Wild and rugged Kangaroo Island, 8 miles off the coast of South Australia and accessible only by ferry, is part wildlife wonderland and part rural outpost. Its jagged coastline shelters beaches edged with turquoise seas, while the interior contains native forest and bush. Long devoid of tourist trappings, the island these days is a booming destination for wilderness and wildlife fans − it's a veritable zoo of seals, birds, dolphins, echidnas and (of course) kangaroos – as well as for bushwalkers, swimmers, surfers and snorkelers looking for their remote piece of paradise.
Still, the island remains rurally paced and underdeveloped. Be sure to try the island's local produce, including fresh seafood and marron (a freshwater crayfish), honey produced by a pure strain of Ligurian bees, jams from indigenous fruits, sheep-milk cheeses, local wines and eucalyptus oil.
A few of John's memories…
So many kangaroos roam Kangaroo Island that occasionally one gets hit by a car. If it's a female with a baby ‘joey' in its pouch it's the driver's responsibility to take the joey home, raise it until it's too big to live as a pet, then return it to the wild. I had the pleasure of holding one such joey in my arms. It kicked and squirmed and tried to get away, until I began humming ‘Brahm's Lullaby' and rocking the animal like a baby. The roo quieted down and even laid its head against my chest, a moment I'll never forget.
While you're there
Penneshaw Penguin Centre
This conservation centre allows you to get a close-up, unobtrusive view of the little penguins (also called fairy penguins) that nest along the shore as they ply the penguin highway. This is possibly the best place to see the little cuties in Australia, and the interpretive centre will shed further light on their life cycle and habits.
Seal Bay Conservation Park
About 500 Australian sea lions live at Seal Bay on the south coast, and most days you'll see around 200 of them basking along the water's edge. Ranger-guided tours get you close enough for good photos, but don't expect them to perform tricks – unless it's the breeding season!
Flinders Chase National Park
Flinders Chase cloaks most of the western end of the island and is a wonderful place for bushwalking, wildlife-spotting and remote camping. Much of the park is mallee scrub, but there are some beautiful, tall sugar-gum forests, particularly around Rocky River and the Ravine des Casoars, 3 miles south of Cape Borda.
Kelly Hill Caves
This series of rare dry limestone caves dates back 80,000 years and has gravity-defying helictites. There are daily guided tours of the show cave, or book one of the adventure caving tours – where you don a hard hat and overalls before scrambling through the caverns.
Swimming & surfing
Kangaroo Island has miles of rugged coast and secluded beaches. The best swimming is along the north coast, where the beautiful, clear water is warmer and the rips generally less savage than in the south – head for Emu Bay, Stokes Bay, Snelling Beach and Western River Cove. Surfers make for the south coast breaks at Pennington Vivonne and Hanson bays.