Kangaroo Island and the End of Our Grand Adventure

animals, day zero project, food, giant roadside attractions, national parks, restaurants, South Australia

First thing in the morning on ANZAC Day, we rode the ferry from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island, a place purported by numerous websites we read to be “magical” and “pristine.” It’s a 45 minute ride from the mainland onto the large island, and we were happy to have sunny and warm weather so that we could sit on the top deck for the ride.

Coming into port, all I needed to see was the color and clarity of the water to know that we’d arrived somewhere wonderful.

Once we had the car off the ferry, we made a beeline to the tourist information office.

May I just sidetrack for a moment to give a hearty plug to tourist information offices? I can’t tell you how often stopping and having a quick chat with one of the lovely staff members has made all the difference in our vacations. Tourist Information workers … I salute you.

In any case, we got our marching orders from the desk, and headed off for a full day of adventures. Kangaroo Island is actually quite large, so we had to be efficient to make it from one end of the island to the other and back again in the paltry one day we’d alloted ourselves. But, we were up for it.

First stop was by my special request, as I’d spied a lavender farm on the map, and thought that there could be nothing but goodness there. Partner-in-Crime was a good sport, even though I don’t believe I know any self-respecting straight man who is happy, per se, to find himself at a lavender farm. The owner greeted us and offered us a selection of tea and/or scones. We settled on a lavender scone, and then got the tour of the grounds, as it was prepared.  There were more varieties of lavender than one might imagine even exist. Poor P-i-C. … I shot a multitude of photos on the grounds while P-i-C stood by, looking bewildered and perhaps a bit emasculated. The lavender scone was fresh out of the oven when we came back from the gardens, however, and any discomfort was quickly forgotten in the warm bready goodness and heavenly clotted cream topping.

Our next stop was the Kelly Caves, where we stopped in for a guided tour. They weren’t entirely impressive, unless you’re really into stalactites and stalagmites. I learned that stalactites are the ones that hang down (I’m sure I learned this in elementary school, but it’s not one of those things that exactly comes up often, so I’d forgotten), and you can remember this, as we were informed, because “stalactites ‘hang on tight.'”

So, yeah, there was that.

Back on the road, we headed off to Flinders National Park, which isthe crown jewel of Kangaroo Island (and also on the complete opposite end from the ferry wharf).
First stop was the Admirals Arch. Now, this spot would be worth seeing no matter what – stunning, stunning ocean views …
… but the real attraction here is the seals. Admirals Arch is home to 7,000 New Zealand fur seals. We got to see – and smell – plenty. At first, they were quite far away, but if you’re up for climbing down (and then up again) a good number of stairs, you can actually get very close to them. There were 20 or more at the spot where we settled. We stood on the lookout for ages, watching them play, fight, and waddle around in the most awkward fashion. (They blend in with the rocks, so you might have to play “spot the seals” in the photos).

After prying ourselves away from the seals, we took the short drive to Remarkable Rocks. Regardless of how silly the name is (it sounds like it was designed to lure tourists), this actually was a fantastic spot. The rocks are made out of volcanic material and are shaped in the most Dali-esque manner. It was a haven for everyone’s inner artist to come out, as just about all of the tourists present were finding unusual new photo ops with the strange rock formations.
(from afar)

While in the park, we also spotted an echidna (he was too fast for a photo … very selfish of him to run off like that, I thought).
Now having driven the length of the island, we had to turn back to where we started. On the way, we attempted to stop at Vivonne Bay, which has supposedly been named by someone with indeterminate authority “The Most Beautiful Beach in the World.” Unfortunately, it is located far down a road which has never been named “The Best Paved Road in the World,” so in the interest of not blowing out the tires on our poor little rental car, we stopped at a nearby lookout for a quick barefooted wander in the sand, and returned to the main road.
We had thought we’d stop at Seal Bay, where you can pay to get up close to the seals, but taking the advice of the Lavender Farm Guy, we decided that we’d had quite a nice enough seal sighting experience, and continued back to Kingscote.
Based also on the glowing restaurant recommendation of Lavender Farm Guy (and re-affirmed by a tour guide P-i-C ran into while I snapped photos who said it was the “best on the island”), we thought we’d eat dinner at a fish place that we were told was “next to the Caltex (gas) station.” P-i-C was on a mission to eat marron, a local variety of freshwater crayfish, so we confirmed that this restaurant carried it, and we were settled. We’d been very conservative on our dining out on this trip, so we decided that we’d really treat ourselves to a great fish meal.
We pointed the GPS to Caltex, and upon arriving, could not see a restaurant anywhere. Except, there was this little fish place that was literally attached to the gas station (like Taco Bells and KFCs usually are). We looked around some more, checked our guide books, and after a great deal of hesitation, decided that we were, in fact, having our special dinner inside Caltex.
OK, fancy it was not, but our hosts did not steer us wrong about the quality. The fish was practically squirming, it was so fresh, and P-i-C was able to pick his marron right out of the case, for steaming as we waited.
The marron was delicious – I thought it tasted a bit like shrimp. Everything we ate at the Caltex, in fact, was delicious. We could not have been happier with our gas station fish. 
(I joke, but this place is actually called Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood, and if I were back on Kangaroo Island, I’d eat there again in a minute.)
Our final adventure of the day was the Little Penguin Tour. Seeing the Little Penguins is an item on my Day Zero list, so I’d actually booked this a couple months in advance, and was wildly excited. Unlike on Phillips Island outside of Melbourne, you don’t actually see the penguins coming up to shore. Rather, they are already on the coastline, hanging out in little hidey-holes and makeshift houses that the penguin center set up for them. A guide took us around and showed us the penguins with a special red light, which was great for illuminating penguins, but terrible for taking photos of penguins. 
You’ll just have to take me at my word about seeing the penguins … The best sighting of the night was a couple of penguins having a bit of a domestic drama. The male penguin stood outside the little house, showing off his feathers to the female penguin inside. When he tried to get a bit closer, the female started screeching at him, making it clear he was not coming into her humble abode. We got a big kick out of trying to put a script to this little Jerry Springer style penguin interaction.
The next morning was the final day of the trip, and we had to get up even earlier than the morning I’d sneakily forced P-i-C out of bed. As he grabbed a last few precious moments of sleep, I slipped outside the hotel in the still-dark and quietly ate my breakfast as I listened to the sound of the surf and the nearby howling penguins. I loved having that time to myself, as I thought that I was not likely to wake up to penguins crying across the street too often in my life.
We drove back to the ferry wharf as the sun was rising, which was a perfect way to depart beautiful Kangaroo Island. If I get the chance to go back, I will definitely schedule at least three or four days. We hardly scratched the surface. (We didn’t even see a kangaroo!).
On our way to Adelaide, where we’d catch the flight home, we stopped for another afternoon of wine tasting in McLaren Vale. 
At some point that morning, I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be looking for giant roadside attractions, now that the Garcias got me started with the Big Merino, so I made P-i-C drive us to Wirra Wirra Vineyards, where they were supposed to have a giant wine bottle made out of wine corks. We I was sad to learn that the giant bottle was “out for repairs.” Thankfully, their wine was excellent, so all was not lost.
The most picturesque spot was across the street at Hugh Hamilton Wines (which we later realized is featured in a cloying commercial for South Australia before almost every movie we see). The wines were decent, the olive oil was excellent, but the views from the round glass cellar door building were the most memorable part of the vineyard.
I had to make a stop at my beloved Rosemount, where I had my fill of fruity, girly wines, and later I lost P-i-C in a cellar door full to the brim with a bridal shower. When I finally found him, he suggested I taste what he was drinking. I told him it tasted like battery acid, and he told me that it was an $80 bottle. I believe I’ve mentioned that I’m no kind of wine snob. 
The best winery of the day was Samuel’s Gorge. Even I could recognize how excellent their wines were. Had we not been flying, I would have brought home a bottle of everything they made.
Full up on spirits, we had just enough time for a quick lunch and brief look at Adelaide. Doing some quick googling on my phone, I set the GPS to a location just moments outside of the city. P-i-C rightly asked where, exactly, I was making him drive to.
“The Giant Scotsman,” I told him, as if that was most natural destination in the world.
Turns out, all was not lost on the Giant Roadside Attractions front. Not only is there a giant Scotsman just outside of Adelaide, but he is the original giant roadside attraction in Australia. 
He sits a bit forlornly outside the Comfort Inn, and I couldn’t really get a great photo because P-i-C would have had to cross a busy road, and I think I’d stretched his patience as far as could reasonably be expected, at this point. So, we got a side angle …
… and P-i-C was wise enough to document what I’m sure you’re all wondering …
(not only is he wearing something under there, but it matches his kilt)
And thus ended our Great Road Trip, which began with the excitement of the cancelled flight drama, ended looking up the skirt of a giant Scot, and features some unforgettable sights and experiences in between.

9 thoughts on “Kangaroo Island and the End of Our Grand Adventure

  1. Libby

    I wanted to check this post before heading to work. I’ll have to read it later – had to skim it now. BUT, I couldn’t help but comment on the photo of you poking out of the rock. SO CUTE!

  2. C. In Oz

    Yes, I’m a bit too verbose for quick reading, I suppose! Thanks for the photo compliment. P-i-C had some pretty good Remarkable Rocks photos, as well, but he has privacy laws applied to all of his likenesses. πŸ˜‰

  3. Mandy

    This sounds like a fantastic trip! And your photos are fabulous! Each one tells such a story!

    I received your postcard in the mail! Love it!! Thanks once again!

  4. Jennie

    This gets me so excited about Adelaide! I’m moving there in a few months and can’t wait to see Kangaroo island. It looks so beautiful!

  5. C. In Oz

    Beautiful country you’re moving to, Jennie! We didn’t get to see much of Adelaide itself, but Kangaroo Island was a dream (make sure you can spend a few days there when you go). If you like wine, you’re really in luck – you’ll be surrounded by some of the best wine regions in the world – we hardly scratched the surface – didn’t even get to Barossa!

  6. Anonymous

    Great write-up. I am going to Kangaroo Island for five days in October after 10 days in Sydney and the surrounding areas, and I truly can’t wait. I love reading other people’s experiences and seeing their pictures. I will be testing out a new DSLR camera and hope to get some great shots in KI like you did. Mindy

    1. C. In Oz

      Mindy, enjoy! Kangaroo Island still looms so beautifully in my memory and I so hope to go back for a longer visit. It is wildly photogenic, so you’ll have a blast with your new toy.

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