From Melbourne, we flew to Adelaide, picked up our 4WD rental car, and drove to the ferry to Kangaroo Island. The ferry to Kangaroo Island (the only way to get there other than by private boat or plane) takes about 45 minutes and costs AU$47 (online) in each direction. If the water is calm (a rather rare event), the trip is quite enjoyable, but when the sea is rough, the boat bounces all over the place, on all three axes. During our return trip, even Andrew wasn’t feeling well.
But Kangaroo Island is worth the discomfort, bad as it can sometimes be. The place is wonderful. There are animals that live there and nowhere else outside of zoos, and the people are interesting and friendly. We saw kangaroos and wallabies, an echidna (a rare sighting indeed), an emu, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, and birds of all kinds. Fascinating place.
We caught the last ferry of the day and arrived at the home of our couch surfer hosts around 9:00 pm. Driving after dark or even around dawn and dusk can be dangerous, but we were in a long line of cars and traveled very fast. We figured that if there were animals in the road, the front car would scare them away. We had no problems driving anytime on Kangaroo Island, other than nearly running out of petrol (our fault for not watching the gauge more closely). When it was near dark, we drove very slowly, much slower than the common 100 or 110 kph speed limits.
Our hosts are very nice people. Besides opening their hearts and home to us, they shared their meals with us and told us all the best places to see interesting things. Andrew already knew about almost all of the spots, since he performs such detailed research before we visit any place. But they reinforced our resolve to see certain spots. And in our two full days there (arriving after dark one day and departing early morning three days later), we saw just about everything we wanted to see but the farthest, most western lighthouse. (We still saw the other three.)
Our first stop our first morning was Prospect Hill. This is the spot from which Matthew Finderslooked out over the island in 1802 and named this hill. (Finders is also the person who gave this island its name.) The 360° views from the top are amazing and well worth the 510 (some say 512) stairs (in each direction) it takes to climb the hill. It was on our descent that Andrew spotted an echidna, a very shy creature. I sat with my camera focused on him for several minutes before he began to uncurl and sniff to see if I was gone.
- Echidnas look rather like a combination of mole and porcupine, and they are one of only a few mammals that lay eggs rather than giving live birth. They are said to be the oldest surviving group of mammals in the world.
Our next stop was the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in South Australia (built in 1852), at the east end of the island. The guided tour is fascinating and guide knowlegeable and thorough, showing previous parts of the lighthouse, historic photos, the weather station, and more. And of course, you get to climb the 110 steps to the top of the lighthouse (well, the top below the actual light) and walk outside on the balcony, with great views in all directions. There is a AU$14.50 admission fee, but we purchased the Kangaroo Island Tour Passfor AU$68 each, which allows entry into all the parks on the island, worthwhile if you’re going to multiple spots (one of which, the Seal Bay guided tour, costs AU$32 to enter).
We ate lunch at the foot of the lighthouse, overlooking a cliff from which the stone for the lighthouse was quarried. The lighthouse guide warned us to watch out for tiger snakes, a very poisonous snake, saying he’d seen one in the area a few days earlier. We saw none while eating, but during our return drive from Cape Willoughby, we spotted some kangaroos and then a tiger snake in the road. We stayed in the car and took photos from a safe distance.
Our next stop was Dudley Winery, which is says it is “Kangaroo Island’s Pioneer Winery,” established in 1997 (yes, 1997, not 1897). After enjoying the views of the Backstairs Passage (the sea between Kangaroo Island and Australia), Andrew sampled some of their many wines. Some are quite good, while others are not unusual.
After a brief visit to Pennington Bay, and then on to Clifford’s Honey Farm to see a glass-enclosed live bee hive. They have an entire room telling the history and procedures of the honey business on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is the only place in the world that still has Ligurian Bees, since it is isolated enough to have prevented crossbreeding of bees.
“(Kangaroo) island has 4,000 human inhabitants, 400,000 sheep, approximately 4 million wallabies and a huge number of Ligurian bees who have found an ideal working place. The climate is similar to their ancestral home in northern Italy, the flora is plentiful and they are totally isolated and thus have remained genetically pure.” — Native Food & Wine
It was fun tasting (free) their different flavours of honey, and we ended up buying 500 grams (about half a pound) of sugar gum honey for AU$5.80, including a cute honey-shaped dispenser. Andrew was sure we’d not finish it before our return home to New Zealand, but we did. It was yummy on many sandwiches and morning toast during the next two weeks. Andrew also tasted Clifford’s mead.
Our last stop for this, our first day on Kangaroo Island, was at the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Farm, where we bought a hat pin for my collection and a bottle of eucalyptus oil. I enjoy the oil every couple of weeks or so, 1 ml in a hot bath soak. Andrew doesn’t like the smell, but he admits that it does open the sinuses very well.
Back at our couch surfing hosts’ home, we shared in their dinner and then took a photo. Or tried to. Nigel’s camera kept taking repeated photos, evidently on some sort of repeat setting. So, I gave him my camera to set up for the shot, and it took a very nice picture of everyone. And then another, and another, and another. I always keep my camera on repeat shots, meaning that it will take one shot after another as long as I hold down the shutter button, but I had no idea it would continue taking photos when set on timer.
I’ll share about our day two on Kangaroo Island in my next blog…