How to Get to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide

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You’ve read all of the reviews, admired the Instagram photos and have now decided that Kangaroo Island is in your future. The big question is how to get to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide. Here are all of the options.

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If you’re planning a trip to Kangaroo Island, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is how to get there.

Fortunately, there are a few different options available to you, depending on your budget and travel preferences.

In this post, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about getting from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, including the different modes of transportation available, their pros and cons, and tips for making your journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, we hope this guide will help you plan your trip to Kangaroo Island with ease.

What you Need to Know About Kangaroo Island Before You Go

Kangaroo Island  is the third largest island off the coast of Australia. It is well known for its abundance of Australian wildlife, stunning coastal scenery and incredible local produce.

The total Kangaroo Island population is about 4 500 people, most of them living in either Kingscote or Penneshaw, the two largest towns on the island. Each year over 140 000 people visit to enjoy the unique Kangaroo Island attractions

Fun fact – the Aboriginal name for Kangaroo Island is Karta Pintingga, which means Island of the Dead. Aboriginal people did not inhabit the island once it was separated from the mainland about 10 000 years ago.

Where is Kangaroo Island in Australia?

Kangaroo Island is located in South Australia, southwest of Adelaide in the mouth of the St Vincent Gulf to the north, and the Great Australian Bight and Southern Ocean to the south.

At the nearest point Kangaroo Island is about 13km from the mainland.

Kangaroo Island Map

How Far is Kangaroo Island from Adelaide?

While it is only about 120km from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, to get from Adelaide to Kingscote by road is almost 185km and takes around three and a half hours, excluding the time taken waiting for the ferry.

If you have the time, a nice addition to the drive down to Cape Jervis is the Route 31 Coastal Drive along the Fleurieu Peninsula.

How Big is Kangaroo Island?

Kangaroo Island is bigger than many people imagine. It’s around 150km from end to end and about 50km wide at the widest point.

There is over 500km of roads on the island and the Kangaroo Island road conditions often mean slower driving on gravel roads, so it’s important to realise it can take longer to get around than may be assumed.

How Long to Stay on Kangaroo Island?

While it is possible to do a day trip to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide, if you have the time I recommend at least staying overnight. To really have time to look around, here are my suggestions

  • 3 days – you will see the highlights
  • 5 days – you will have time to explore the whole island and this is the recommended 5-day itinerary
  • 7 days – you can see the whole island and have time to relax at some of the locations (eg: spend an afternoon laying on a beach) or do some of the longer hikes.

How to Choose the Best Way to Travel to Kangaroo Island

When deciding which of these options is the best way to get from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, here are some of the things to consider

  • How are you going to get around on Kangaroo Island – self drive is popular since there is little in the way of public transport to facilitate getting around.
  • Do you need to rent a car? If so, are you going to rent it from Adelaide or pick it up on Kangaroo Island?
  • Are you doing a tour? If so, where is it leaving from?
  • What sort of Kangaroo Island accommodation are you looking for? Will you need a caravan or a camper?
  • Are you bringing a pet? (I don’t recommend it if you have an option. Much of the island is national park which pets cannot be taken into)
  • What is your budget?
  • How much time do you have?
  • How many people are you travelling with?

How to Get to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide

Once you have taken the above into consideration, here are the options for getting to Kangaroo Island

Drive to Cape Jervis, Car Ferry to Kangaroo Island

This is the most popular option and the one I have used during my visits to Kangaroo Island.

The Kangaroo Island Sealink ferry leaves from Cape Jervis at the foot of the Fleurieu Peninsula. There are a few ferry crossings each day, depending on the demand. Summer and school holidays see the number increase.

It takes around 90 minutes to drive to Cape Jervis, and you will need to be here at least half an hour before the ferry leaves, which makes those 6am crossings look less attractive.

The Kangaroo Island ferry takes all kinds of vehicles, including caravans and RVs. The process is very simple. On arrival, join one of the lines of vehicles and go and check in.

During boarding, only the driver is allowed in the vehicle, passengers must board via the gangway. Most vehicles are reversed onto the ferry, but there are some options if this is a problem.

Once the vehicle is in place the driver can the join the passengers on the top deck, sit back and enjoy the 45 minute crossing. The ferry has a small cafe on board for snacks and drinks if you would like them. Pets are allowed on this ferry.

Find your ferry tickets here

Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island Ferry for Foot Passengers

While there used to be an extra ferry just for foot passengers, this is no longer an option and the SeaLink ferry mentioned above also works as a passenger ferry. Just book for passengers without a vehicle.

If you are travelling to Kangaroo Island for a particular event, look out for special deals for the ferry as they are often packaged with the event tickets.

Something to consider if you are not taking a vehicle to Kangaroo Island is the weather. Occasionally ferries get cancelled or delayed due to high winds and rough seas.

Sometimes flights can be more reliable – but they are also more expensive and run less often.

Flights to Kangaroo Island

If you are short on time or are arriving into South Australia on a flight from interstate or overseas, it is possible to fly directly to Kangaroo Island, landing at the airport at Kingscote.

Flights are currently offered from Adelaide Airport only by Qantaslink, with five or six flights a week, but more during busy seasons.

It’s a short 40 minute hop over to the Kingscote Airport from Adelaide, where you can pick up a hire car or meet with your tour guide. Take a moment too to check out the art exhibitions the airport often has on.

Find your best flights using Skyscanner

Taking a Tour to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide

There are many options for Kangaroo Island tours from Adelaide. They range from day trips to trips that last for a few days. Here are some suggestions:

  • Kangaroo Island Day Trip from Adelaide – this long sixteen hour day includes transport from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island on a coach via the ferry. You will visit Seal Bay, have lunch, then explore the iconic sites in Flinders Chase National Park like Remarkable Rocks.
  • Day Trip from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island – another sixteen hour tour, this one is all about wining and dining. You will start with transfers from Adelaide, then enjoy wine tasting, gin tasting, a visit to the Eucalyptus distillery, a Kangaroo Island honey farm and the Raptor Domain. Lunch is also included.
  • Two Day Kangaroo Island Trip – this tour combines both of the above tours into one, so that you can experience both the nature and culinary delights of the island. It includes three different accommodation choices.

Coach Transport to Cape Jervis

I recommend self-drive as it will give you autonomy to see more attractions and get off the neaten track. But if driving is not an option for you, then there are still ways to see Kangaroo Island without booking a tour leaving from Adelaide.

You can book transfers from Adelaide to the Cape Jervis ferry terminal by coach. If you have a larger group, booking a driver could also be an option. The coach is run by SeaLink themselves to co-ordinate with the ferry times and it can be booked at the same time as the ferry tickets.

Car hire is available on Kangaroo Island from right near the ferry terminal if you would like to create your own self-drive itinerary. Alternatively, take a look at the tours below, many of which will also meet you at the ferry terminal.

Tours Starting on Kangaroo Island

Once on Kangaroo Island, you can book some local day tours to experience all the best Kangaroo Island attractions. Here are some suggestions

Kangaroo Island Car Hire

One of the big questions is whether to hire a car in Adelaide and use it for your whole trip or whether to pick up a rental car once your arrive on Kangaroo Island. Both options have their pros and cons. Here are a few things to think about

  • Picking up a car in Adelaide will mean you have transport to the ferry terminal in Cape Jervis
  • Rental cars can be picked up from both the Kangaroo Island Airport and the Penneshaw Ferry Terminal.
  • Some car rental companies do not allow you to take the car over water, so by taking it to Kangaroo Island you will be breaching those terms.
  • Some rental companies will waive the no unsealed roads requirement if the car is rented on Kangaroo Island
  • Cars that are hired on Kangaroo Island cannot be taken to the mainland

With these things in mind, research your Kangaroo Island car rental options to find the best matched for your needs.

Click here to compare prices of multiple car rental companies in one search of RentalCars.com

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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About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. 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.