Australia’s third largest island is a haven for native animals (including – you guessed it – kangaroos), and is ringed by wild coastline, largely free from development. It’s also choc-full of locals making the most of a bounty of fresh produce.
Since being devastated by last summer’s bushfires, Kangaroo Island is now welcoming visitors back to breathe the Southern Ocean air and load up on unique goodies to take back home.
Millie Mae’s Pantry is five minutes’ walk from the jetty at Penneshaw and will quickly get you oriented with all things KI (as the locals call it). This rustic and casual cafe is a local-produce love-in, with goods from Emu Bay Lavender Farm, The Figgery, Rancho Relaxo and many more. It’s a half-hour drive to American River and The Oyster Farm Shop. Don’t be put off by the no-frills decor at this seafood farmgate – it’s all about the aquatic produce. Pacific oysters come fresh off the boat, are shucked, then served straight onto your plate. There’s also fresh whiting, calamari, marron and abalone. Pick up a bottle of homemade Kilpatrick sauce, to recreate the authentic oyster experience back home.
Shane Leahy, owner of Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic, lost his home in the bushfires and nearly lost his business too. His set-up is part of the Empty Eskies directory, an initiative that highlights bushfire-affected businesses by promoting regional tourism and a buy-local philosophy.
A Bushfire Bundle gets you three jars of garlic salt, two packets of garlic powder and two packets of garlic granules. Give Shane a call to organise a visit and a yarn.
The fires also hit hard at The Islander Estate Vineyards, so bring your empty esky to the cellar door at Cygnet River and fill it with a selection of French wines including Pétiyante (meaning “bubbly” in French), shiraz cabernet Franc blend (in a Bordeaux style) and their signature semillon Wally White (aged in the same French oak barrels that Islander Estate use to ferment their semillon). And for every bottle of Wally Wild sold, Kangaroo Island Spirits will donate $10 to Disaster Relief Australia. The spirit of KI, you could say.
For an infusion in island botanicals head to Kangaroo Island Spirits and sample their range of award-winning gins, vodkas and liqueurs. A two-hour cocktail masterclass reveals the secrets to classic cocktails, and you’ll get a guiding hand to help you create your own signature drink.
The only interruption you can expect at Kangaroo Island Oceanview Eco Villas is a private chef delivering gourmet meals to your table. This luxury property located on windswept clifftop overlooks Red Banks, a magical sunset spot where you might spot endangered white-bellied sea eagles cruising the sky. Follow the “goat trail” down to the secluded beach or stay inside the modernist villas and relax by the fire. A stay includes three-course dinners, cooked breakfasts and a complimentary minibar.
Hamilton and Dune are two very different homes on Emu Bay Beach, near the island’s largest town of Kingscote. Hamilton house is a fully renovated 1960s beach house where classic beach-life is the vibe. It has a jetty with a boat ramp, wicker sun lounges, a seafront lawn and a barbeque on the sundeck.
Dune house is inescapably modern – a circular, light-filled home built into a sand dune in the bush. Wildlife comes free of charge – expect koalas, wallabies, echidnas or goannas to drop by unannounced.
If you’ve ever wanted to mingle with a colony of Australian sea lions (and who hasn’t had that dream?) then you’ll be wanting Seal Bay Conservation Park. Guided tours get you among the action as the entertaining, endangered animals play, go fishing, lounge around on the sand and generally go about their sea-lion business.
But if that’s not close enough to the action, you can swim with the dolphins at Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures or don a beekeeper’s suit and get safely swarmed as you learn the art of honey production at Kangaroo Island Living Honey.