Travelling with children or young adults can add an exciting element to a vacation or holiday. Without plenty of activities it can be challenging – does “I’m bored” or “Are we there yet?” sound familiar. We have pulled together some of the must-do activities to help you plan your visit to Kangaroo Island – the Top 4!
- Wildlife Safari
- Cape du Couedic – Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch, and the lighthouse precinct
- Little Sahara
- Wild dolphin swim
1. Wildlife Safari
With a name like Kangaroo Island this place sets great expectations for wildlife encounters and it does not disappoint. There is a wide range of species you are able to see, often at close range, in their natural habitat. The list includes: kangaroos (obviously!); wallabies; possums; sea-lions; echidnas; dolphins; little penguins; pelicans; eagles; cockatoos (in fact the total bird list exceeds 260 species); fur-seals; goannas; koalas; and if you are really lucky some harder to see animals like platypus; bandicoots; and whales are possible from May through November.
If you plan to self-drive make sure you ask for lots of tips on good locations from the locals – and remember in the warmer days (November through April) many of the animals are sheltering from the sun during the day. At dawn, dusk and after dark there is a real risk of collisions with animals on the road so please drive carefully. If you have limited time the services of a professional guide will get you quickly to the best spots. Experienced guides will be able to take you right into the habitat of many species and visitors often liken the experience being on the set of “Discovery Channel”. The ultimate experience is to spend some time with experts – Exceptional Kangaroo Island regularly organise “A day in the life of a wildlife researcher” with Dr Peggy Rismiller who is recognised as the world expert on echidnas. A video introduction to Peggy can be found here.
There are a couple of places (Raptor Domain and Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park) where there are captive animal encounters for really up-close experiences with hand-reared and rescued animals but make sure you get the “in the wild” encounters Kangaroo Island is so well known for.
2. Cape du Couedic, Flinders Chase National Park
The south west corner of the island is rugged and remote and incorporates some of the most spectacular and iconic coastal landscape and it really deserves a visit – you need to allow a minimum of half a day or longer if you want to explore some of it by foot. Included in this rugged peninsula are the Remarkable Rocks, Weirs Cove – part of the Cape du Couedic lighthouse precinct; and Admirals Arch and the long-nosed fur-seal colony.
Remarkable Rocks – the name is apt as they are both remarkable and rocks – granite to be precise. The huge tors, originally cubic in shape, are now highly sculpted and sit atop a massive granite dome which plunges into the ocean. Those with an artistic bent could imagine Henry Moore and Salvador Dali having had some input but the artist was none other than the combination of powerful natural forces and the passage of literally millions of years. For families travelling the site can be a little nerve-wracking – you need to keep a close eye on kids as they find the attraction of this huge natural adventure park pulls them in all directions. The large boulders to the west – on your right as you walk up – provide a range of places to explore and the large cave on the eastern side with the scalloped ceiling is worth checking out.
Admirals Arch – this is the focal point of an exposed promontory which offers much for families to see and experience. The Arch itself is a curved limestone structure remaining after the back wall of a westwards facing sea cave was unmined by the ocean and collapsed. The roof is decorated by a mix of calcified tree roots and still-active stalactites and provides a natural frame to the seascape to the Great Australian Bight to the west. The cave has formed at the junction of relatively young limestone and 500 million year old meta-sandstone which conveniently slopes down to the ocean to give an access ramp to to a large colony of Long-nosed fur-seals. Careful observers may also see Australian fur-seals and even a few Australian sea-lions amongst them. The fur-seals are there year-round and females have their pups in the southern summer (December through February) and can often be seen very close to the excellent boardwalks which provide access.
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse – since 1909 the tall limestone tower has been standing tall on the headland and sending out a nightly warning to ships plying the waters around Kangaroo Island. Almost 100 fishing boats and larger freighters have come to grief in the surrounding waters and there is plenty to explore in and around the lighthouse precinct. The three cottages were inhabited continuously until 1958 when the lightstation was automated. Three families lived here in incredible isolation – no Facebook or Snapchat (gasp!) – and for mum – no supermarket, no refrigerator and few neighbours. Everything came in by sea with a very welcome ship calling once every three months. It is worth spending some time walking around the precinct – the lighthouse, keepers cottages, old stable and especially the supply point at nearby Weirs Cove.
3. Little Sahara Dunefields
Just off the South Coast Road to the west of Seal Bay is Little Sahara – one of three mobile dune fields on the Island. Geologically these areas formed during periods of glaciation (commonly known as “ice ages”) when low sea level exposed the sea floor and prevailing winds blew billions of small fragments of shells onto what is now Kangaroo Island. Recreationally this place is awesome – particularly when the kids need to burn off some energy. You are able to walk or run through the dunes, check out the animal tracks, or even go sand boarding. There are rental sand boards and toboggans available from the crew at Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action who also offer fat tyre bike tours of the area and quad biking down at Vivonne Bay. At the time of writing this there is no admission to Little Sahara – just an equipment rental fee however all visitors are required to sign an insurance waiver to access the dunes.
4. Wild dolphin encounter
It is a real privilege to experience “shared space” with wild animals – and to do so in the open ocean with wild dolphins is inspiring. The team at Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures offer a chance to explore Kangaroo Island from the sea on board a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. Along the way there is a commentary of whatever is encountered – fish, sea-lions, lobster pots, sea-eagles and the ever-changing coastal geology. There are two pods of dolphins regularly encountered and the make-up of the pods is monitored photographically by Dolphin Watch which is supported by Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures.
There are strict guidelines for marine mammal viewing and care is taken to ensure the activity is done so that the dolphins choose if and when they want to interact. If conditions are right swims are undertaken (with masks and snorkels provided) in the open ocean – and whilst there are no guarantees with wild animals they enjoy a very high success rate for encounters. The dolphins do not always want to engage as they have other things to do – like fishing for example, but the chance to see these beautiful creatures in the wild is a must.