Escape the busy crowds of the city and escape to land full of native animals, incredible rock formations and breathtaking beaches. Kangaroo Island lies 13km off the coast of South Australia and only a 30-minute plane trip from Adelaide and is a must-visit on your next trip to South Australia.
We fell in love with this untouched island and want to share our favourite top tips for visiting Kangaroo Island with you to make the most of your time there.
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Tips for Visiting Kangaroo Island
Cost of Kangaroo Island
Did you know the cost of the Sealink ferry to Kangaroo island is the most expensive ferry in the world per kilometer. The ferry cost for one adult is $98 return. With that being said, this is one of the most incredible places we have ever visited and we would say it is well worth the money to make the trip.
The Roads on Kangaroo Island
One of the best ways to get around Kangaroo Island is to self drive. That way you can stick to your own time and schedule. Follow the roads less travelled to reach some of the most stunning destinations you will have ever come across.
However, we would strongly advise that if you can, you do this in a 4 wheel drive. The majority of the roads in Kangaroo Island are made of an ironstone gravel that resembles marbles and can make the surface slippery. Unsealed roads are often corrugated and bumpy so make sure you allow for extra travel time.
The Size of Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is one of the largest Islands in Australia, after Tasmania and Melville Island, and is 155km long by 55km wide. If you were to drive a loop of the island it would take you around 3-4 hours and to drive east to west takes 2 hours.
With this being said, it is easy to underestimate travel time on the island. Although it is small, it does still take time to get to places due to gravel roads or driving slowly whilst looking out for wild animals. So make sure you plan your timing with a little bit to spare.
Camping in Kangaroo Island
If you enjoy wild and free camping (as we do), I am afraid you will be slightly disappointed on Kangaroo Island. Due to the huge number of conservation parks, as well as local bylaws and other protected areas, it is very difficult to find anywhere to camp for free.
Everywhere we found suitable for camping is either on a community campsite or in a national park, both of which require small fees to camp on them.
If you are visiting off-season you may get away with not paying for a permit, however, is it worth the fines if you get caught? The best option is to plan ahead for the areas you wish to visit, book a camping permit and a day pass for the national parks that require one and enjoy your trip without the worry of any unexpected fines.
Kangaroo Island offers camping on several different sites, the main difference between them being the number of amenities you are going to find on the ground. These range from fully kitted sites, with toilets, showers, electricity, a cafe/shop, and even a kitchen, to literally nothing but a bush for a neighbour and a drop-dead view. You can expect to pay to camp without any facilities on Kangaroo Island.
On Kangaroo Island you can camp on three different sites: caravan parks, council campgrounds, and basic campgrounds.
In our opinion, camping is the best option, especially if you are visiting the island for a short time. This will save you a lot of time and money on petrol due to how wide spread places of interest are on the island. There are also minimal places to eat and drink so by camping you can cook on the go.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Disappointment
Once you leave the main hubs of Kingscote and Penneshaw, food shops are pretty much non-existent. There is a small general store at Vivonne Bay and another in the centre of the island. You may also be able to buy some groceries in the small campsite shops if you choose to camp.
When we went to Kangaroo Island we stocked up on plenty of food to last us the majority of our trip. Doing this will also save you money as it is more expensive to purchase food on the island.
Eating out is also very limited on the island, you will be most likely to find somewhere in Kingscote.
The tap water in Kangaroo Island is safe to drink, however it is limited as they rely on rainwater. Therefore if you are camping and looking for drinking water, shower water and dish washing water, you will need to purchase bottled water from the shop before coming over.
It is important to make sure you top up your fuel at the last fuel stop on the mainland as fuel on Kangaroo Island is extremely expensive and hard to come by. We would recommend bringing an extra fuel tank to ensure you don’t run out.
Wildlife is Everywhere – So Be Careful!
If you want to see some native Australian wildlife then Kangaroo Island is the place to go. When driving around the island, keep alert to the animals who may cross the road with no warning. It can be common to see roadkill on the road so please be careful.
Kangaroo Island gets its name from the 60,000 resident kangaroos that call it home. It is unlikely a day will pass on your trip that you won’t see kangaroos bouncing around at the side of the road.
Koalas are always a bit harder to spot as let’s be honest, your neck would get a bit sore staring up at every tree all day long. When you do spot them though, make sure you have your camera ready. It’s a photo you don’t want to miss. Places where we spotted koalas were Western KI campsite and Flinders Chase Visitors Centre.
Seal Bay is one of the most popular attractions on Kangaroo Island. The bay is home to over 800 Australian sea lions, which use seal Bay as a resting point after they have been fishing out at sea.
There are two different tours to choose from when you arrive at Seal Bay, the guided tour or the self-guided tour. We can recommend the guided tour as it allows you access to walk on the beach and also allows you to do the self guided tour at your own pace after.
Kangaroo Island has an abundance of wildlife and it is important to be extra cautious on the roads. Drive slow and avoid driving in the early morning, late afternoon and at night to avoid a collision with wildlife.
Prepare to Remove Yourself from the World
The mobile phone signal on Kangaroo Island is very sparse and most areas on the island wont have signal. The network you are most likely to have a signal with is Telstra. If you are staying in accommodation, these should have wifi as well as some of the cafes or restaurants on the island.
You can also take this as a time to switch off from the world and embrace the true beauty that surrounds you.
Book Ahead to Ensure Availability
Peak season on Kangaroo Island is very busy so it’s important to plan your trip early to avoid disappointment. You will also need to pay for tickets to enter the parks and attractions, it is also worth planning this in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on them.
Be Aware of Bushfire Threats
Kangaroo Island was devastated with bush fires in 2020 and work is being done to restore the island. Check where you are wanting to visit is open before you travel and ensure you follow the guidelines to preserve the land and wildlife.
It is also important to check the fire danger ratings everyday whilst travelling on the island and always be prepared in the event of a bushfire. Be aware of Total fire ban days.
Before You Leave for Kangaroo Island
Before you set off on your adventure of a lifetime to Kangaroo Island, there are several things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. These include sorting out travel insurance, transport to and around the island, packing for your trip and finding the best place to stay. All of these will be discussed below in more detail.
Applying for an Australian Visa
If you have yet to leave for Australia then this is a section of interest for you. There are a LOT of different visa options for people arriving into Australia, from tourist visas to permanent residence visas. The most common visas, however, are the 3-month tourist visa and the Working Holiday Visa.
If you are only visiting Australia for a short period of time then a tourist visa is your best option. These are easily obtained and relatively cheap, costing roughly $140AUD, and allow you to stay in the country for up to 12months. These can be applied for on the government website here.
If you wish to work and travel in Australia, a working holiday visa is your best option. These cost around $480AUD and allow you to stay in Australia for up to 12months, whilst working and earning money to travel. This visa also gives you the opportunity to extend your stay in Australia by up to 24months by working in certain job sectors.
What to Pack for Kangaroo Island
Being an island, Kangaroo Island will be at risk of experiencing some mixed weather. Depending on the season your visiting will depend on what you pack. At the least, we would always recommend a warm layer, a waterproof and, of course, suncream!
During the summer months, Kangaroo Island can reach temperatures in the 30’s, meaning it should be warm enough to get in the water for a swim. This also means that you will need plenty of lightweight clothing for getting around and exploring in the heat of the midday sun.
In the winter months, you would need to be very brave to get in the water as the temperatures average at half that of summer, peaking at around 14 degrees Celcius. Warm layers and a waterproof is a must for these months!
If you need more inspiration on what to pack for your trip, check out our full packing guides for all-weather conditions over here.
When it comes to toiletries, we recommend that you pack as much sunscreen as you can. The sun in Australia is strong, and even the darkest skin tones can get easily burnt. No matter what the season is or how warm you may feel, you should always wear sunscreen in Australia.
Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Kangaroo Island, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.
What is the Best Travel Insurance for Kangaroo Island
Regardless of what type of trip you are heading on, one thing that is essential for everybody is good travel insurance. Accidents can happen anywhere and at anytime and unexpected hospital bills will ruin a holiday. Remove the stress from your next adventure and get covered for the worst.
World Nomads Travel Insurance provides budget reliable travel insurance that will keep you covered for any level of adventure.
How to get to Kangaroo Island
Unfortunately, getting to Kangaroo Island is the reason that it is not as popular as many other areas in Australia. There are only two options for getting to the island (and only one if you wish to bring your own vehicle).
With a larger vehicle and passenger ferry and a smaller passenger-only ferry operating to the island, the prices of transport are very monopolised, resulting in the most expensive ferry (per metre of travel) in the world.
Sea Link offers passenger and vehicle crossings from the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula on mainland Australia to Penneshaw on the island. This is an expensive option, however, by bringing your own vehicle it means when you arrive onto the island you can get straight into exploring.
This ferry leaves 5 times a day and takes 45 minutes to get across.
Did you know – The Kangaroo Island ferry is the most expensive ferry in the world per distance!
Kangaroo Island Direct Ferry
This ferry leaves for KI 4 times a week, so it is much less regular than the SeaLink option. It is also only a passenger ferry, meaning you will not be able to bring your own transport with you. This ferry is a much cheaper option if you are wanting to go across as a passenger only, however, once you are on the island you will need to pay a lot more money for transport.
Flying to Kangaroo Island is another option, however, this can be an expensive option and you would be restricted on your luggage. Flights from Adelaide tend to go for roughly $150 each way. You will also need to organise a method of transport for getting around the island when you arrive.
How to Get Around Kangaroo Island
When it comes to getting around the island you have a few different options available. If you did not bring your own transport, you can rent a car or campervan and travel the island yourself at your own pace. This is the best option if you are not short on time, as it means you can dictate the pace of your adventure.
As for getting around the island, a 4wd is advisable, however not necessary. Many of the beautiful beaches are off the beaten track and can be up to 20km of gravel roads. The same goes for a lot of campsites in the more isolated areas, so beware if you are using a hired campervan or bringing your own.
There are car hire services available when you arrive at Penneshaw or you can book this as a package with your ferry. We would recommend hiring a campervan during your trip on Kangaroo Island due to the flexibility it gives you. You can park up wherever you are and cook your next meal, not wasting any time travelling back and forward.
The last option for getting around Kangaroo Island is to book yourself onto a Kangaroo Island tour and enjoy a more relaxed and controlled adventure around the island. This can either be with a private car driver or an organised group tour.
The organised group tours will take you to the most popular sights on the island and will show you all of the best things you can see in a short period of time. The advantage of these kinds of tours is the efficiency of getting around and the information provided about the island. Your tour guide will be able to tell you a lot of interesting things about the sights that you are visiting that you would not learn on your own.
The downside of tours is the lack of flexibility in your schedule. You will be herded from one location to the next, on as quick a schedule as possible to ensure that you see the maximum number of sights as quickly as you can.
Private tours are available for booking online or in visitor centres around the island. These tours will give you the same benefits as a group tour with less of the stringent timeline as if you want to spend more time somewhere you have that option. There are lots of different tours available, however, we have listed a few below.
Where to stay on Kangaroo Island
If camping is not your thing, there are many other accommodation options on the island as discussed below.
Luxury – Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat lies right on the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park. This environmentally friendly accommodation offers free wifi in an area that has limited mobile service in a beautiful natural setting.
Mid-Range – Mercure Kangaroo Island is situated in the American River region on the island and offers free wifi, a pool and some amazing views over the calm sea.
Budget – Flinders Chase Farm is located at the west end of the island and offers great accommodation nearby to the island’s most popular attractions.
Check out our guide to Kangaroo Island Camping for available campgrounds and caravan parks.
So there you have it, the must know tips for visiting Kangaroo Island. If you are visiting this breathtaking island and have any other questions on what to expect, leave us a comment down below. We love to chat about this stuff! If you have already been, let us know how it was! What wildlife did you see on your trip? What was your favourite thing about Kangaroo Island? Let us know in the comments below!
Also, remember to share this with your friends and family that you are going to tour with. Sharing is caring and we want to inspire as many people as we can to visit this unbelievable part of the world.
If you are planning an Australia trip soon then check out our other Australia content right here. Come and find us on social media to see where we are currently exploring. Tag us in your photos from Kangaroo Island and we will share them with the rest of our community of explorers and backpackers.
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