With its dramatic limestone cliffs plunging into turquoise seas, eucalyptus-scented forests teeming with koalas, and its very own subspecies of kangaroo, Australia’s third-largest island is a truly unspoiled wilderness destination. However, most visitors to Kangaroo Island (commonly known as ‘KI’) are surprised to fall just as hard for its unique food experiences on a KI food safari. Read on for our top foodie recommendations in this incredible location.
A veritable land of (sheep) milk and honey (farmed since the early 19th century), Kangaroo Island, 112km off mainland South Australia, is widely celebrated in Australia for its local artisan produce. From botanical gins to gourmet sheep cheeses, this destination puts a lot of emphasis on ethical food production. Add some hot new restaurants and cellar door expansions, plus a brand new airport terminal opening mid-2018 and it has never been easier to get a taste of KI. The island is also still in recovery from the particularly devastating 2019/20 bushfire season and visitors are encouraged now more than ever.
KI food safaris, and where to find them
Short on time? Consider signing up for a one-day food safari that takes in a selection of the island’s most delicious food and wine experiences. Local operators including Kangaroo Island Trails, Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours and Exceptional Kangaroo Island all offer varying itineraries spanning everything from Ferguson lobster and wine tasting to sampling honey produced by Ligurian bees – believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bee found anywhere in the world.
For those with more time (and money to burn), the island’s ultra-luxe Southern Ocean Lodge hosts a seven-day food safari each winter led by the likes of Australian foodie legend Maggie Beer, taking guests on the ultimate intensive gourmet tour of the island.
Take a long lunch at Sunset Food & Wine
The recipient of Kangaroo Island’s first chef’s hat (Australia’s version of a Michelin star) months after opening, Sunset Food & Wine is KI’s top table. British expat Jack Ingram, previously Executive Chef at Southern Ocean Lodge, offers diners a seasonally changing menu from local ingredients, featuring anything from Southrock lamb rump with local black garlic to Hindmarsh Valley ricotta gnocchi, with a six-course degustation menu for those who can't choose. While the name suggests it’s a sunset spot, the location overlooks the beach and is an ideal lunch stop, as well as dinner.
Tuck into fresh seafood at The Oyster Farm Shop
A Kangaroo Island institution, the Oyster Farm Shop at American River is one of the best places on KI to tuck into the fresh, sustainable seafood the island is renowned for. We recommend the oysters, marron, abalone, King George whiting...and everything in between! But don’t expect silverware – this small, self-styled ‘farmgate’ serves simple dishes on disposable platters. Look for the turquoise shack opposite the American River, where the shop’s oysters are farmed.
Stock up on local produce at the Kangaroo Island Farmers Market
Self-catering? Make sure to time your trip to coincide with the first Sunday of the month, when Penneshaw Oval transforms into a farmers market where you can sample and buy just about everything made or grown on the island. Think delicious chutneys, freshly-picked vegetables, and of course – wine. Get here early, as it’s all over by 1pm.
Wet your whistle at Kangaroo Island Spirits
South Australia, traditionally recognised for its wines, is also known for its small-batch gins. Some of the very best drops are produced by Kangaroo Island’s first and only gin distillery, which took the gong for Australia’s best gin at the prestigious Melbourne International Spirits competition in 2016 and 2017. All Kangaroo Island Spirits gins – distilled with locally foraged ingredients such as native juniper and lemon myrtle – are available for free tastings at the distillery’s rustic Cygnet River cellar door every day day except Tuesdays.
Cellar door hopping
Make like the island's cutest residents, and hope around KI's fantastic wineries. Known for its excellent varietals, KI is home to over a dozen wineries, though only a few currently have cellar doors open to the public. Among the best are that of pioneering KI winery Dudley Wines, which recently expanded and updated its cellar door in Cuttlefish Bay. Its wines go down a treat with the excellent pizzas on offer, while those of Bay of Shoals’ cellar door, just north of Kingscote, are best enjoyed with a platter from the extensive menu. The Islander Estate has a cosy tasting room in Cygnet Bay, and beer drinkers aren’t forgotten thanks to Kangaroo Island Brewery in Kingscote, which is open for tastings Friday to Sunday.