South Australia

    Kangaroo Island camping: One small island, one big country town

    May 25, 2021Alison Banney

    6 min read

    Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia is absolutely made for camping. In fact, I think you’d have a harder time coming here and not camping.

    You could spend a single weekend here or several weeks , depending on how slow you like to travel. I recently spent five days here, which was a great amount of time to see most of the main sites and do a full lap of the island while still having plenty of time to relax.

    Here’s our five-day itinerary of Kangaroo Island, which you can use as inspiration when planning your own trip.

    Day one

    Return ferry tickets with Sealink are $400 for two people and one vehicle. We got to South Australia a bit earlier than expected so called Sealink and were able to easily swap our ferry over to one day earlier.

    Beautiful colours of Kangaroo Island

    One warning I’ll give you from the outset is the island is full of mostly unsealed roads, complete with red dirt and lots of corrugations. You’ll definitely get most places you want to go in a two-wheel drive (we did), but just be prepared for a bit of a bumpy ride at times.

    After getting off the ferry in Penneshaw you’re greeted by crystal clear water and a big stretch of white sandy beach. Even though most people fled to other parts of the island straight after getting off the ferry, this was too tempting to turn down so we had a swim and some lunch here. The water was a refreshing 17 degrees.

    In the afternoon we drove to Dudley Wines, a beautiful cellar door 15 minutes from Pennenshaw with a see-it-to-believe-it view over the ocean. We did a free tasting then bought a bottle of our favourite one to enjoy out on the deck.

    That evening we stayed at Browns Beach. It’s a council-run campsite, as are most on the island, with an honesty pay-as-you-go box. It was only $17 and you can pay via cash or card (but you do need a $2 coin for the hot showers).

    Dudley Wines Cellar Door

    Day two

    We travelled along the north coast today, with our first stop at Kingscote. This is the biggest town on the island with around 1700 people. We strolled along the bay and spotted our first seal playing in the water then browsed the small gift shops and art galleries in town. If you’re after a quick, easy lunch here I’d recommend The Rabbit Warren bakery for a huge selection of hot pies and pasties, or the Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood co-op for fresh fish and chips.

    After lunch we drove to the main beaches on the north side, starting with Stokes Bay. From the carpark you’ll follow a little track down the shore and through a series of rock caves to reveal a huge, yet mostly deserted, white sandy beach.

    We drove by Snelling beach before settling in at our camp spot for the night at Western River Cove. This camp spot was beautiful with red, earthy dirt set against a backdrop of green, rolling hills and the blue ocean in between. Again, this spot was a pay-as-you-go $17 a night. However it was much smaller than other camp spots on the island, so if you’re planning to spend the night here I wouldn’t arrive too late.

    Day three

    We headed over to the west side of the island which is mostly covered by national park lands. Sadly, more than 90% of the Flinders Chase National Park was burnt in the 2019-20 bushfires, and was still closed in April 2021 when we were there. You need to pay a park fee before you drive into the national park, which you can do online before you go or on your way through at the rangers office.

    We started off at Admiral’s Arch where we strolled along the boardwalk and watched the seals resting and playing on the rocks below. You’ll see plenty of seals here. We were there in April and saw dozens of seal pups. I’d suggest parking at the Cape Du Culac lighthouse and walking down the hill in the little bush track to Admiral’s Arch as it’s a nice view on the way down.

    The Remarkable Rocks was next – an iconic rock formation over-looking the coastline. You’ve probably seen photos of these rocks online (and plenty of Instagram snaps!), but in real life they are really mesmerising and appear to truly defy gravity. Due to the lack of international tourists in Australia at the moment, we had the whole place to ourselves.

    Remarkable Rocks

    We stayed at Vivonne Bay this evening at another council-run campground right by the beach. We didn’t book and got a site without a problem, but if you’re there during a busier season it’s a good idea to book online in advance so you don’t miss out. Whatever you do, make sure you have a famous whiting burger at the Vivionne Bay General Store while you’re there!

    Day four

    We had a slower day today, starting with a morning swim before heading inland to the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery. You can buy the local essential oils and products, learn about how they distill the eucalyptus oil and enjoy a coffee and cake at the café (the carrot cake is their specialty). We also did a tasting of the local apple cider which was $8 for a paddle.

    After the distillery we stopped in at the Kangaroo Island Brewery to taste some of the local beers and share a wood-fired pizza. If you’re not a beer drinker, they do have a few wines on offer too. Tonight we stayed at Wreckers Beach, which is a National Park camp site that you need to book online to be assigned a site. The sites are all spread out and really private, but there’s only about six available.

    Day five

    We started our last day here with another morning swim before making our way back to Penneshaw for our ferry. We enjoyed a coffee and cake at Millie Maes Pantry, a gorgeous café with a beautiful veggie garden, before our lunch-time ferry.

    Kangaroo Island was a highlight of our month-long road trip, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for campers. If you enjoy beautiful ocean beaches, great food and wine, bush walks and hiking, bird watching and seal spotting, art galleries and quaint cafes, red dirt and blue seas then Kangaroo Island should be on your camping bucket list.

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