Kangaroo Island in just the name sets up promise - and particularly so for international visitors. Who wouldnâ€™t want to explore an island overrun by our Aussie national icon.
The idea of 'island exploration' inspires a sense of adventure so we were keen to see why this island is so romanced as the jewel in South Australia's crown and earns the title of the Galapagos of Australia.
We learnt quickly that a visit to this island requires a little forward planning. Our urgent reception at the ferry office had us realising that staff must not often be greeted with latecomers wanting same-day passage. We were offered good advice to stock up in Victor Harbor before boarding as food essentials are in limited supply on the island.
Without research and planning we believe that last-minute tourists might be put off by the high prices of a return ferry journey. In fact a few international tourists we met on the road spoke exactly of this 'financial deterrent' to taking themselves and their vehicle across. We were hoping our visit could arm us with all the positive reasons to make the crossing, next time we were asked.
We were offered a special ferry price on the proviso we spent our first night in the caravan park at the ferry terminal town of Peneshaw. With first impressions known to influence lasting memories we were surprised Kangaroo Island tourism would want to align itself with a tourist park that was short on basic facilities and attractive camping sites. Thankfully it was just a short stay and we left promptly the next morning.
Unfortunately our first understanding of the island's extensive wildlife was confirmed by the most amazing levels of roadkill. We had the ugly thought that a keen business operator could make a good living from possum and wombat furs - and tourism might be all the better for it, having it cleaned up each day. In any case at least we knew the island did have plentiful wildlife - we were just eager to see the live ones.
This was demonstrated in all its glory upon reaching Seal Bay Conservation Park. Beautiful birds greeted us with song, and in addition to the closest encounters with Australia's endangered sea lions, it was here we also witnessed the treasured echidna, going about its business, just touching distance away.
At this point we understood why Kangaroo Island is a destination of international repute - as was entering the natural wonderland of Flinders Chase National Park. What a well catered for and slick operation. Friendly staff showed us photos of the variety of campsites on offer and luckily for us, travelling off-peak, and one day before a busload of school children were expected, we had the pick of campsites at the lovely Snake Lagoon.
This was the perfect base for a variety of walks and got us to the heart of unspoiled bushland and beaches. We chose an easy two hour return walk to the beach from the campsite to witness platypus in the creek bed, distant caves, seabirds soaring overhead, and the roar of the turquoise water against the striking orange-algal-coloured rocks. All this splendour and we were the only ones on the track.
That evening we were glad to hear the scurryings of the real 'live' wildlife around the campsite. We were awoken by one of the largest possums we'd ever seen pacing across our table in search of food. Thankfully, thinking ahead, this was all in the car. But it didn't stop our great source of amusement watching it dive head first into our 'slinky-like' collapsible bin in search of leftovers.
At this end of the island you don't want to miss Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, all adding up to what makes the ferry cost worthwhile.
On the way back we took a different route hoping to pick up some of the much talked about seafood treats of marron and oysters. Our visions were that there'd be plenty of direct 'fresh' outlets in the main towns, yet we found none. It appears that a few restaurants have them - otherwise you may as well wait until you're back on the mainland to where they're shipped.
We cannot argue we are the most well versed travellers on Kangaroo Island, given we spent a total of three days there, but we've seen enough to know that we would be back.
The ferry fee is worth it if you drive the two hours across the island to reach Flinders Chase National Park where the host of great natural attractions, wildlife, walks and well-facilitated camping will greet you.