Ideas for Your Kangaroo Island Shore Excursions

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Have you booked a South Australian cruise? Looking for ideas for your Kangaroo Island shore excursions? I’m going to give you some ideas for tours, short excursions, or just things to do on your own for your Kangaroo Island shore day.

As an Adelaide local, I’ve been over to Kangaroo Island multiple times now, and it’s a great place to spend a few days. When visiting Kangaroo Island on a cruise ship though, you only have a few hours to experience the incredible wildlife, food and scenic attractions.

Here are some suggestions that will help you make the most of your time on Kangaroo Island, and have you planning a trip back again soon.

Featured image photo credit: Robyn Field, Volendam Ship, Kangaroo Island

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When you arrive at Kangaroo Island, you will disembark by tender at the ferry terminal in the town of Penneshaw. Take this into consideration when planning your day.

Plan an Organised Day Tour

A koala sitting in a tree looking at the camera
Photo credit: Tourism Australia/ South Australian Tourism Commission, Exceptional Kangaroo Island, Kangaroo Island

This is perhaps the easiest of the options, but it is likely also the most expensive. It means you don’t have to plan anything yourself, which can be nice, but it also means you are restricted to only the things included on the tour.

That means this will be the perfect option for some people, and not-so-perfect for others.

Often there are some great tours available through the cruise company, but they do tend to get booked out or sometimes are much more expensive than the ones offered independently.

You might also like to consider if you would like to go on a group tour with others from the cruise or a private tour with just your own family/friends.

Kangaroo Island Wildlife & Scenery Tours

Some huge granite boulders sitting on a clifftop with the colours of sunrise
Photo credit: Tourism Australia, Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island

There are two main types of tours that are available on KI – wildlife & scenery tours or food & wine tours.

If you have done any research about Kangaroo Island, it is likely that you have seen a photo of the iconic Remarkable Rocks in the Flinders Chase National Park. A visit here, including other attractions such as Admirals Arch, is on almost every wishlist.

It’s important to note though, that it takes around two hours to drive from Penneshaw to the Remarkable Rocks.

The drive is, in my opinion, not the most picturesque, so keep that in mind when you are looking into these tours. I often see comments from people who found this a little tedious or unexpected so want to prepare you.

My recommended option if you want to go to Flinders Chase National Park is this tour from Kangaroo Island Trails. They will meet you right at the end of the jetty and head straight down to the western end of the island.

On the way back you will also stop in to Seal Bay to see the sea lions lounging on the beach there.

This tour has a maximum group size of 24 people, and they will work within the times the cruise ship sets.

Kangaroo Island Food & Wine Tours

Two glasses of wine on a table overlooking the ocean.
The views from the balcony of Dudley Wines

Kangaroo Island has become a real foodie destination with some fantastic producers opening up to visitors – and the best part is they are located on the eastern end of the island, so less driving and more tasting!

The food and wine tour I recommend is also run by Kangaroo Island Trails. It takes in a little bit of everything, from learning about the Ligurian bees and tasting lavender ice cream to drinking the local wine and gin.

You will again meet your tour at the end of the jetty and be returned there at the end of the tour.

As with all tours, please read the cancellation terms carefully, remembering these are run by a small local business.

More Full-Day Tour Options

While these two tours are the most popular of the shore excursions, there are plenty of other options if they don’t suit you. Here are some other tour companies you can look at, with some of their offerings

Kangaroo Island Tours & Bus Charters

A range of tours including a Dudley Peninsula tour, a tour just to Seal Bay and a Wine tour.

Kangaroo Island Escapes

Interesting options here include transfers to Kingscote and back if you would just like to enjoy a day exploring there. There are also some private tours available.

Exceptional Kangaroo Island

Offer a range of luxury small group tours of will do private tours just for your group of family and friends.

Rent a Car to Explore

A white car driving along a pave road between trees that bend over the top, almost creating a tunnel
Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Penneshaw Scenic Drive, Kangaroo Island

Renting a car on Kangaroo Island is a great way to spend your shore day. It will give you the flexibility to see exactly what you are interested in on the island.

You will find driving here very easy as there is not much traffic, so even if you are not used to driving on the left, this is a good place to try for the first time. Stick to the highways and you can’t get too lost.

Rental cars on Kangaroo Island are not cheap and there is a limited supply – after all, it is an island – so I recommend you book as soon as you decide you would like to take up this offer.

The cars are available right near the ferry terminal where you will come ashore, so pickup is convenient.

I recommend booking your car through RentalCars.com, where you can compare all available vehicles in one search.

Three sea lions sitting on the beach near the ocean.
A few of the locals soaking up the sun at Seal Bay

Now that you have your rental car, where are you going to go?

Well, the island is now your oyster, you are constrained only by the time you need to be back to the ship but do remember the drive times.

Here are just a few ways you can spend the day:

  • For wildlife experiences visit Seal Bay, Raptor Domain, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park or do a Koala Walking Tour.
  • For history visit the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, Kingscote and Parndarna
  • For wine tasting (but not for the driver) there are five cellar doors on KI to visit.
  • For beer or spirits visit Kangaroo Island Spirits for gin tasting or blending classes, or Kangaroo Island Brewery for beer. You can also pick up beer from Drunken Drone Brewery in various places on the island, including the ferry terminal.
  • For local produce visit Millie Mae’s Pantry, Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, The Oyster Farm Shop, Clifford’s Honey Farm, Emu Bay Lavender Farm, Kangaroo Island Coffee Roasters, The Marron Cafe, Kangaroo Island Wool, The Island Beehive – just to start with.
  • For adventure go to Little Sahara and indulge in some quad-biking or sandboarding
  • For amazing beaches, you could go almost anywhere on KI, but some of the best are at Vivonne Bay, Emu Bay and Stokes Bay
Two people sitting at a table in the middle of a forest.
Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, The Enchanted Fig Tree, Kangaroo Island

If your cruise ship happens to dock on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, you can book yourself in for a very special lunch at The Enchanted Fig Tree.

This gastronomic experience is a set menu at 12:30 pm, served under the branches of a 200-year-old Morton Bay Fig tree and only runs during the warmer months, which coincides nicely with the cruise ship schedule.

Spend the Day in Penneshaw

An aerial view over a small bay with a breakwater creating a protected area for a ferry terminal
Photo credit: Angus Chan, Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island

If you don’t want to venture further afield, there are some things to do right where you dock in Penneshaw. There is enough here to keep you occupied for most of the day at a relaxed pace, especially if you enjoy the outdoors.

Here are some of the things to do:

Explore Penneshaw

Okay, this one won’t take you too long, Penneshaw is not very big (population around 250). But if you have been on the cruise ship at sea, this is a great way to stretch those legs and get your bearings.

Browse the Penneshaw Markets

On cruise ship days (and the first Sunday of the warmer months) the Penneshaw Markets are set up right in the centre of town. If the weather is not great, they may move to the town hall.

Walk the Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail

A large rock at the beginning of a path with a sign on it saying "Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail"
The start of the sculpture trail

There are 1.5km of trails through the area overlooking Hogs Bay making up the Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail. Along the trail are numerous sculptures – with more added every year – and a fun swing bridge over the ravine.

Hike up Ironside Hill

For a longer hike, follow the old bullock trail inside Baudin Conservation Park along the coast towards the east until you reach the ruins of the cottage of Henry Bates. Along the way enjoy great views over Backstairs Passage. The hike is a little over 4km return.

Visit the Penneshaw Maritime & Folk Museum

This small museum is located in the original Hogs Bay School building and it gives an overview of life in years gone by in this little island town. The museum is open from 9:30 am until 2:30 pm on cruise ship days.

Have a Meal at the Local

An outside area of a pub with tables, chairs and umbrellas. There is a view over the sea
Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Penneshaw Hotel, Kangaroo Island

Call into the Penneshaw Hotel and enjoy a leisurely lunch with views over the water. if the pub is not for you, try one of the other eateries in town.

Join in on the Ngarrindjeri Walk Kangaroo Island

Learn a little about the Indigenous culture of the Kangaroo Island area with a 45-minute walk with Kool Tours. You will see some sites of significance and learn some of the history of the local Ngarrindjeri people.

Take an Ocean Safari

This is probably one of the best things to do in Penneshaw – join one of the fabulous short boat tours from Kangaroo Island Ocean Safaris to meet some of the local dolphins and seals and all sorts of other sea life.

You can choose a simple boat ride, or you can instead join the dolphins and seals in the water with a snorkel tour.

Relax on Penneshaw Beach

The beach here is wide and shallow, just a stone’s throw away from the ferry terminal. If you have some time at the end of the day, grab a towel and pull up some sand while watching the world go by.

Try the KI Produce at Millie Mae’s Pantry

The front of a rustic cafe
Photo credit: Meaghan Coles, Millie Mae’s Pantry, Kangaroo Island

If you can’t get to all of the produce cellar doors all over the island, drop into Millie Mae’s Pantry right here in Penneshaw to taste some of the best and pick up a souvenir or two to take home.

Hire an E-Bike and Get Out of Town

If you want to explore the surrounding area, you can hire an E-Bike for the day from Seafront Connect and head out on two wheels.

Hints & Tips for Your Kangaroo Island Shore Day

While Kangaroo Island is an incredible place to visit – it is the #2 Best Region in the World to visit in 2024 according to Lonely Planet – there are a few things to remember to make your shore day here memorable for all the right reasons.

KI is Bigger Than You Think

At 155km long and up to 55km wide, Kangaroo Island is a similar size to Long Island in the US or Bali in Indonesia so it does take some time to explore.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can see everything in your one day here, instead choose one or two things that appeal to you most and enjoy that rather than rushing around.

The front of a rustic building with a sign saying Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery. There is a black kelpie dog sitting in front of it. To the side amongst some trees is the front of an old rusted out vehicle
Photo credit: Kangaroo Island Tourism Alliance, Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, Kangaroo Island

KI has a Small Population

There are only around 4500 people living on the whole island, and while many of them are involved in the tourism industry, many more have “normal” day jobs to do while you are visiting.

So 2000-3000 people descending on the island all at once can mean that tours are sold out, rental cars are unavailable and restaurants are busy. Take this into consideration when you are booking and when you are dealing with the locals.

There is Not Much Phone Reception

You will probably only get phone reception at the eastern end of Kangaroo Island in the main towns. There is a chance you will have it elsewhere (I had phone reception at Remarkable Rocks once, apparently coming from Yorke Peninsula) but don’t rely on it.

Take this into consideration if you are driving and download the offline maps.

You will also need to make sure you purchase your Flinders Chase Parks Pass before you lose reception if you are heading there.

A child in a yellow jacket sandboarding down a sand hill
Photo credit: Megan Crabb, Little Sahara Adventure Centre, Kangaroo Island

KI is Still Recovering From the 2019/20 Bushfires

While most things are back up and running, occasionally you will come across some things that have not yet been fully repaired.

For example, the new visitors centre at Flinders Chase National Park is not completed, and Kelly Hill Caves has not reopened. As just as I publish this, the stunning Southern Ocean Lodge is just days away from reopening.

I hope this will help you have the best day on Kangaroo Island
It’s only scratched the surface though
To find more things to do, read these posts next
The Ultimate List of What to Do on Kangaroo Island
A Day in Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island
5 Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary

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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.