Flinders Chase National Park is synonymous with Kangaroo Island. It is where the most iconic natural features can be found and almost every visitor to the island would also visit Flinders Chase National Park. Here’s what to do during your visit there, and a little on how the park is now after the January 2020 bushfires.
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- 1 About Flinders Chase National Park
- 2 Should I Bother Visiting Flinders Chase National Park Now?
- 3 Getting to Flinders Chase National Park
- 4 How Long to Spend in Flinders Chase National Park
- 5 Things to do in Flinders Chase National Park
- 6 Tips for Visiting Flinders Chase National Park
- 7 Where to Stay for Flinders Chase National Park
About Flinders Chase National Park
Located at the western end of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National Park is the second oldest national park in South Australia. It was first designated as a protected area in 1919. It is known for its rugged wilderness and iconic natural features that often represent South Australia on the world stage.
This is where you will find the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, along with lighthouses, wildlife, walking trails and more.
Flinders Chase National Park was devastated by the Kangaroo Island bushfires in January 2020. About 98% of the park (according to a sign at Cape du Couedic) was burnt during the fires. I had hoped to not make the fires a focus of this post, but it is impossible to write this now without mentioning the damage that has occurred. The fires still affect what can be seen today, a year later, and will likely have an impact for years to come. I expect more areas to open up over time as infrastructure is replaced. The visitor experience in the Flinders Chase National Park is being completely “re-imagined” rather than just being rebuilt, so I am sure exciting things are coming.
Should I Bother Visiting Flinders Chase National Park Now?
The answer is a resounding yes. There are two main reasons why. Firstly, the main attractions of the park are still in tact and the roads are open for you to visit, so you will still see most of what you would have come to see before the fires. As an added bonus you will also see the park in a state you won’t see at any other time and realise how incredible nature is in its ability to recover after such destruction.The second reason is that by coming and paying your national parks fees, you are contributing to the fund that will see the infrastructure of the park rebuilt for us all to enjoy in the future.
One of the things you will see more prolifically now than any other time are the Yacca flowers. After bushfires, the Yacca sends up tall flower spikes, some of them growing up to six metres tall. These were all over the park when I visited, in some places the displays were fantastic.
Getting to Flinders Chase National Park
To get to, and explore, Flinders Chase National Park you really need a car. The entrance to the national park is about 95km driving from Kingscote and 125km from Penneshaw. Once inside the park you will also need a car to get around and see the attractions because they are not all in the same part of the park.
It is recommended that cars are rented on Kangaroo Island itself. They can be picked up at either the Kingscote Airport or Penneshaw Ferry Terminal.
If you don’t have your own car, there are still some options to get to Flinders Chase National Park in the form of day tours which will take you to the best known attractions and sights. Unfortunately this will limit what you can see, but it will give you a taste. Try this full day safari from Penneshaw
How Long to Spend in Flinders Chase National Park
Before the fires it would have been easy to spend more than half a day in the Flinders Chase National Park. Include a few of the walks and a full day would pass quickly. Unfortunately much of the park is now inaccessible and many attractions no longer available, so 2-3 hours is probably a good amount of time to allow. Add on a little more time if you want to include some hiking.
Things to do in Flinders Chase National Park
Here are all the things you should include on your itinerary for your visit to Flinders Chase National Park
Flinders Chase National Park Visitor Centre
I’m including this here because even though the visitor centre was completely destroyed in the 2020 fires, something will eventually be rebuilt. The previous visitors centre included lots of information about the park and the flora and fauna that is being protected here. There was a cafe, and gift shop as well as bathroom facilities and a BBQ area.
As of December 2020, building has not yet commenced on the new Visitor Centre, but you will find some temporary park ranger offices so you can stop to ask questions if you want to. There is also an undercover BBQ area with picnic tables too.
Remarkable Rocks are those rock formations that often appear to be defying gravity. Photos are seen everywhere, and they are arguably the symbol of Kangaroo Island, if not all of South Australia.
Remarkable Rocks are some incredible weathered rocks that sit high on a cliff above the Southern Ocean. They are perfectly placed on a granite outcrop and look like they have been left there on display by an abstract sculpture artist. The rocks have been here at least 500 million years, and are ever so slowly being eroded away.
Remarkable Rocks and the surrounding area were engulfed by the bushfires. Luckily, being rocks, there was no damage to the attraction itself. All the infrastructure was destroyed though. In the past there was a wooden boardwalk to make walking to the rocks easier and accessible to everyone. During my visit in December 2020 a gravel path has been cleared for access, but it will be a little more difficult – but not impossible I wouldn’t think – for prams and wheelchair access. Portable toilets were available near the carpark, and work was ongoing to rebuild.
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
Like all of the lighthouses on Kangaroo Island, the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse is an engineering marvel. Built back in 1907 after too many shipwrecks in the area, builders had to battle incredibly harsh conditions along with isolation to build this sturdy stone structure.
Luckily, this area around Cape du Couedic was one of the small pockets to escape the fires and therefore the lighthouse and surrounding structures are undamaged. Right after the fires this area was home to a lot of the native animals as they came here fleeing the fire and stayed because there was very little food available elsewhere. As the vegetation has started to grow back they have dispersed again.
There are a few great walking trails around the Cape du Couedic area, but all are currently closed except for the walk from the lighthouse to the nearby boardwalk for Admirals Arch.
Located 1.5km from the Cape do Couedic Lighthouse, Weirs Cove is at the end of one of those closed walks. This walk is the path that was taken by the early lighthouse keepers to receive their supplies. Weir Cove is a tiny beach with a steep, narrow gap in the rocks to allow access from the cliffs above and it was the only place that boats could drop off their cargo.
Since I saw that the path was closed, I did not go to Weirs Cove. I learned later that there was also a track that visitors can drive down to the cove, so it is still possible to visit.
Admirals Arch is a cave-like structure underneath the cliffs not too far from the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. It is lined with stalactites and is the perfect location to watch a stunning sunset.
On arrival you will follow an exposed boardwalk down over the cliffs to a viewing platform.
While Admirals Arch is pretty cool to see, my favourite part of the visit was watching the Australian Fur Seals playing on the rocks all around the area. We were lucky to see two of them playing in the sea right below the arch. There were dozens laying on the rocks, including a few babies calling out for their mothers who would have been out to sea fishing.
Cape Borda Lighthouse
Located in a completely different section of the park, the Cape Borda Lighthouse is an unusual square shape overlooking Investigator Strait. It is surrounded by some other buildings that made up this small, remote settlement.
This area was almost completely destroyed by the fires, but dedicated fire crew worked tirelessly to save the historic buildings. Eventually they had to retreat, but on their return into the area days later were happy to see that the work they had done saved these buildings. The only buildings destroyed were more modern – a BBQ shelter and toilet block for visitors. Before the fires there was a cafe here for coffee and light snacks, but at the correct time it is closed.
After exploring the historic buildings and learning a little about the history and harshness of life at Cape Borda, there is a short clifftop hike with great views out over the ocean. It’s a rocky walk, but enjoyable.
One the way to Cape Borda Lighthouse, make sure you stop briefly at the small Harvey’s Return Cemetery to see the graves of sixteen people who lived at Cape Borda. Take the short detour to Scott Cove too, to admire some more of the stunning coastline.
There are walking trails all through the Flinders Chase National Park. While most are closed, there are still some that are open, such as the ones I have mentioned above.
There are a few walks that used to commence from the Visitors Centre. One I am particularly looking forward to returning is the Platypus Waterholes Walk. It’s a two hour return trip with the opportunity to spot some of the elusive platypus that live in the area.
Flinders Chase National Park is also the starting point of the five day Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. It cannot be walked independently at the moment, but guided walks will be starting in the next few months. To find out more information on the guided walk, click here.
South Australia’s most Instagrammed Road
As you drive from the entrance of Flinders Chase National Park along Cape du Couedic Road, you will come around a corner and have a stunning view over the park, with the undulating highway going off into the distance. Before the fires this road divided lush green mallee scrub. Now it shows just how dramatic the destruction from the fires is.
You will know the section of road as soon as you come to it, but it is soon after the Bunker Hill Lookout.
Kangaroo Island Wildlife
Being a national park there is usually a huge amount of wildlife to be seen, but unfortunately at the moment that is not so much the case. Apart from the seals at Admirals Arch, we did not see any other wildlife during our visit. That’s not to say there isn’t any to be seen, it’s just that there isn’t as much as there used to be. As the vegetation recovers, more and more animals should return to the park.
Tips for Visiting Flinders Chase National Park
Here are some useful tips for your visit to Flinders Chase National Park.
You will need to ensure you have paid your National Park fees before you visit Flinders Chase National Park. The fees are $11 per person. It is best to pay the fees in advance on the National Park website. There is a paystation just inside the entrance of the park, but due to the isolated location, internet connection can be very unreliable. The day we were there it was not working at all.
Toilet facilities throughout the park are limited, and at the moment are mostly temporary porta-loos. We saw toilets at the park entrance, Remarkable Rocks, Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and Cape Borda Lighthouse.
Phone coverage in the Flinders Chase National Park is limited at best. During our visit we did not have any Telstra coverage at all, and Optus coverage was intermittent – and may have been a fluke because the park ranger was very surprised when I mentioned I had had a little coverage in various places. As such, you would be best to assume there will be no phone coverage during your visit and plan accordingly.
In the past there were opportunities to camp in the Flinders Chase National Park. At the moment, all camping is not allowed. This is due to the lack of infrastructure for campers, and it is also to give the national park a chance to regenerate with less people in it.
Food & Supplies
There are currently no shops, stores, cafes or service stations within the Flinders Chase National Park. The nearest place to pick up any food, sullies or fuel is in Vivonne Bay 40km away.
Where to Stay for Flinders Chase National Park
There’s not a huge amount of accommodation at the western end of Kangaroo Island. I stayed at the Western KI Caravan & Wilderness Reserve which is only 3km from the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park. The caravan park here was almost entirely devastated by the bushfires, but they are rebuilding. There are cabins available as well as plenty of powered and unpowered sites for caravans and campers. I loved my stay here because we saw so much wildlife. There were koalas in the trees we camped under, we saw kangaroos, wallabies, possums, cape barren geese, many birds (including spoonbills) even a big snake.
Looking for more Kangaroo Island content? Try these
Visiting Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
Best Kangaroo Island Wineries
The Ultimate List of What to do on Kangaroo Island
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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.