Visiting Kangaroo Island

Trip Start Jan 31, 2012
Trip End Jul 29, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Friday, February 10, 2012

I took another early flight from Cairns, down south to Adelaide. I was just staying there in a hostel for the night, and leaving for Kangaroo Island on a tour the morning after. This hostel was interesting, because it was situated over a bar which contained mainly slot machines. So the front desk was the bar, which worked out better then I expected. The staff were very nice, and there was always someone available, even when I checked out at 6:30 am.

For lunch, one of the bartenders told me to go to the central market. As the name hints, it’s this large market in the center of the city. It had many stores, a market for buying all sorts of local food, and a food court. The market appeared to be next to Chinatown, so the food court was filled with Asian cuisine. It was overwhelming, all the places looked very good and authentic. I ended up settling on a Thai counter, which did not disappoint.   I also enjoyed looking around the market and watching all the hubbub going on around me.

The next morning I was picked up from my hostel in another large van, already the other 11 fellow tourers, and met my very friendly guide, Tony. He drove us an hour and a half out of Adelaide and down through some beautiful scenery to Cape Jervis, the closest point to Kangaroo Island. There we boarded the most expensive ferry (price per mile) in the world, to take the short 40 minute ride over to the island. Once there we hopped back in the van and first went to Prospect Hill, the highest point on the island. There we were able to see most of the island laid out around us, and Tony told us some interesting history on the area. After we went to Vivonne Bay where there was a beach on the ocean, and a river. While Tony grilled us up some hamburgers and hotdogs, we used kayaks to explore some of the river.

With stuffed stomachs, we headed off to the far side of the island, to Hanson Bay Sanctuary. This is a sanctuary specifically for koala bears, but had all sorts of Australian wildlife in it. Koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves, so the sanctuary has giant groves of eucalyptus trees. Our group spent much time walking among the trees trying to pick out the gray koalas from the gray trunks of the trees.  We were able to find a good number, but was trickier finding ones that were easy to completely see. We also saw a large number of wallabies, which seemed like crosses between rabbits and kangaroos. There were so many of them, that by our second day on the island we weren’t even interested when we’d cross paths with another one. There were also a few different kinds of birds around the reserve. Finally, we got to see some kangaroos! We watched a family of three, wake up and slowly move under a tree before laying back down for a while. Both the kangaroos and the wallabies would let us get very close if we moved slowly and quietly, which was very cool. 

Once we’d had our fill of kangaroos, wallabies and koala bears we left for the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. The Remarkable Rocks were exactly what they sound like. They were once magma, thats been cooled to granite, and worn away by the harsh weather of wind and rain. This has led to some very cool looking rock formations, that was quite impressive. Admirals Arch was a little north up the coast, and was a giant arch, that had also been formed by the wind and rain along with help from the ocean. Not only was this arch very impressive, this is also where the New Zealand Fur Seals hang out when they aren’t out at sea. There were loads of them laid out on the rocks around the arch. These seals were very cool to see, and a lot of fun to watch, especially the seal pups running around and playing together. As well it was fun to watch the seals try to walk along the uneven rocks with their flippers. It was getting late by this point, so we headed back to the Hanson Bay Sanctuary, where there was a house inside the sanctuary that the tour company owned. There we helped Tony make dinner (it’s weird being in a kitchen and watching a kangaroo jump by), and start a bonfire out in the front yard. Then there was the option for a night walk, which I took. It was with a tour guide from the sanctuary. Many of the Australian animals sleep during the day, and become much more active at sunset and sunrise. We were able to see many of the koalas were awake or eating, and we even saw one stretching. We were also able to see a few Australian possums running along the trees. We saw even more wallabies then we had during the day, they were everywhere. Our guide then took us into a fenced off area, where we met two human raised kangaroos, who were very friendly and we were allowed to pet. After showing us some other interesting features of the area, including carnivorous ants, grass trees, and a bird that goes statue still when you look at it (it’s convinced as long as it doesn’t move you can’t see it) we went back to our house to roast some marshmallows and head off to bed.

The next morning, Tony had a heaping pile of thick plate sized pancakes waiting for us as we got up. Once we were all full to bursting and packed up, we went to a large dune called Little Sahara. Here we were introduced to sand boarding. It’s extremely similar to sledding or boarding in snow, except it’s hot outside, and you have to make sure the bottom of your board is waxed if you want to go fast. This was a lot of fun, since I’ve never enjoyed sledding much because I get too cold too fast. It was tricky sometimes, because you had to make sure you had a large amount of momentum going when you started down the hill if you didn’t want to get stuck at an awkward angle. It’s also quite a bit of work to climb a large sand dune multiple times.

Once we’d had our fill of excitement we were off to Seal Bay, the only place that the Australian Sea Lions can be found on land. With a tour guide, we were able to go right out onto the beach where the sea lions were sleeping. The sea lions who were awake, were either the pups running around, or males chasing each other around for which females they would get to mate with soon. It was very fun to watch these large animals move around and interact, while being so close. It was also very amusing how they would labor around on their fins (more awkwardly than the seals) and then seem to grow tired of trying and just plop down on their stomachs mid-stride.

 After this we slowly made our way back along the island while making stops along the way to see a few different beaches and a watering hole. Finally, we were back to the ferry, made the 40 minute crossing and then took the hour and a half drive back to Adelaide.

This tour has been the most enjoyable for me so far on this trip, because of the other people on the tour. We had a very diverse group, but everyone got along very well together, and we had many interesting and amusing discussions. Tony, our tour guide was great. He was very loud, happy classic Aussie, who had a very interesting back story. He used to play Australian Rules, which as far as I can gather is kind of like rugby (although Tony assured me that they’re nothing alike) professionally for a few years before he became too injured to continue.  After countless surgeries, he’s a surfing instructor and tour guide. I also finally met a fellow American after a week and a half of traveling Australia, which has seemed very strange to me. His name was Cameron, and he’d traveled much of the world, and I really enjoyed discussing a wide range of topics with him, from different countries, to politics, to football.

I’m back off to Sydney tomorrow, for my last three days in Australia (already!?!), before I move on to New Zealand! The 100+ pictures from Kangaroo Island might take awhile to get posted to Flickr due to my limited access to the internet, but they’ll be up there in the next few days.

J Smith
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Andy Arenson on

This is all so very cool. I've never been anywhere near this area and had never heard of any of these things. OK, I've seen koalas and the occasional lumbering land seal, but most of this is brand new to me. Your descriptions are really impressive. Thanks.

Miriam (Mom's Friend) on

Hey Andy - Your blog is fun and interesting to read. It sounds like you are having an amazing trip. I am wishing for sunny weather in Sydney upon your return. My own experience there is that it was completely sun-kissed and one of the most beautiful cities I had ever seen. We rode the ferries all over to explore neighborhoods and saw sparkling water and sun everywhere. Can't wait to learn more about your travels and your life in New Zealand. Enjoy!

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