Dubbed the Galapagos of Australia, Kangaroo Island is a remote and natural wonderland for Australian wildlife, with striking natural landscapes and hardly a manmade structure in sight. Unlike it’s Ecuadorian counterpart, the beauty of Kangaroo Island is extremely accessible, with the South Australian mainland only 15 kilometers away.
Families need not be deterred by the journey, ferry crossing or the distances to cover on Kangaroo Island. With a little planning and a few road trip tips and tricks we discovered the magnificent attractions of Kangaroo Island were easily manageable even with kids aged 2 and 5 in tow.
Magnificent Kangaroo Island attractions within easy reach of Adelaide
Kangaroo Island or KI as locals would call it, abounds with Australian flora and fauna. Kids are able to stroll on glimmering beaches where sea lions play, splash in sheltered rock pools, catch Blue Wren’s darting between flower shrubs, feed kangaroos and scramble up giant boulders that are truly remarkable. All this, within easy reach of Adelaide.
MenuJump straight to topic
- 1 Take a Seal Bay Walk
- 2 Climb Remarkable Rocks
- 3 Explore Admirals Arch
- 4 Stroll Vivonne Bay
- 5 Swim at Stokes Bay
- 6 Play at Kingscote
- 7 Sample farm fresh oysters
- 8 Check out tanks of tasty Marron
- 9 See busy KI honey bees & taste honey ice cream
- 10 Watch a sunset from a winery
- 11 Spot elusive Penguins
Getting to Kangaroo Island with kids
By car + ferry
It’s a 1 hour and 40 minutes drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis, followed by a 45 minute ferry crossing. Once on the island, depending on where you are staying there maybe a further 1-2 hour drive to reach your accommodation. The key in minimising kids protests is to break the travel day up into smaller drives and plan where you stay.
Allow 3-4 hours to get to Kangaroo Island with kids. We took half a day, going slow and stopping along the way.
For approximately $268 return each person including kids – yikes. That’s before the hire car costs on the island or organised tour. Click here for weekly flight schedule and fares.
The road trip from Adelaide to Cape Jervis
The drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis takes you through beautiful South Australian scenery, winding green roadways, gentle hills and maple tree lined streets. Whilst there are a few routes to Cape Jervis, we went via Adelaide Hills stopping off for lunch at the quaint German town of Hahndorf before continuing to the southern tip of the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, where the ferry awaits. This journey takes just under 2 hours.
Detour to Hahndorf a historic German town
A 30 minute detour East of Adelaide to Hahndorf offers scenes of vine-planted hillsides and pastures with grazing cows. The narrow road winds its way through Adelaide Hills where in Autumn the deciduous trees show’s off vibrant hues of red and gold.
The maple trees planted by the first Lutheran German settlers, line the main street of Hahndorf the oldest German settled town in Australia.
The heritage buildings once home to German shopkeepers and business men have since been restored as restaurants or shops selling kitschy german inspired souvenirs, gifts or german produce. It’s handy to know that if you forgot to pick up your beer stein in Munich, you can conveniently grab one here.
The main street invites families to stroll along, where shopfront windows entice families in with dangling wooden Pinnochio’s, rows of hand made Mettwurst and delectable packages of smoked seafood. Afterwards, historic Hahndorf Inn offers a tasty German feast in a relaxed kid friendly setting.
After lunch drop into Beerenberg Farm where kids can watch jams and relishes being bottled or they can pick their own strawberries in the strawberry fields. For the parents a short drive away in the Adelaide Hills is home to charming wineries that offer a decent drop.
Direct driveAdelaide to Cape Jervis
The direct route to Cape Jervis is slightly quicker shaving 10 minutes off the journey by taking the Southern Expressway (M2) which connects to Mains Rd.
This route runs along the coast of St Vincents Gulf, where you can drop into iconic South Australian seaside towns of Glenelg, Christies Beach, Port Noarlunga, or Maslin Beach along the way. With a journey time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Taking the car on the Kangaroo Island Ferry
SeaLink Kangaroo Island operates the passenger and car ferry service from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island.
SeaLink Kangaroo Island Ferry timetable
SeaLink provides ferry services throughout the day with a slightly reduced timetable during winter months of July and August. See the SeaLink ferry timetables for ferry times to and from Kangaroo Island.
Cape Jervis, SeaLink terminal open hours are from 8.00 AM – 7.00 PM daily September-April and 8.00 AM – 6.00 PM daily from May-August. Closed on Christmas Day.
The ferry crossing takes 45 minutes, passengers are are required to be at the ferry terminal 30 minutes prior to departure.
SeaLink Kangaroo Island Ferry prices
If the distance does not deter you from heading to Kangaroo Island with kids, then perhaps the ferry costs might. Ferry tickets are priced per passenger and taking the car is an additional cost and unfortunately prices are quite high.
- An adult Kangaroo Island ferry ticket costs $98 return ($94 if booking online).
- A child Kangaroo Island ferry ticket costs $50 return ($46 if booking online). Children aged 3 years – 14 years are charged a child fare. Infants aged 0 – 2 years old are free of charge.
- To take a car (Passenger Motor Vehicle up to 5 meters in length) on the Kangaroo Island ferry costs $194 ($186 if booking online).
- To take a caravan or trailer on the Kangaroo Island ferry costs $194 return if it’s 4 meters or under.
- Separate charges applies to caravans and trailers over 4 meters as well as motor cycles, kayaks and surfboards.
For two adults and two kids (4 passengers) and a standard car the ferry costs $466 return. Prices as of April 2015. Check out SeaLink Fares for up to date ticketing information.
Kangaroo Island ferry discounts
- Combine ferry and accommodation with SeaLink
Most of the accommodation option on Kangaroo Island are listed with SeaLink, by booking both the ferry tickets and accommodation with SeaLink provides for a package discount as well as some inclusions from a free jar of honey, bonus nights stay or free afternoon tea. It’s worth checking out, we had researched a few options and found a small discount by booking on site.Keep an eye on SeaLink promotions. Alternatively, you can book your accommodation separately and request the discounted rate direct with the accommodation provider.
- Entertainment Book
The Entertainment Book for South Australians provided 25% discount off any return passenger ferry for up to four people. Discount as of April 2015. Located on Page number F73 or search the Entertainment Book here.
- RACV discount
Victorians with a RACV membership receive a 10% Kangaroo Island ferry discount. You must pre-purchase online with RACV here and then call SeaLink reservations with your RACV reference number to make your advanced booking.
- RAA discount
Occasionally the South Australian motor club, RAA offers discount on the Kangaroo Island ferry. Although at the time of writing, no discounts applied it’s worth checking out as they’ve been known to offer a 10% discount for members.
How the Kangaroo Island ferry works with kids
Book Kangaroo Island ferry tickets ahead of time
To save time, pre-book your ferry tickets online or by calling SeaLink on 13 13 01 (open 7 days from 7:30am – 7:30pm) and highly recommended if you are taking your vehicle.
Ferry tickets are available at the SeaLink ferry terminal however it’s encouraged to pre-purchase to secure your spot on the right ferry, this also reduced delays to the service. For pedestrians going on foot it’s a little easier as there are no cars to organise onboard.
All passengers are required to arrive at the ferry 30 minutes prior to departure.
Driving the car onboard
Once you reach Cape Jervis ferry terminal, vehicles will be directed to one of the four lanes where you park the car before checking-in at the terminal.
You can park your vehicle in the marked waiting lanes to check-in at the SeaLink ferry terminal front desk. Have with you a printed booking number for check-in. Staff will then issue your family their boarding passes. Only one person needs to collect boarding passes. Other’s can stretch their legs outside the terminal and make good use of the toilet facilities. Although there are toilets onboard.
Ferry check-in involves ones person to drive car onto ferry
A driver of the car is required to drive the vehicle onto the ferry whilst the other family members board via the passenger ramp. Drivers a directed by the ferry staff.
This means that one solo parent embarks with the kids whilst the other drives the car. Bring the kids entertained whilst you wait to depart i.e water bottle, a few snacks or colouring in book. The rest can be brought up with the driver of the car if needed.
Prams can be wheeled onboard via the accessible ramps. There are spots to park a pram or stroller, though if you are seated along the side of the ferry the pram will need to be collapsed once onboard.
With kids aged 2 and 5 years, I used a baby carrier for the 2 year old in order to be hands free this allowed me to present boarding passes, hold my 5 year olds hand and carry a bag. It would have been manageable without a carrier, just a bit slower.
Comfortable seating once onboard – brings some snacks for the wait
SeaLink operates two ferries one is slightly smaller than the other. However both have plenty of comfortable seating onboard including passenger chairs with tables handy to rest snacks on and play games. There are also longer rows of seats at the front of the main deck and the upper deck for larger groups.
Things to do onboard the Kangaroo Island ferry
Once on-board there is enough to do to keep kids pre-occupied for the 45 minute crossing. Kids can head up to the top deck to experience the wind in their hair and look out for the elusive dolphins in the bay, we did not spot any. Bring a jumper or jacket as it is a bit chilly. They can also walk around the large ferry which is what was most fascinating for the 2 year old, exploring it’s nooks and crannies.
A cafe onboard serves conveniences including today’s newspaper, hot tea and coffee, light snacks including cakes, sandwiches and pastries, pasties, meat pies and sausage rolls. Prices are reasonable, coffee was $3.80, cold drinks $3.60 and a meat pie $4.00. The cafe is also licensed and wines are $6.50 by the glass and beer $5.50. (Prices as of April 2015).
Word of warning, there is a tempting ice-cream fridge just at the eye-level of little kids. If you didn’t bring your own forms of entertainment, the cafe sells colouring in packs for $3.50. Also onboard are toilets with baby change facilities and several flat screen TV’s with free to air channels.
Disembarking the Kangaroo Island ferry
Similarly when disembarking the Kangaroo Island ferry, the family remains behind as the driver is called downstairs to drive the car off the ferry. Pack everything away to be put back into the car except for coats if it’s chilly outside, as there is a slight walk. It’s also a good time to have everyone go to the restrooms.
Once the ferry anchors and passengers can disembark via ramp, walk approximately 50 meters to the designated passenger pick up zone on the left hand side. Exercise caution crossing the roads as there are some cars whizzing off the ferry. To add to the confusion, some cars stop on the right hand side (which is more convenient) however causes road blockage. There’s no chance the car will miss you as it’s directly up the hill from the ferry.
Where to stay on Kangaroo Island with kids
Kangaroo Island is big! At 155 km’s in length and 55 km wide, it’s the third largest island off the coast of Australia, covering 4,416 square kilometers. There are a variety of accommodation options from resorts, hotels, motels, caravan and campsites and different regions to stay.
Map of Kangaroo Island
Self contained on Kangaroo Island is best for families
For our family with two young kids, we preferred the self contained option when staying on Kangaroo Island with kids. With limited restaurant options on KI, dining-in is easier than having to go out for every meal, this way the kids can have breakfast in their pajamas before starting the day. Having separate bedrooms means that we were able to relax, spread out, enjoy the views and break open a few bottles of red that we brought over from the Barossa and Adelaide Hills.
Penneshaw is the first stop for visitors arriving on the ferry and offers beautiful vistas of the Backstair Passage. Home to a small IGA supermarket and a handful of shops and eateries including the renovated Penneshaw Hotel. It’s a sleepy little seaside town where you don’t feel that you’re compromising on Kangaroo Islands natural beauty for the proximity to the ferry and amenities.
The local beach of Hog Bay in Penneshaw is safe for swimming, however the water is on the frigid side with water coming straight from Antarctica.
There appears to be a resident family of bottle nose dolphins in Hog Bay, for our family they remained ever elusive. You can try your luck at the Penneshaw Penguin Information Centre, where guided tours operate at dusk. The night tour provides visitors an educational video and discussion before going for a walk along the boardwalks around the penguin rookery. The demise of the penguin population means that they are no longer the icon of Penneshaw and are quite rare to find.
Penneshaw offers easy access to the Dudley Peninsula area attractions including: Antechamber Bay, Cape Willoughby Lighthouse and Dudley Wines.
To maximise your stay in Penneshaw, pick a place with a view to the ocean as the sunsets are glorious, be mindful of the ones near the cliffs as most are unfenced.
We chose Penneshaw
We chose Penneshaw based on cost during peak season, proximity to amenities and the ferry.
The ferry times during our stay had a influence on why we chose Penneshaw. Our ferry arrived in the late afternoon, rather than driving an additional hour to the North Coast and then unpack, we chose to be minutes from where we were staying so that the kids were fed and in bed at a reasonable hour after a big day trip from Adelaide.
Our return ferry was scheduled for 8.30am, which meant we had to be checked out and at the ferry terminal no later than 8am and we’re not early risers! Being based at Penneshaw minimised a long drive early in the morning and the stresses that come with getting young kids ready at those unreasonable hours.
Disadvantages to staying in Penneshaw
There are disadvantages of being based in Penneshaw. It means longer days of driving around Kangaroo Island. From Penneshaw, it takes two hours one way to reach Flinders Chase National Park where the islands big attractions are including Remarkable Rocks.
Regardless of where you are staying, be prepared to drive either to and from the ferry or around the island. It takes time to get to all the islands attractions but can be done easily by breaking up the day trip.
If staying longer than 3 nights an alternative is to split your time between the island, basing yourself on the North Coast during part of your trip and the South Coast for the other.
Family friendly places to stay in Penneshaw
We stayed at Blue Wren Beach House, perched on a hill with views of Hog Bay. The 4 bedroom tastefully decorated beach cottage had all the modern conveniences a family needs for a relaxing family holiday and ample space ideal for two families or extended families to stay and value for money. We paid $260 per nigh ($210 for 2 people + $25 each child) during peak season. There was limited availability during the busy Easter and FEASTival week and this was a decent rate for a family of four considering other available self contained properties of the same standard were higher in price.
The open kitchen and living area had great views out to the ocean and the front deck and BBQ area made a nice spot to watch the sunset. It’s close enough to see the ferry coming in from the mainland. The cottage also had a laundry, outdoor clothesline and very spacious paved backyard.
There were a few quirky things about the Blue Wren Beach House, one was the heating and cooling system. Whilst the main living area had a reverse cycle air conditioning system. The bedrooms did not have any heating or cooling available and KI gets quite chilly at night. There was one oil heater shared between three bedrooms.
Though refurbished, the cottage keeps it’s traditional layout where a very small bathroom and separate toilet is situated at the back of the home near the laundry, a distance away from the main bedrooms. One of the bedrooms is more of an adjoining room to the main bedroom. This was ideal for us with little kids but maybe not so much for families with older children.
For further details see Blue Wren Beach House.
A great country kitchen with everything you need for a family in KI including a cosy fireplace for those cool nights. The price during peak season was reasonable and advertises rates from $185 per night during peak season for a family for four.
It’s the closest of the three accommodations listed minutes walk to the beach and township. The home has two separate living areas and a modern kitchen with clean lines. With all your modern conveniences such as TV, DVD and stereo as well as combustion heater for the nights.
Set further back from Hog Bay on top of the hill is Thorn on the Park a beautiful residence tastefully decorated in a more rural setting. The cosy home is lined with artworks and books and sleeps up to 6 guests with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The bedrooms have split system A/C which means the kids won’t get too cold at night.
The home has a kitchen with european appliances and a fenced balcony overlooking Penneshaw Harbour. It looks almost too pretty to bring the kids, but Tripadvisor has rave reviews from families and kids appear to be welcomed, with a queen bed that can be split into two. Prices are from $250 per night for a family of four with a minimum of 3 night stay, a week during school holidays.
Other regions to stay on Kangaroo Island with kids
There are other great areas to stay on Kangaroo Island with careful consideration of location (avoiding cliff tops and edges), proximity to amenities and budget here are the top picks:
Kingscote – a central base
Kingscote is the main town and commercial hub on Kangaroo Island and has everything a family needs on their holiday including including restaurants, pubs, take-away shops, a full line supermarket, a bakery, banks, medical centre and the local hospital. The town is pretty enough and is one of the main areas visitors stay in. The big reason to stay is to be in a town.
Where the ferry drops you off Kingscote is a 45 minute drive away and a ideal place to be based on the island where you are close enough to the areas attractions and have easy access to amenities. Unlike, Penneshaw which sits out on its own Peninsula. Kingscote is part of the main Island, a base here means saving 30-45 minutes travel time and not having to to traverse Pennington Bay to return home. Kingscote is also a short drive (30 minutes) from Emu Bay and close enough to the North Coasts great swimming beaches.
There are plenty of fresh local seafood, meat and artisan products such as wine, cheese and honey and can be found in Kingscote.
Kingscote is located on Nepean Bay has a rugged coastline with sheltered moorings for boats and a large jetty to fish off. It’s rubbish for swimming, the best beaches are located on the North or South Coast of the Island. Bay of Shoals is a short drive away to look out on the harbour where boats and yachts anchor.
Family friendly places to stay in Kingscote
There aren’t many comfortable, clean, modern yet affordable family friendly accommodation options in Kingscote compared with Penneshaw. Amongst the ones found that were nicely furbished charged a steep price during peak periods. Here are the pick of the bunch:
A short drive (1km) from Kingscote lies the Admirals Inn a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom self-contained house set in a beautiful cottage garden. Sleeping up to 5 guests, it has all the facilities a family needs for a short stay on KI. Whilst it isn’t a modern property with all the latest mod cons, the home is comfortable, clean, sun-lit and very cozy. There’s a lovely little back deck complete with BBQ and a little yard and laundry area ideal for families.
Prices are from $226 per family of four during peak season.
Built in 2012, the architect designed modern 4 bed 1 bath home, is located 5 minutes from the main hub of Kingscote. Furnished with flatscreen TV
Bright and spacious with a fenced balcony that overlooks the Kingscote Foreshore, the home is a few minutes drive (or a short walk) to the shops and tidal pool. Furnished with a coffee machine, ipdo docking station, flat screen TV, Blue Ray and CD player a nice touch is they provide all the dishwashing, laundry liquids and even coffee pods.
Downstairs, there is a lovely modern kitchen and deck leading out to an enclosed BBQ area and outdoor shower. There is also a wood heater for cool nights, this is the only heating to the house and may have the same problem as we had at Blue Wren where the bedrooms were quite chilly at night. Prices are from $240 per night during peak periods.
Situated right in the middle of Kingscote, moments from shops and places to eat. The Aurora Ozone Hotel is a hassle free option and a good family base. As it’s a hotel, there is a restaurant, pub, pool, gym and sauna attached to the property.
The two bedroom townhouses are clean and modern sleeping up to 6 guests and offers up the best of both worlds, you can cook your own meals as well as use the hotel facilities. The townhouses are spaced over three levels with full kitchen, laundry, bathroom and ensuite to the master. They also have a private courtyard with BBQ. There are also three bedroom townhouses, however for families with little kids bear in mind the master bedroom is located on the third level away from the the two bedrooms on the second level.
These apartments were not cheap with rates of $400+ per night during peak season. Other options at the Aurora Ozone Hotel include the Poolside Family Rooms a hotel room that has not been refurbished with a Queen bed and two single beds from $200 per night.
North Coast of Kangaroo Island
Gentle valleys of scrubland, neatly cropped paddocks and grassy plains tumble into the Indian Ocean creating impressive views of the rugged shoreline below. Between the tall cliffs are hidden coves and inlets that provide large stretches of pristine beaches with calm waters safe for kids to swim. The North Coast is also a haven for water sports such as sailing and kayaking.
Emu Bay – on a beautiful swimming beach and close enough to Kingscote
Emu Bay is a nice base for the family, with a lovely swimming beach, one that allows 4WD access. Emu Bay is positioned within easy reach to the idyllic swimming beaches of the North Coast. For me the water was still too refreshing, but I caveat that with being a Queenslander and particularly fussy about water temps. Our kids didn’t seem to mind one bit.
Chilli waters aside, Emu Bas is a great base within a short drive to some KI’s best beaches of Snellings Beach and Stokes Bay as well as the the hidden coves an inlets along the North Coast. Emu Bay is a lovely spot for families to get away from it all but still have access to local amenities.
Though the very small township of Emu Bay has no shops, it’s a 20 minute drive to pick up essentials at Kingscote. The only downside to staying in Emu Bay is that Penneshaw is a 55 minute drive away for those catching a late ferry in or a early ferry out. This is easily manageable by planning your trip and allowing some time to travel to and from the ferry terminal.
The main disadvantages of staying at Emu Bay is that it is still a 1 hour 50 minute one way journey to Remarkable Rocks and the attractions on the South Western side of the island.
Family friendly places to stay in Emu Bay
Nestled into the dunes of Emu Bay lies a Dune Escape a bright blue beach shack with two comfortable bedrooms. The beach house sleeps 6 people with the second bedroom offering a queen bed and a bunk. The home is light, bright and spacious with a lovely little kitchen that opens out to the dining area and hinterland beyond.
There is a beautiful spacious deck with BBQ for alfresco dining. A short 30 meter walk takes you to an exclusive dune look out with uninterrupted views of Emu bay. The house itself does not directly overlook, but a quick walk and you’re one of the most beautiful beaches on KI. There is a log fire for the evenings, flatscreen TV, stereo with iPod dock and DVD player.
A 4 bedroom modern two story home with panoramic views to Emu Bay with two bedrooms, a large sheltered deck, kitchen and bathroom on the top floor and a further two bedrooms downstairs there is ample space to make yourself at home.
Linen and towels are provided in this light and bright home with contemporary furnishings. Within a short walk of the jetty and the beautiful Emu Bay beach. From $220 per night for two people, each additional person is $30 per person per night. The only problem with this property is securing availability with allot of dates already booked out.
Recently built limestone home set on 5 acres of open land a little distance up the hill from Emu Bay beach lies Sea Stone Cottage. Decorated with a rustic country charm, there is still conveniences such as a microwave and flat screen TV. Not sure if there is a dishwasher though!
The two bedroom, one bathroom cottage offers two decks to admire the rural vistas. Sleeps up to 6 people and rates are from $240 per night for a family of four.
South Coast of Kangaroo Island
The dramatic rugged coastal cliff top scenery that Kangaroo Island is renowned for is found on the South Coast of Kangaroo Island with the unmissable attractions including Seal Bay, Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks.
The South Coast has beautiful white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. So beautiful that one beach along the South Coast of KI, Vivonne Bay was voted The Best Australian Beach in 2003. The beaches along the South Coast as beautiful as they are are more suitable for surfers with strong undertows, kids can nevertheless dip their toes and families can picnic with strong chances of having a stretch of the beach all to themselves.
Beautiful Vivonne Bay – South Coast
Vivonne Bay stretches for 20 kilometers with Harriet and Elanor rivers anchoring each side of the gently curving beach. The western side of the beach provides safe passage for lobster fisherman to haul in their catch at the jetty, it’s also sheltered and provides a safe area for kids to swim in. A picturesque spot to base yourself and within close proximity to the main attractions of KI.
Family friendly places to stay on the South Coast
SuperShak is a funky designed tin beach shack set amongst the native coast scrub, within a short walk to Vivonne Bay. Inside are three modern, light filled rooms (one with bunks) and a modern galley kitchen complete with dishwasher. A separate laundry, two TV’s (one of the kids) that includes Foxtel and a combustion heater provides enough comforts for a family stay on KI.
The shack can sleep up to 8 people. They prefer a 5 night minimum stay, however 2 or 3 night stay is possible with a $75 surcharge. Rates from $270 per night based on 2 person occupancy. $25 per night for each extra person. Kids under 3 years stay free.
Located on a 206 hectare bushland setting just behind the sand dune is a communal lodge. As well as dorm rooms, there are also private rooms for up to four people with share bathroom facilities. It’s camping but in more comfortable lodgings and a different style of getaway. Great value for money averaging $120 per family per night, something to consider if you want to save some money on KI. As it’s owned and operated by SeaLink there a good package deals including your ferry ticket.
Exceptionally reviewed even with families, there are great facilities including walking trails, free Wi-fi, breakfast provisions, BBQ facilities, communal lounge, microwave and free use of kayaks, sandboards and bikes if staying 2 nights or more. There is a bar on-site and BBQ provisions can be purchased for a fee. Vivonne Bay beach is a short walk away or you can paddle a kayak to the beach.
Splurge big on the the iconic and extremely luxurious Southern Ocean Lodge.
Located on the South West coast of KI are 21 understated luxurious suites offering panoramic views to Hanson Bay. Each contemporary suite is loaded with all the modern conveniences a luxurious escape entitles including: wi-fi, climate control, heated floors, inbuilt music systems, complimentary room bar, walk in robe, daybed and sunken lounge. With a decadent spa and restaurant sourcing only the finest local produce on the island, it’s a beautiful sanctuary with a more beautiful price tag, a premium suite one of the only suites that accommodates 4 people starts from $1,500 per night.
A more affordable luxury is Tammar Ridge located on the North Coast a moments from Snellings Beach. The house has been designed to take in the 360 views from the ridgetop overlooking Snellings Beach.
There are 4 bedrooms one with a double bunk and two bathrooms and sleeps upt to 10 people. The light drenched modern kitchen (with dishwasher!) opens out to the bright open living and dining area, with floor to ceiling glass doors and windows offering great ocean views. Beyond the doors lies a great outdoor deck and BBQ area.
Wi-fi, in-house movie, TV and DVD player are all provided as are tabble tennis table, fishing rods and dryer and washing machine.
This is a beautiful holiday house the location to get away from it all. However, it’s not ideal if you intend on seeing the attractions on KI. There are no shops around, Kingscote is 1 hour and 35 minutes drive away and Penneshaw is 2 hours drive for the ferry. Flinders Chase National Park and the attractions of the North Coast is 1 hour 35 minutes away. Further still Seal Bay is 2 hours away.
Not much in the centre of Kangaroo Island
It may seem logical to stay in the centre of Kangaroo Island otherwise known as the Heartlands of KI. Based in the middle means shorter travel days around the attractions of Kangaroo Island. However, there is not much apart from a few farms, flat countryside and small wineries around this area. This is not to say that it’s not worth a visit as there are a some great local producers in the area. However, it’s best to stop in on your way to or from the North or South Coast.
Getting around Kangaroo Island with kids
Self drive is best with families
Self drive is the best way to get around Kangaroo Island with kids. There is quite a bit of distance to cover around the island and having your own wheels means you go at your own pace, tailor the sights according to your families preferences and you can load the car with everything you need for a day trip around KI. You can hire before your reach KI or on the island.
Kangaroo Island entrance fees
There are a number of National Parks and attractions that require entrance fees you can choose to pay as you go or bundle it with a Kangaroo Island Pass which covers all the entrance fees and guided tours for:
Flinders Chase National Park entry
Seal Bay guided tour
Kelly Hill Show Cave tour
Cape Borda Lighthouse tour
The Kangaroo Island Pass entitles your to 12 months access, however if you are only planning to visit KI once or not intending to do all of the attractions and tours, it’s more economical to pay as you go. Click here for the latest Kangaroo Island Parks tours and entry prices.
We did one day of sight seeing at Flinders Chase National Park ($26) and the Seal Bay guided tour ($80). Totally $106 rather than the $178 for the KI Pass. Prices are based on 2 adults and 1 child as kids under 4 are free.
Kangaroo Island entrance fees can be paid at any of the attractions above or at Natural Resources Centre in Kingscote or Gateway Visitor Information Centre in Penneshaw. Click here to find out where to pay for Kangaroo Island entrance fees.
Here are the best of the best things to do on Kangaroo Island with kids:
Take a guided Seal Bay Beach walk
In the Galapagos Islands, there are no regulations for keeping a safe distance from these smelly, sleepy and adorable fur balls. If you wish you can swim with them, lie right next to them and stick your camera right in their face.
Whilst the KI guides say that keeping 10 meters distance from the Sea-Lions is for the safety of the tour group, you can’t help to think they are trying to protect the Sea-lions on Kangaroo from us intrusive humans, who have endangered their species from fish net entanglement and over-fishing in their hunting grounds.
The strong message of animal conservation coupled with the very informative Seal Bay Visitor Centre is the reason why the guided Seal Bay Beach walk is not to be missed. Passionate guides educate whilst taking enchanted groups of Sea-Lion lovers for a walk along a beautiful turquoise beach, where very handsome Australian Sea-lions bask in the soft white sand.
You may even get a chance to seem some active Sea-lions playing on the shores, on our tour a mum and her pup tumble down the sand dunes, parting our tour group in half before waddling down to splash in the waves.
Shoes are optional on the 45 minute tour, tightly run, leaving bang on time, marched single file along the dunes and fortified together by the knowledgable guide. Though little legs may need to be held in arms so not to fall behind, young kids can easily take this guided walk and encouraged to ask questions along the way.
Over 110,0000 people visit Seal Bay annually, making this a extremely popular tour. Though tours are frequent throughout the day, check out the Guided Seal Bay Experience Tour times, arrive early to purchase tickets and visit the Seal Bay Visitor Centre before embarking on a most wonderful experience with the kids.
Family tickets costs $80 (prices as of May 2015). If seeing more than three attractions, the guided Seal Bay Beach Walk tour can be included in the Kangaroo Island Pass.
A cheaper alternative is a self-guided 800 meter walk along an accessible stroller friendly boardwalk. A raised platform has been built to view some of the Sea-lion colony resting off in the distance. Family tickets cost $40. I would say the guided beach walk is a better experience if you have the time and money to spend.
Climb Remarkable Rocks
A Kangaroo Island icon, the Remarkable Rocks are impressive granite boulders that have been carved into extraordinary formations over 50 million years of westerly winds, rain and salt spray from the ocean below.
One of the major attractions on the island and part of the expansive Flinders Chase National Park is a must-see with the kids. A raised accessible boardwalk leads you through small boulders and grassy shrubs where if you might just be able to spot a beautiful Blue Wren preparing it’s nest.
Where the boardwalk ends, the fun begins for kids as they climb up the flat rocks to the precariously perched boulders above. The rocks look like pieces of art sitting 75 meters atop a rocky dome, with spectacular but heart attack inducing views of the Southern Ocean and on a clear day the Casuarina Islets.
With a safe hold of your child’s hand and more vigilance than normal, even the youngest kids will not find it hard to scamper up the flat rock on dry days. To reduce excessive heart palpitations, keep kids well away from the unfenced cliff edge and the sheer drop down by directing them to the plentiful rocks to climb on top of, hang under and even climb into.
For younger kids, a baby harness or back pack carrier is recommended to keep kids contained and better navigate the rocks. Strollers are best left behind as the rocks are uneven and unsuitable to go further than the boardwalk. There is however a platform on the western side to admire the rocks, surrounding bays and the historic Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse.
Whilst it’s best time to goto the Remarkable Rocks is during sunrise or sunset, this is a near impossible with little kids as the rocks are located on the East side of KI within the National Park and two hours drive from Penneshaw. On the up-side, these rocks do not take a bad picture and photo worthy even snapping them outside the golden hour.
Allow at least an hour to visit the Remarkable Rocks and have a toilet break either at Flinders Chase National Park Visitor Center or Admirals Arch as there are no restrooms at Remarkable Rocks.
Explore Admirals Arch
A short drive away from Remarkable Rocks within the Flinders Chase National Park is the very popular Admirals Arch. A wonderful walk taking in New Zealand fur seals and the charming Cape de Couedic Lighthouse.
Cape de Couedic Lighthouse
The historical sandstone lighthouse built in 1909 was much needed to guide ships away from treacherous Flinders Chase coast, where it had claimed 14 ships and 79 lives nearby. Save a thought for the lighthouse keepers of the day, living in remote conditions. So inaccessible was this lighthouse that supplies were winched from the ships by a horse drawn cable.
A flat, elevated boardwalk with a few connecting flights of stairs pass lovely vistas of jagged coastline, awesome waves, rugged rock pools of emerald blue waters and dark brown New Zealand fur seals resting on rocks in great numbers.
The end of the walk delivers Admirals Arch, once an ancient cave with stalactites hanging from the to roof top, the ocean waves caused the cave to erode through, forming a natural rock bridge. It provides a lovely frame for the waves crashing in the distance, the rugged rocky coast and the stalactites above. Be sure to check it out as slowly but surely the arch will erode and collapse into the ocean.
The walk is roughly 1.5 km one-way and takes 20 minutes with little ones (40 minutes return trip). Allow 1 hour to see Admirals Arch.
Stroll along stunning Vivonne Bay
Vivonne Bay has under it’s belt Australia’s Best Beach accolade with kilometers of white powdery sand and clear turquoise water. Even during peak season, besides a lone fisherman off in the distance, we had this almost flawless beach to our ourselves, making it more deserving of it’s best beach title.
Vivonne Bay is a delicious beach to dip your toes, do cartwheels or picnic on. If it wasn’t for the frigid water and the strong currents, it would be flawless. Safe and equally stunning beaches are located on Kangaroo Islands North Coast. Noteworthy beaches include Emu Bay, Snellings Beach, Hanson Bay and Island Beach.
Swim in the hidden rock pool at Stokes Bay
The first impressions of arriving at the car park of Stokes Bay is that the rocky cove was pretty, but nothing special compared to the stunning scenery of Kangaroo Island.
Just to the right of the car park lies a large wall of large rocks, a small understated “beach” sign, points curious visitors to a little rock tunnel entrance. Step through a winding passage where at times only one person can fit between tight crevices and it will lead you to the other side of the rock wall and a shimmering secret beach.
Dramatic golden sandy cliffs form a sheltered cove and a large natural break wall creates a most inviting torquoise lagoon that kids can swim safely.
The large boulders dotted along the yellow sandy cove towards the cliffs provide a space to change discreetly, rest towels and provides a little shelter from the sun.
Don’t forget to bring all the swimming gear and snacks you need for a day at the beach because nobody will want to leave this beautiful secluded spot, for the walk back through the rocky passage to retrieve any forgotten things. There are also no toilets on the beach, so be sure to toilet beforehand.
Play at Kingscote
The Kingscote Wharf is a perfect spot for kids to throw a line in and try their luck at whiting, gar fish or squid. Check out Sea Links extremely Comprehensive guide to fishing on Kangaroo Island.
Fishing rods can be hired at the Visitor Information Centre in Penneshaw and small rods cost $12 per day. Phone: 08 8553 1185 for more details and latest prices.
Bait can be purchased from the Caltex petrol station next door to the local fish and chips, 26 Telegraph Road, Kingscote or from KI Fuel Services on 10 Telegraph Road, Kingscote.
The main hub of Kangaroo Island has several attractions to keep the kids entertained. Most of the tours on the water depart from Kingscote including fishing charters, scuba diving tours, dolphin swimming and cruises of the bay.
If little kids on small boats is more effort than it’s worth, perhaps watching pelicans feed at Kingscote Wharf will? At 5pm every day the laid back Pelican Man has a informative chat about pelicans as he feeds slippery morsels of squid and fish to a eager pelicans. It coasts $5 and adult and $3 a child to toss a fish to Mr Pelican and worth a look if you’re already in the area.
Fresh seafood, hot chips and a playground
Drop in at Kingscote for a bite to eat, there are great local producers in the commercial hub of KI.
Ferguson Suppliers is a wholesale direct to public seafood supplier where you can pick up fresh seafood. There were reasonably priced rock lobsters (frozen), single scallops, prawns by the kilo or oysters by the dozen. If you didn’t seen anything at the small front shop, just ask and they can check for you.
For a hot seafood fix call in on the simple Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood and Takeaway restaurant right next to the Caltex Petrol Station which serves up no-frills fresh seafood platters, local fish, oysters by the doze and hot chips and snacks. Fresh and taste, but Queensland does the best fish n chips! Rumour has it that this place will be closing soon, check it out whilst you still can.
Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood and Takeaway address: 26 Telegraph Road, Kingscote
Just up from the Kingscote Wharf is Memorial Park playground. With ample shade, views towards the ocean and a lovely little kids playground it’s an ideal spot to enjoy the Fish n Chips and let the kids play.
Sample farm fresh Oysters
On the quite shores of American River is home to Kangaroo Island’s largest commercial oyster farm. Across the road is the The Oyster Farm Shop, the farm gate selling oysters and other local farmed shellfish shucked or cooked straight from the clean sheltered waters across the road.
The Oyster Farm Shop is open from 11am – 2:30pm daily during peak season, we arrived just before opening and there were already eager patrons waiting to sample the produce. The shop sells fresh, smoked and cooked oysters by the dozen as well as seafood platters featuring fresh grilled marron, scallops or grilled baby abalone called Abilene.
You need not worry about having a dodgy oyster here, from farm to plate, oysters are freshly shucked on premise. As for the taste, Kangaroo Island oysters are less milky and have a sweeter taste. Though not blown away by the flavour they were super fresh and it was a fun stop. For us, the Oysters Kilpatrick were tastier.
The Oyster Farm Shop is is worth a stopover for seafood lovers, the dining area is informal with a bench out the front perfect for kids to watch with their noses wrinkled as you shockingly down a oyster. There are bouys to investigte and a telephone box for kids to make pretend phone calls. This bides you ample time to sample a dozen oysters.
Prices are a little high for what you get, a dozen oysters will set you back just under $20, that’s take-away, no-frill style oysters. What you are paying for is the freshness and the farm to plate experience. Worth a quick stop for a light snack before something more substantial in Kingscote.
During FEASTival The Oyster Farm Shop were running a oyster and champagne event where guests donning waders could sample unlimited amounts of shucked oysters in the middle of the oyster farm whilst learning the oyster farming process. Not something to do with little kids, but there is that option if one person is a die hard oyster lover.
Check out tanks of tasty Marron
Marron are freshwater crayfish indigenous to Western Australia but have been farmed locally in Kangaroo Island. I feel like shouting through the rooftops that this is an essential stop for seafood lovers.
Andermel Marron is working Marron farm, winery and cafe. A large holding shed houses tanks of live marron of various edible sizes, the big ones are 400g+ which kids get a kick out of seeing.
Two Wheeler wines are also on premise for free tastings, the sparkling Shiraz is very nice.
Next door is a simple enclosed deck and cafe where you can dine on the freshly cooked Marron straight from the farm. For kids that are not inclined to shellfish, they offer a very generous serving of french fries as well as other kid friendly food options on the menu.
You may think that the taste of the Marron may be different as they are farmed by aquaculture and fed manufactured pellet. However, this does not hinder their deliciousness. The Marron is fresh, sweet and delectable. The texture is like that of a prawn with more meat like a lobster. Delicious!
Main dishes featuring Marron averages around $35-40. A seafood platter with two small marron sells for $90. Marron is charged at $50 / kilo. Fortunately the top prices are matched by top quality and taste.
See busy KI bees and sample honey ice cream
Kangaroo Island is home to the only population of Ligurian bee on earth, as KI is so remote the bees have been free of any bee disease. Some say it’s the purity of these bees that produces such fine tasting honey.
Cliffords Honey Farm
We had a slight hitch at Cliffords Honey Farm, arriving just after a influx of visitors swarmed in. The lady in the front shop seemed a bit flustered and took offense to a stuffed baby in a bee suit that was found on the floor, tutting and waving at us as if we were to blame. Still, the honey is worth false accusations, perhaps keep the kids contained in the family friendly area at the back and away from the shop.
Cliffords Honey Farm is located a little out of the way though worth a look if in the area. There’s a swing-set at the front and a educational center around the back, although a tad dated it’s filled with interesting honey making artifacts, educational exhibits, a small play area and a glass bee-hive, where you can see bees buzzing in and out of the hive.
The main shop has a variety of honey to taste and priced reasonably. Also on offer are candle products, honey and bee inspired souvenirs and gifts such as a useful honey twirler or a very kitschy tea towel that says “I am the Queen Bee”. Apart from the honey, a popular purchase is the honey ice cream, which tasted like it promised, honey on ice cream.
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery
Whilst in the neighbourhood, it’s worth dropping into the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, filled with lotions, potions and products made from native plants and eucalyptus oil. The kids will have fun with outdoor play areas, a restored carriage to ride and a resident emu to admire.
Island Beehive right in Kingscote
Another popular alternative is Island Beehive in Kingscote, offering a similar experience without a drive. There is a variety of honey products with a cafe on-site dishing up scones and coffee. They also offer at a fee an organised tour which includes: honey tasting, a guided tour of the history and honey making process and their own live bee-hive. They also have honeycomb ice-cream with rave reviews.
Watch a sunset from a KI winery
Kangaroo Island is home to a number of cellar doors and whilst they aren’t as popular as their South Australian cousins, they are worth a try in picturesque surroundings.
One vineyard offering exceptional views is the aptly named Sunset Winery where you can sample the tasting menu whilst enjoying the views of the Eastern Cove, from the tasting room or sheltered deck.
There’s a play area for the kids or they can colour on the deck (our kids choice) or play outside on terrace, with welcoming friendly staff.
Spot the elusive fairy Penguins at Penneshaw
The Penneshaw Penguin Center is a beautiful little fair penguin education centre where every night a gentleman runs guided night walks of the local fairy penguin population. After a brief show and discussion, the guide walks through the tracks of the penguin rookery located on the shores of Hog Bay trying to spot the ever elusive fair penguins.
The decline of the fairy penguins
Unfortunately numbers of fairy penguins have been dropping due to the rise of the fur seals that hunt them at dusk. It was extremely hard to find any penguins on the night we went and rather than pay the $36 family ticket, you can go on a free self guided tour to try and find them. Sadly, it seems the Penneshaw centre will be heading down the same path as the now closed Kingscote Penguin Center if the fairy penguins continue its decline.
Our 4 day self drive itinerary
How much time do you need on Kangaroo Island with kids
This was our 4 day self drive itinerary, but as you can see it really was just 2 full days allowing time to check-in and out of accommodation and the ferry crossing.
It’s important to go slow on KI with kids, this itinerary packs in the highlights but we went slow, taking plenty of breaks, coming home and chilling at night and visiting age appropriate attractions on the island. Three days is just about the minimum amount of time you can spend on the island to get a good taste, if you have more time, even better.
Stay longer and you don’t have to pack as many attractions into the day and spend more time with the family enjoying the beautiful beaches and scenery.
Arrive and settle into accommodation, explore Penneshaw town, Hog Bay and the Dudley Peninsula.
Start the day early and drive along the North Coast, covering seal Bay, Vivonne Bay. Lunch at Flinders Chase Visitor Centre then continue to Remarkable Rocks, Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and Admirals Arch. Return to Penneshaw via Andermel Marron & Cafe.
Start the day later and head to Cliffords Honey Farm, Cape Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery and American River for The Oyster Farm Shop. Lunch at Kingscote before driving to Emu Bay and Stokes Bay. Head home via Sunrise Winery on Hog Bay Road. After dinner at home, join the guided tour to spot fairy penguins at night at the Penneshaw Penguin Centre.
Check out and head back to the ferry terminal for the return crossing to the mainland.
Tips on Kangaroo Island with kids
- Bring your own supplies from the mainland
There aren’t many family friendly restaurants or dining options for that matter on KI. Whilst the main township of Kingscote has a fully stocked supermarket and a much smaller one in Penneshaw, if you aren’t planning to stay around that region it’s best to bring your baby supplies such as nappies, wipes and toiletries. As well as some groceries in a chilled Esky. When the ferry had not arrived, there were slim pickings in the Penneshaw supermarket for fresh produce such as fruit, bread or milk. The Kingscote supermarket had a better variety.
- High prices on Kangaroo Island but also quality produce
As expected from a town on a remote Island, prices are higher than back on the mainland. There are plenty of KI grown local produce to pick up for meals at home from goats yoghurt, KI farm fresh eggs, KI honey and fresh seafood.
- Locals slighty unprepared for tourists
The operators at KI may not have caught wind of just how popular the wild and wonderful Kangaroo Island is. Inundated with larger than expected crowds and a little unprepared, service was a bit hit and miss.
At the Flinders Chase Visitor Center, a couple of European tourists were not treated with the warm country hospitality that you would expect from a small island community. By the afternoon, they had “run out” of all the popular items on the menu. When the pair timidly followed up on their 40 minute wait for takeaway food, they received an abrupt “This is not McDonalds!”. Other times, some (not all) of the operators seemed to be nonchalant though not rude were not overly friendly, there just might be a reason why some people choose to live on a remote Southern Australian island away from other people. It’s worth giving the local shop owners and operators a chance to be better prepared. By no means a deterrent from visiting KI, it might be better to pack a lunch to avoid long waits, make bookings well in advance and visit service providers first thing in the morning when spirits are high and crowds are low.
Most of the magnificent major attractions of Kangaroo Island are natural, wild, untouched and void of humans.
- Bring your own linen to some self-contained accommodation
Some self contained lodgings request you to supply your own linen during your stay. Bear this in mind and bring towels, sheets and blankets with you.
- BYO wine and alcohol
Wine and liquor is quite expensive and limited on the island, unless purchasing the local wines on the island, its best to bring your own.
- Leave the stroller at home
Kangaroo Island is not made for prams and strollers, it’s best to have babe in arms, invest in a baby carrier or even one of those baby back packs if going for longer hikes and walks.
Have you been to Kangaroo Island with kids? Was I a little harsh on the customer service on KI? Let me know your thoughts on KI below: