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11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on Kangaroo Island

West Bay, Kangaroo Island
West Bay, Kangaroo Island
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Kangaroo Island ("KI" to the locals) is an eco-tourism treasure and a haven for wildlife. Australia's third largest island (after Tasmania and Melville Island), it lies off the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, about 112 kilometers southwest of Adelaide. Dazzling scenery is one of the prime selling points. Sweeping white-sand beaches lapped by azure seas, steep coastal cliffs, giant wind-sculpted boulders, rolling green hills, caves, sand dunes, and nature reserves provide a striking canvas for photographers.

The island is also home to a wealth of wildlife. National parks and reserves protect more than a third of the island, and close-up critter encounters with animals such as Australian sea lions, koalas, penguins, and the island's namesake marsupials are one of the top attractions.

On land and in the crystal clear seas, you'll find plenty of things to do. Outdoor adventures include guided wildlife safaris, hiking the many walking trails that thread through the wildlife-rich national parks, swimming, fishing, surfing, and sailing. For an adrenaline rush, you can bounce through the bush in an all-terrain vehicle, explore underground cave systems, or surf down towering sand dunes near Vivonne Bay. Kangaroo island is also one of Australia's best areas for temperate-water diving, with plenty of fish-rich walls and wrecks to explore.

1 Flinders Chase National Park

Remarkable Rocks
Remarkable Rocks
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One of the island's most famous attractions, Flinders Chase National Park covers the entire western end of Kangaroo Island. You can explore the park's waterways and forests on the extensive network of hiking trails and boardwalks. Must-see tourist attractions include the Remarkable Rocks, wind-blasted boulders sculpted into bizarre shapes and perched upon a smooth dome of rock. Nearby is the improbable curve of Admirals Arch, the last relic of an ancient cave.

The park is also a prime spot for wildlife encounters. Beneath the arch, at Cape du Couedic, thousands of New Zealand fur seals congregate on the beach, entertaining guests with their antics on land and in the water. Kangaroos and many birds also live within the park's borders.

Campsites can be reserved in the park, and you can also stay in the lighthouse cottages at Cape Borda, on the island's northwestern tip, and Cape du Couedic. If you want a more luxurious base with easy access to all the park's attractions, the eco-chic Southern Ocean Lodge sits between Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Park and is one of the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the world.

Location: 110 kilometers west of Kingscote

2 Seal Bay Conservation Park Tour

Seal Bay Conservation Park Tour
Seal Bay Conservation Park Tour
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Seal Bay Conservation Park is the only place in the world where you can observe a colony of Australian sea lions in their natural habitat. A 900-meter boardwalk skirts the beach, with viewing platforms and interpretative signs along the way, so you can learn all about these creatures and watch them surf the waves and sprawl on the sand during a self-guided tour. Guided tours are also available, and the twilight beach tours offered during South Australian daylight savings months are particularly popular with wildlife photographers.

While you're here, stop by the environmentally friendly Seal Bay visitor center for more information on sea lions and their marine habitat. A short drive from Seal Bay, Bales Beach is a prime picnic spot, with shelters, gas barbecues, and a pretty stretch of beach.

Address: Seal Bay Road

3 Vivonne Bay

Vivonne Bay
Vivonne Bay
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Frequently gracing the list of Australia's top beaches, Vivionne Bay is a pristine slice of coast on the island's southern coast. This long stretch of sugary white sand and clear azure water is a beautiful spot for a picnic on sunny days, and surfing is a popular activity here when conditions are favorable. Sunbathing and fishing off the jetty are other popular things to do, however swimming is not recommended as the undertow can be strong and the water is chilly, even in summer. The island's north coast beaches such as Emu Bay and Stokes Bay are safer for swimming. If you're looking for adventure, nearby you can zoom down the dunes of Little Sahara on quad bikes, sleds, and sandboards.

4 Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park

Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park Shou-Hui Wang / photo modified
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Cuddling koalas and hand-feeding kangaroos and wallabies are favorite activities at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. More than 150 species of native Australian wildlife live here, including wombats, quolls, birds, penguins, echidnas, snakes, lizards, and crocodiles. This is a great way to observe wildlife up close and even interact with some of the animals and feed them. Koala cuddles are available for an extra fee.

Address: 4068 Playford Highway, Seddon

5 Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Kangaroo at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Kangaroo at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
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The 5,000-acre Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, between Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Park, is the best place on Kangaroo Island to see koalas in the wild. Daytime tours (self-guided and guided) on the Koala Walk also give you the chance to see kangaroos; echidnas; possums; goannas; and birds such as crimson-breasted rosellas, honeyeaters, and black cockatoos. Guided tours are also offered during the evening, and you can stay overnight in one of the six self-contained beach cabins. This wildlife-rich sanctuary connects to the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, with access on foot to the Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park.

Address: 7797 South Coast Road, Karatta

6 Raptor Domain

Barn owl
Barn owl NH53 / photo modified
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Not surprisingly, raptors are the main attraction at this popular conservation park, which rescues injured birds of prey as well as snakes and lizards. Unlike a zoo where animals are typically displayed, the park presents the animals to visitors through fun and informative presentations, such as the Venom Pit, with venomous snakes and spiders, and Fang-Tastic, an entertaining reptile show. One of the favorite attractions here is the In-Flight show, where you can learn about birds of prey such as owls and the mighty wedge-tailed eagle, watch them fly, and even interact with them after the show.

Address: LOT 51 Seal Bay Rd, Seal Bay

7 Kelly Hill Conservation Park: Cave Tour

Kelly Hill Conservation Park: Cave Tour
Kelly Hill Conservation Park: Cave Tour Allison Cornford / photo modified
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Kelly Hill Conservation Park, in the southwest of the island, is known for its beautiful limestone cave system. Stalactites, stalagmites, and stunning crystallized columns adorn the caves, and guided tours share fascinating information about how they are formed. Thrill seekers can don a headlamp and helmet and clamber through the underground maze of caverns on an Adventure Caving Tour. Above ground, the walking trails are a good option for claustrophobics. From here, you can hike all the way to Hanson Bay, with its woodlands, freshwater lagoons, seascapes, and popular wildlife sanctuary.

Location: 90 kilometers southwest of Kingscote

8 Kingscote

Kingscote
Kingscote Dean Wiles / photo modified
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The capital, commercial center, and principal port of Kangaroo Island, Kingscote presides over a peaceful harbor dotted with boats on the island's northeast coast. Kingscote is also where European settlers established their first base at historic Reeve's Point. Restaurants, cafés, galleries, and shops line the streets, and the jetty is a popular fishing spot. The honey, lavender, and dairy farms in the surrounding district also welcome visitors. In particular, Clifford's Honey Farm and Emu Bay Lavender Farm are favorites.

9 American River

American River
American River hellomatt / photo modified
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The fishing village and holiday resort of American River lies near the isthmus leading to the Dudley Peninsula. It takes its name from the American seamen who built a boat here in 1803 to 1804. Perched on a bush-cloaked hillside, the village overlooks Eastern Cove, an outer bay where locals and visitors love to fish and sail. The inner bay of Pelican Lagoon is a great spot for birders, with black swans, pelicans, and important breeding habitats on the islands in the lagoon. American River is also home to the island's oyster industry, and you can purchase some of these delicacies while you're here.

10 Penneshaw

Little penguin
Little penguin hellomatt / photo modified
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Penneshaw, on the island's northeast coast, welcomes visitors arriving by ferry from Cape Jervis. For an overview of the island's top attractions as well as maps and plenty of useful insider tips, it's a good idea to stop by the Kangaroo Island Gateway Visitor Information Centre, and the small but informative Maritime and Folk Museum features interesting historical displays. Other highlights are the beach at Hog Bay, a favorite spot for family picnics, and if you're an angler, Hog Bay Jetty is a popular spot to cast a line. Animal lovers enjoy visiting the nearby colony of little penguins on nightly tours from the Penguin Interpretive Centre. While you're in the area, clamber up Cape Willoughby Lighthouse for beautiful views across to the mainland.

11 Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park

Murray Lagoon
Murray Lagoon Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble / photo modified
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Cape Gantheaume, on the southeast coast, is a haven for naturalists and birders. The largest freshwater lake on the island lies here, as well as the Murray Lagoon wetland habitat with an impressive number of birds, including swans, ducks, and wading birds. Experienced hikers can tackle the Cape Gantheaume Coastal Trek or take one of the shorter marked trails around the lagoon. Once a whaling spot, D'Estrees Bay is great for fishing and camping. You can learn about the bay's history on an eight-kilometer self-drive tour. Access to Southern Kangaroo Island Marine Park, with its sea lion colony, is also possible from the park.

Location: 40 kilometers southwest of Kingscote

Tips and Tactics

  • A variety of tours are available. One of the best ways to see the sights is on a Best of Kangaroo Island 4WD Full-Day Tour.
  • Regional Express (REX) operates direct 30-minute flights from Adelaide to Kingscote Airport, which lies 14 kilometers from the town center.
  • Kangaroo Island SeaLink runs two vehicle and passenger ferries between Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula (about a two-hour drive from Adelaide) and Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. The ride takes roughly 45 minutes, and advance bookings are essential. Ferries depart at least four times daily.

Where to Stay in Kangaroo Island for Sightseeing

  • Luxury Hotels: You don't need to leave the hotel to see the sights at Southern Ocean Lodge. This light and airy all-inclusive escape sits on the lip of a sea cliff with spectacular views of the thrashing surf through wall-to-wall windows.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: A ten-minute walk from Kingscote, Kangaroo Island Seaside Inn is a family-run property across the road from the beach. All the rooms have ocean views. Right next to Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat sits in a lovely bushland setting. Animal lovers can commune with kangaroos, wallabies, and possums on the grounds each evening.
  • Budget Hotels: Across from the waterfront in Kingscote Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel is a little dated, but offers clean, comfortable rooms in a guesthouse, motel, and holiday house.

Other Must-See Destinations in South Australia & Beyond

Besides Kangaroo Island, South Australia is famous for its vast wilderness areas and vibrant capital, Adelaide. It's also home to the beautiful the Barossa Valley, as well as some of the country's best beaches.

If you need help planning your trip to Australia, see our article on the top Aussie itineraries, and for inspiration on what to see and do while you're here, check out our pages on the top outdoor adventures, the best fishing destinations, and the best hikes in Australia.

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