stir up seagulls after arriving in Penneshaw.

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From the ferry I saw one dolphin leap from the water, but missed its photograph.

To obtain the fourth picture, Mum threw chips for the seagulls and I snapped photographs as they dived for the food. I have shots featuring as many as seven seagulls in the air, but I like this one better.

Here is a ten-minute video from the ferry ride, which is as long as my camera would allow:

From Penneshaw we drove to Kingscote, Kangaroo Island’s largest town and our base for the next few days.

— Day Two —

Friday 15th was our first full day on the island, which we began by driving to its northwest corner and doing the Ravine des Casoars hike, which I enjoyed very much.

The following three pictures show a natural bridge structure near the beginning of the trail, and a riverbed near the end.

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Here’s a video that I took as I was walking, representing the terrain and plantlife to be seen along most of the trail. I recorded it somewhere between the two locations photographed above.

The trail ends at a beach, with some outstanding sea caves in the northern headland. The concentrated ocean waves on this beach were also very dramatic. I’ve done my best to capture the place in the following eight photographs.

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After returning to the carpark, we travelled east, departing north from the Playford Highway to visit Western River Cove and then take the scenic coastal road to Stokes Bay.

We stopped briefly at Western River Cove, where I took the following two shots.

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The coastal road goes up and down over several hills and is not suitable for large vehicles, but is a recommended drive for a family car. Clearly visible are the small islands south of Innes National Park on Yorke Peninsula.

The Stokes Bay Bush Garden is what you get when a gardening enthusiast and plant collector turns their extensive backyard into a minor tourist attraction. It wasn’t really my thing, but it was Mum’s, and I enjoyed taking her there (in that I did the research and put it on the destination list). Here’s a photo of Mum walking through the garden recording the names of her favourite plants.

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After visiting the bush garden, we went back to Stokes Bay for refreshments at the Rockpool Cafe and a walk on the beach. Stokes Bay is as photogenic a beach as any — with a natural tunnel passing all the way through the headland and a sharp contrast between the beaches on either side — but I don’t have any pictures, partly because my camera was running low on batteries (I’d neglected to charge it the night before) and partly because I left it in the car.

The whole day was well paced in my opinion, and I would recommend the overall plan to others (i.e. allowing one day to tour the north coast of Kangaroo Island from Ravine des Casoars to Stokes Bay).

— Day Three —

On Saturday we toured the central portion of the south coast, starting at Seal Bay and travelling east. Seal Bay is purported to be the island’s most popular attraction, and is certainly in the top three. It is ironically named, as the animals to be found here are sealions and not seals (the seals are elsewhere on the island). We saw a lot of kangaroos on the way there, drinking water from puddles in the road after a recent rainfall.

Here are some photographs from Seal Bay, including close-ups of the sealions, wider shots of the beach, and a scene with sealion and seagulls interacting. We didn’t go onto the beach itself because you need to book a tour to do that and we chose not to, so I took these pictures from the wooden platforms above the sandhills.

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After Seal Bay we visited Raptor Domain, which features a twice-daily interactive bird show. Here’s a photo of Mum with a barn owl on her knee, followed by six shots of one of the presenters with a wedge-tailed eagle. Several other birds were presented, but the eagle was the indisputable star of the show.

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I bought a holographic seahorse fridge magnet here (also available from other souvineer shops on the island).

We then visited the Little Sahara, a region of inland sand dunes that’s famous for looking like a desert. It’s a rather well-known site, but badly signposted and curiously absent from prominent tourism websites.

In the following photographs and video, I’ve tried to show the extent of the illusion so that readers can judge how well its name is earned.

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Travelling on, Mum spotted a juvenile echidna at the side of the road and I got a few snaps.

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Our next stop was the Rustic Blue Gallery and Cafe, where we had refreshments and I bought a $600 painting (Southern Swell by Suzanne Trethewey), which will be delivered to my Adelaide home sometime after Easter. I don’t often buy paintings but this one will be a good memento. (No photographs yet.)

We arrived at the Kelly Hill Caves just in time for the final (4:15) tour of the day. Here is a video I compiled from three short clips of the tour.

This day was also well paced in my opinion, and I would recommend it as a model for others: touring the island from Seal Bay to Kelly Hill Caves takes up about one full day. (I would also suggest a contingency plan in case it takes a little longer, given that we only just had time to fit everything in.)

— Day Four —

Sunday was a quiet day spent around Kingscote, visiting local attractions mostly on foot. I don’t have a lot to say about it — Kingscote is more of a place to travel from rather than to — but I did buy a beeswax candle from the Island Beehive.

— Day Five —

We spent most of Monday in Flinders Chase National Park, in the southwest corner of the island. Here are located two extremely popular attractions: Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks. The latter especially is so well-known that it ranks highly in lists of popular tourist destinations across the whole of Australia.

From the visitors’ centre at the park entrance, I bought a couple of shirts (as yet unworn), and a bottle of honey liqueur. (Also, lunch.)

Here are two shots of the Casuarina Islets taken from the walkway down to Admirals Arch. Notice the waves.

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The view from Admirals Arch towards Remarkable Rocks (which can be seen as a bump on the end of the distant headland).

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Admirals Arch itself, photographed from a few different angles.

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A close-up of seals playing at Admirals Arch, followed by the view towards Remarkable Rocks as we get nearer.

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Now for my photographs of Remarkable Rocks. Everyone with a camera loves this place, even if the other tourists get in the way of the picture you’re trying to take.

(Incidentally, there’d been an accident when we arrived — someone had tried to climb one of the rocks and broken their leg — the emergency helicopter arrived as we were leaving.)

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Having spent enough time looking at the prime attractions, we explored a few of the lesser-known walks.

Below are some shots of one of the lakes at Platypus Waterholes, where we didn’t see any platypuses but did see plenty of the bubbles they make from under the water (see the fourth photo). This is the only region in South Australia where platypuses can be found, and they were (re)introduced here for conservation purposes in the first half of the 20th century.

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The Rocky River walk takes you the long way from Platypus Waterholes back to the visitors centre. Ironically there is hardly a rock to be seen along this segment of the river, but we did see a large goanna, which obliged us by walking along the same trail in the same direction so that I could take lots of photographs and a video.

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The final walk for the day — which we barely had time for and my parents didn’t come with me all the way — was the Snake Lagoon walk, which unlike the Rocky River walk, follows a part of the riverbed that is actually rocky. In hindsight I’d recommend going here before the Platypus Waterholes etc, because the Snake Lagoon walk is all about the geography (which is always there to be photographed), whereas the other walks were about chance encounters with wildlife (which are much less reliable). If you don’t have time for everything, then in my opinion it’s better to miss out on something you might not have seen anyway than on something that never moves.

Here are some photographs from the Snake Lagoon walk; you can well imagine how dramatic it would look at a wetter time of year, with lots of small waterfalls. I didn’t go onto the beach itself, knowing that my parents were waiting some distance behind.

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— Day Six —

The previous day we’d booked a morning boat tour with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures, but it was cancelled because of the wind. Disappointing, of course, but the weather can’t be helped.

We’d planned to go home the following morning, but feeling we’d pretty much seen everything we came to see, we brought our return ferry ride forward to this (Tuesday) afternoon. Our excursion for the day, therefore, consisted, in taking the scenic route back to Penneshaw.

Here are some views from Prospect Hill, which was climbed by Matthew Flinders in search of bearings in 1802. It’s a large sandhill near the narrowest point of the island, from which water on both sides is visible (see the third photo). I took some of these photos from the lookout on top of the hill, and others from the way up.

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We also visited nearby Flour Cask Bay, where I took the following pictures.

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Finally, we made our leisurely way back to Penneshaw via minor roads (in order to take in some scenery from the eastern end of the island). At Penneshaw we bought our last meal on the island, and then Mum and I visited Granny Stirling’s Art and Craft while Dad finalised the ferry arrangements. I bought some sample jars of exotic native-fruit jams (which were also available elsewhere on the island, but rarely as well stocked). Then we all took a walk on the beach before boarding the ferry and having a surprise encounter with old friends.

I was seasick on the ferry. Then we arrived on the mainland, and all that remained was the drive home.

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2 Responses to “Kangaroo Island: a photographic report”

  1. www.rusticblue.com.au Says:

    You should be a travel writer and photographer. I really enjoyed your blog. It would be helpful for other visitors and also for locals to remind them what they can do each weekend, rather than stay at home and watch TV.
    Awsome job.
    Cheers Coralie Riedel

  2. Adrian Morgan Says:

    Thanks, and I will be very pleased if someone researching things to see on Kangaroo Island stumbles upon my blog post and finds it useful, just as I found other people’s descriptions useful (like this one) when I was planning our stay.


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