Kangaroo Island may seem like a small piece of land off the South Australian coast, perfect for a day trip to see the wildlife. Well, you could do that Kangaroo Island day trip, but it will be a long and expensive day. Instead, take a look at this perfect 5 day Kangaroo Island Itinerary, adapt it to your needs or follow it exactly as written – either way, you will have a fantastic time on Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island really needs a few days on the island to have time to enjoy everything that there is to offer without rushing. You will have time to stroll along the stunning beaches, sit sipping the local wines at sunset and enjoy the pristine wilderness and wildlife with more remote walks. Learn about the history of the first European settlement in South Australia and see iconic landmarks.
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- 1 Day One – Arriving on Kangaroo Island
- 2 Day Two – Flinders Chase National Park
- 3 Day Three – Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park & North Coast
- 4 Day Four – Kingscote & Surrounds
- 5 Day Five – Penneshaw & Ferry
- 6 Adapting Your Kangaroo Island itinerary
This Kangaroo Island Itinerary assumes you will have your own vehicle for getting around. I recommend this because transport on the island is limited and you will not be able to easily get around without your own car. If you need a rental car, we use and recommend booking through RentalCars.com. In one search you will be able to see and compare the prices from all the car hire companies to save you time and get the best deal.
While I do recommend a car, sometimes this is not possible. I have put together a whole post on tours to Kangaroo Island. This includes tours from Adelaide and day tours on the island. Take a look at Kangaroo Island Tours here.
Day One – Arriving on Kangaroo Island
The schedule today will depend a lot on how and when you are getting to Kangaroo Island. You may be starting your day in Adelaide and driving down to Cape Jervis to catch the Kangaroo Island ferry. It’s a two hour drive, so if this is the plan, consider booking a ferry around late morning/lunchtime. This was the way I chose to go on our recent trip, taking the ferry at 12pm.
If you are catching an early morning ferry, I recommend spending the night in or near Cape Jervis. Cape Jervis is a small town, and there are really only two options. Both have cabin-style accommodation. Click the links below to see availability and prices for your dates.
If flying to Kangaroo Island, most flights land in the morning, so you will be able to pick up your rental car and still have time to see some of the Kangaroo Island attractions in the afternoon.
Once safely on land, spend the rest of the day exploring the south coast of Kangaroo Island. Depending on your interests and how much time you have, here are the things that I would recommend considering for you itinerary
- Seal Bay Conservation Park – in my opinion this one is a must. Not only is it cool seeing the sea lions on the beach and learning a little about them, this area is stunningly beautiful too. See more about Seal Bay here.
- Raptor Domain – this is a rehabilitation and education centre for birds of prey. See the free flight show and learn all about these misunderstood birds. There are also experiences available to get up close to some of the birds. See their website for details.
- Little Sahara – explore this great white expanse of sand dunes. Take a walk and enjoy the pristine beauty, or participate in one of the activities available, like sandboarding or tobogganing, or perhaps an electric fat bike tour (there are normal fat bike tours available too!)
- Vivonne Bay – once voted the most beautiful beach in the world, this is the perfect place to stop and laze on the beach for a bit if the weather is good. If it’s a little cool, perhaps take a walk along the beach, or you could do some kayaking on the river here, or get to know the area with some quad biking or a buggy tour.
- Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary – this area was devastated in the 2020 bushfires and as such the wildlife sanctuary is not fully open. They are offering guided tours though. I recommend booking the nocturnal adventure tour to see some of the wildlife when it’s at its most active. Details are here.
Tonight stay down at the western end of Kangaroo Island. Accommodation options are limited and I recommend Western KI Caravan Park. They not only have space for caravans, campers and tents, they have a range of cabins available too. They were also hit hard by the bushfires and are in a rebuilding phase, but from what I saw during my visit, I expect them to be back bigger and better soon. While here, look carefully in the trees for some of the resident koalas and take a walk to the lagoon to spot local birdlife.
Another option that has reopened since my visit is some cabins at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. They can only be booked by email. Details can be found here. Please read all the information before booking.
Day Two – Flinders Chase National Park
Today you will venture into Flinders Chase National Park to see some of the iconic attractions that Kangaroo Island in known for. Unfortunately 97% of the park was burnt during the 2020 bushfires and it is still a long way from being fully recovered and open. Before visiting it’s important to check on the National Parks website for any updates or closures. There is still a lot of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt before everything opens up.
One of the things destroyed was the visitor centre, so there is no longer any food or water (or anything else) available for purchase in the park, so ensure you bring enough with you for your visit. There is no fuel available and phone coverage is very sketchy – it’s best to assume you won’t have any at all and you may just get lucky.
What Flinders Chase National Park does have is some incredible natural scenery and historical sites. Here are the things you should check out during your visit:
- Remarkable Rocks – these granite rock formations sitting on a clifftops overlooking the ocean are almost the emblem of KI. Since the fires new boardwalks and viewing points have been built, now making Remarkable Rocks accessible to those with prams or in wheelchairs. Can you really say you’ve been to KI if you haven’t seen them in person?
- Admirals Arch – a natural rock arch down below the cliffs. On the way down check out the seals that call this area home. In winter. keep an eye out in the distance for whales as they pass through this area.
- Cape du Couedic Lighthouse – located in the small pocket of the park that escaped the fire and quite near Admirals Arch, see the lighthouse and learn about the inhospitable conditions the early lighthouse keepers had to endure. Take a walk to nearby Weir’s Cove to see how they received their supplies.
- Cape Borda Lighthouse – During my visit the road to Cape Borda through the park was closed so we had to go around to visit it. Imagine how incredibly isolated this area was when it was first inhabited. Enjoy the clifftop walk to admire the views across the ocean.
- Walking Trails – apart from the ones mentioned above, there were some other great trails though the national park. When I visited they were still closed, but if they are open, I suggest the Platypus Waterholes Walk, to try to spot one of these elusive creatures.
Depending on how much time you spend exploring in Flinders Chase National Park, you might still have time to explore the rugged north coast of Kangaroo Island. Make your way to Western River Beach and admire the views and the unspoiled coastline before continuing on to the just-as-spectacular Snelling Beach.
Tonight you have two options for where to stay. Either stay a second night at Western KI Caravan Park (this is what we did) or instead stay the night at Snelling Beach. Both locations have few facilities and you will need to ensure you have brought enough food with you. If you stay at the caravan park you won’t have to pack up after only one night, but you will have to backtrack a little.
At Snelling Beach you will need to rent a holiday home, and many of the options here are spectacular. If you are looking for something special, try the beautiful Snellings View. For a more budget friendly option, Western River Valley Cottages are best.
Day Three – Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park & North Coast
Today it’s time to visit the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park and the explore further along the north coast of Kangaroo Island.
Make your way to the town of Parndana right in the centre of Kangaroo Island to visit the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. While you are able to see wildlife all over the island, as is the nature of wild animals, they can be a little elusive. Here though, you can see all the native animals – and many others – up close. Make sure you stick around for a koala talk, as you get the opportunity to enter the enclosure and pat the koalas. Allow around two hours for your visit here – more if you want to do one of the experiences available.
After the wildlife park, there’s one other Parndana attraction that may interest you – the Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum. This museum is all about the WWII soldiers who were rewarded with a piece of virgin bushland here on Kangaroo Island and how they turned it into their home and livelihood.
Head now up to the north coast town of Stokes Bay. It’s finally time to try out some of the local food. Have lunch at The Rockpool Cafe right next to the car park to the beach. (Tip: check their opening hours in advance as they do occasionally change)
Stokes Bay is one of those places where you will park and think “this is not very impressive”. It looks like a horrible rocky beach and not very much else. Make your way to the eastern end of the car park and you will see a sign pointing to the beach. To find this beautiful “secret” beach you will need to make your way through a narrow rocky passageway, which eventually opens up onto a sandy beach. Even better, there is a natural rock pool here, so this is the perfect sheltered spot for children – and even adults – to have a swim.
From Stokes Bay take the North Coast Road towards Emu Bay. Sections of the drive will give you great views over the ocean, other views will be rolling hills of farmland or bushland.
As you get closer to Emu Bay, look out for George’s Castle at Wisanger. This “castle” has been George Turner’s hobby for decades, slowly adding to it to create this incredible structure. It’s best viewed at night, when a quick phone call to George in advance will see him turn on the 60000+ lights that decorate it.
Depending on how you are going, now might be the time to call into Emu Bay Lavender Farm for afternoon tea as they close at 4pm. Get one of the hugest scones I have ever seen, or try the delicious lavender ice cream. Take a wander through the lavender fields before you leave. If you have plenty of time, you can go to Emu Bay first, and do this afterwards.
Once at Emu Bay, you can’t help but notice the blindingly white beach. This 5km stretch of sand is not only beautiful, but because it is on the protected side of the island it is most likely to be calm and inviting. There is plenty of room for everyone here, and don’t worry about having to walk a long way to find the best spot – you can drive right onto the sand! Enjoy either a swim or a walk while you admire the view and the feeling of having this beach almost all to yourself!
Tonight (and tomorrow night) your accommodation will be at the eastern end of Kangaroo Island. There are plenty of options here that range from budget to extravagant. We were on a budget and stayed in one of the Eco Cottages at Discovery Lagoon Caravan and Camping Grounds but you could try the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge in American River or the Kangaroo Island Seaside Inn in Kingscote if you are looking for hotel accommodation. If instead you are looking for a holiday home, perhaps Edgewater Escape in Kingscote or Samphire in American River will suit your needs
There two other blog posts on Kangaroo Island accommodation that can give you more ideas too
Day Four – Kingscote & Surrounds
Today is all about Kingscote and the many opportunities to try the local produce around the area. You will want to start the day with a good breakfast, and since there is time, grab yourself a big breakfast at Cactus Kangaroo Island. There are vegan, vegetarian and other dietary needs catered for, and the coffee is quite possibly the best on the island.
After breakfast, spend some time exploring Kingscote. As South Australia’s first official European settlement, Kingscote has some interesting historical sites to visit. Head to Reeves Point to see the memorial to those first settlers and to learn about The Mulberry Tree – one last living tree that was planted by those first settlers. You could also visit the Hope Cottage Museum, located in one of the first solid buildings built in Kingscote and exhibiting all kinds of historical memorabilia from then until now.
Spend a little more time browsing the local shops and stopping into one or two of the art galleries in town. They generally showcase local artists and art with local themes so you will find some unique and interesting souvenirs.
Spend the rest of the day visiting and tasting all the local producers. These are the ones I recommend:
- Island Beehive – tour the factory at 1pm. Details and bookings
- Kangaroo Island Brewery
- Bay of Shoals Winery
- Kangaroo Island Spirits
- The Islander Estate Wines
- Springs Road Winery
- Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery
- Kangaroo Island Ciders
- The Oyster Farm Shop
- Clifford’s Honey farm
While your itinerary should reflect your own interests and you may not want to include all of these, my recommendation is to make your way to American River and The Oyster Farm Shop (11am – 3pm) for a seafood lunch and then taste your way back to Kingscote. Depending on what time you leave Kingscote, you may get a couple of tastings done before lunch too. With a few alcohol tastings included, be mindful of the amount and driving – South Australia has a blood alcohol limit of 0.05 so you will need to think about that.
Enjoy dinner out at Aurora Ozone Hotel if you are in Kingscote or at Reflections Restaurant in American River. For a very special dinner, take a look at The Enchanted Fig Tree, a pop up restaurant available at certain times of the year (usually the warmer months).
Day Five – Penneshaw & Ferry
Unfortunately today is your last on Kangaroo Island, but there’s still plenty of time to do and see a lot. Firstly ensure that you book the latest ferry available so that you can spend as much time as possible. Today will be spent around Penneshaw at the eastern end of Kangaroo Island.
What you get up to today will depend a lot on your interests. The first thing I would recommend is a Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari or Snorkelling tour. This is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy some more of the Kangaroo Island wildlife. The tours occur at various times of the day from Penneshaw, and once you have a time locked in you can work in the rest of the itinerary around it. Adjust the below suggestions to fit your own requirements.
On the way to Penneshaw, start your day with a walk up to the highest point on Kangaroo Island at Prospect Hill. It’s not a huge climb and new stairs make it much easier than in the past. Enjoy views over the surrounding coastlines.
There are still two more wineries at this end of the island to visit, and both of them are well worth it. False Cape Wines was my favourite of all the wineries on the island. It is also a great place to get some lunch. But you cannot go past the stunning views from the deck at Dudley Wines – who also offer platters to go with their wines. One of these will be perfect for lunch.
Make the drive down to the end of the peninsula to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. The drive itself is incredibly scenic, and the lighthouse is the first built in South Australia. It has a small museum and visitors can do a tour to the top of the lighthouse.
Stretch your legs on another of Kangaroo Island’s beautiful beaches with a walk at Lashmar Conservation Park and Antechamber Bay. Another walk to take is the Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail right in the centre of Penneshaw where you can admire some great artworks in a beautiful bush location.
If you are visiting Kangaroo Island in winter, before you catch the ferry do a tour with the Penneshaw Penguin Centre and hopefully catch a glimpse of the elusive Little Penguins that call the dunes home.
Adapting Your Kangaroo Island itinerary
I have mentioned throughout the information above some of the items that could be adjusted, but here are some more notes for other itineraries.
3 Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary
A Kangaroo Island 3 day itinerary will essentially involve choosing exactly what activities and attractions you would like to focus on. Here is what I suggest to see and do a little of everything.
Day One – Catch the earliest ferry possible, visit Seal Bay, Little Sahara and the Flinders Chase National Park main attractions (Remarkable Rocks, Admiral’s Arch). Stay one night at Western Ki Caravan Park.
Day Two – Visit Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, Stokes Bay and Emu Bay with some tastings in the afternoon on the way to Kingscote where you will stay the night.
Day Three – Taste some more of the produce on the way to Penneshaw where you may be able to fit in an Ocean Safari or a visit to the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse before catching the latest ferry back to the mainland.
4 Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary
With a four day itinerary my suggestion is to decide if you want to focus on nature and wildlife or on the local food and wine scene. Once you know what you prefer, take the 5 day Kangaroo Island itinerary and remove one night from the western end of the island if you are interested in the food and wine scene. Alternatively take a night from the eastern end if you want to spend more time with the wildlife. Pare down the activities to suit your timeframe and interests.
7 Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary
What about a longer itinerary? Seven days will give you the opportunity to slow things down a little. You will be able to spend more time relaxing on the beaches or hiking in the conservation parks. I recommend either three nights at each end of the island, or stick with two nights and the western end, then two nights at Emu Bay and two nights at American River. This will give a nice spread of locations.
If you are interested in hiking, you could spend five days of your visit hiking one of Australia’s great walks, the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. Currently it can only be done by organised tour while the national park is still recovering. See the details here.
To enjoy your Kangaroo Island road trip more, you may like these posts
Best Kangaroo Island Wineries
The Ultimate List of What to do on Kangaroo Island
How to Get to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.