This might be a post about Kangaroo Island, but I start all posts about grown-up getaways by making the same point: it’s really important to have adults-only time sometimes. Usually such posts have maintained this point in the context of marital relationships, but the idea applies to friendships too. For me, having strong female friendships is an incredibly important aspect of my life. But when we all have kids, sometimes we tend to just talk about them , and not focus on ourselves or each other. Girls weekends can be a great way to bond and re-group without interruption, and I value them highly (and I also value my husband for sending me away on such trips with a smile).
Most if not all of you reading this would know that Australia was hit hard by bushfires over Christmas 2019. Kangaroo Island was one of the places devastated by fires, and as tourism is a key industry in Kangaroo Island, it’s really important that the island recovers quickly and welcomes more visitors. With that in mind, the South Australian Tourism Commission launched the #BookThemOut campaign (this covers the Adelaide Hills too, who were also hit hard by fires). My girlfriends and I felt it was important to support this campaign, and ferry fares were subsidised by the government in support of KI, so for us, it was the perfect time to go.
Because we only had two nights on KI, we did not head south-west, where most of the fire damage is. We did however see some areas that had been burnt, and it was amazing to see greenery sprouting through burnt black foliage. While animal populations will take some time to recover, things are looking up.
A Note on COVID-19: We travelled to Kangaroo Island just before widespread closures because of COVID-19. Kangaroo Island has recently reopened to tourists, but please exercise the utmost caution. The Island doesn’t have the infrastructure to support a wave of unwell tourists.
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Kangaroo Island Self-Drive
Kangaroo Island is definitely a self-drive destination. If you have a car in South Australia (which, if you’re doing any amount of travelling in SA, you absolutely should), feel free to take your vehicle over to KI. Cape Jervis, site of the Sealink Ferry terminal, is roughly 1 hour 40 minutes from the centre of Adelaide and is a pretty cruisy drive.
The terminal has a cafe and free WiFi. You’ll need to check in at the ferry terminal a minimum of 30 minutes prior to departure. You can book Sealink ferry tickets here. If you’re hiring a car in Adelaide, which I recommend as there will be better availability than if hiring on KI (not to mention quicker and easier to get town to Cape Jervis, and to your accommodation on KI), I always use Europcar as I find their service second-to-none. You can book your South Australian car hire with Europcar here.
If you’re not taking a car, it is possible to hire a car on arrival in Penneshaw. Given limited availability, I recommend booking well in advance. Budget and Hertz both have offices by the ferry terminal.
Alternatively, Sealink offer coach services between Adelaide and Cape Jervis, and Penneshaw to Kingscote. Given this itinerary is full of wine, beer, and gin tasting, and potentially eating so much you have to roll around, you might like to give the coach option a go if you don’t have anyone willing to be designated driver. If this is the case, I’ve provided a list of recommended tours at the bottom of this post that should give you a similar experience to this one.
Where to Stay In Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is deceptively large and spread out. For this itinerary, given it’s only for a short stay, I’m recommending Kingscote, the main town, or Emu Bay with its gorgeous beaches. We stayed in Emu Bay.
You’ll find plenty of glorious Airbnb listings at this gorgeous beachside location. Our picks:
Shoebox on the Bay (book here) is where we stayed this time. It was just three of us, so we allotted the queen bed to our friend who did all the driving, and two of us stayed in the twin beds in the other room. There’s also a fold-out couch, but this would start to get squishy. This place is perfect for a small group, or for a family (our family of four would fit absolutely perfectly in this place). The cost is pretty low (we paid about $210 a night total) and the place has sea views. We particularly enjoyed a glass of wine and some nibbles on the deck watching the sunset.
You can find other Airbnbs here:
If you’ve never booked through Airbnb before, use this link to get a discount of AU$90 on your first stay (conditions apply).
Kingscote is the main hub on Kangaroo Island. Here is where you’ll most likely eat dinner, grab a load of groceries, or tend to any other need that may arise. The foreshore has a great pub and hotel, several restaurants and cafes, shops, and a beautiful view.
There are several excellent Airbnb options in Kingscote, as well as the Aurora Ozone Hotel (book here) for a more resort-style feel, or the Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel (book here) for a budget option that will meet all your needs.
Here is a map of Kingscote Airbnbs:
Day One: Adelaide To Kangaroo Island
Depending on your ferry departure time, leave Adelaide around lunch time to drive down to Cape Jervis. This is a lovely drive that takes about an hour and a half. A couple of the roads are a little windy, but it’s mostly a fairly leisurely drive.
Make sure you’re ready to board the ferry at least 30 minutes prior to departure.
The journey across to Kangaroo Island takes about 40 minutes. At some points the water can get a little choppy, so you’ll certainly feel the motion. Sitting in the middle downstairs is the best spot to minimise that swaying feeling. There’s also a cafeteria on board where you can purchase a quick snack, a coffee, or a light alcoholic beverage such as a beer.
Upon arrival in Penneshaw, stop in at the Penneshaw put to grab a bottle of delicious local wine, and head to your accommodation. From Penneshaw to Kingscote the drive takes about 40 minutes, and it’s another 15 minutes on to Emu Bay.
Upon arrival in Kingscote, pick up some snacks (cheese and chocolate of course!) at the grocery store. Check in at your accommodation, claim your beds (we have a rule – preference goes to the person who drove, and the person who organised the trip!), then settle in for a relaxing chat over wine and cheese – YOU’RE ON A GIRLS TRIP, HOORAY!
Dinner at Aurora Ozone Hotel, Kingscote
The first night calls for dinner at the local pub – a trip to the country isn’t complete without a good pub meal. Rest assured you’ll be rolling out afterwards – the meals are huge, but they’re delicious so you’ll want to eat it all.
Day Two: Seal Bay, Vivonne Bay, Wine and Gin Tasting.
Today you’ll be eating up a storm.
Breakfast at Emu Bay Lavender Farm
I was a piggy and opted for the big breakfast. No regrets – it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten. But I did have some food remorse when I ordered because, after paying, I saw the most delicious-looking quiche behind the counter. I will go all the way back to Kangaroo Island just to try that quiche next time.
Seal Bay Conservation Park is located on the south coast of Kangaroo Island, about 45 minutes’ drive from Kingscote.
At Seal Bay, you can take a self-guided tour along the boardwark down to the beach. Here, you can take in the view of the Bay and its furry inhabitants.
If you book a guided tour, you can actually head down onto the beach and come face-to-face with the seals.
Seal Bay Conservation park is open from 9am-5pm each day. Entry is $17 AUD for boardwalk access and $37.50 AUD for a guided tour. The money goes towards conservation efforts. You can find out more here.
Lunch at Vivonne Bay General Store: The Whiting Burger
The Whiting Burger at the Vivonne Bay General Store is famous across the whole island (and further afield), and there’s a good reason for that. It. Is. DIVINE. Classic tartare sauce and salad, with the most melt-in-your-mouth battered Whiting caught fresh and locally, sandwiched between perfectly toasted turkish bread. We were actually still so full from breakfast but we ordered one to share between three of us. At $19 it’s not cheap, but between three it was definitely enough and shared between two would be a decent lunch for someone more peckish. Or just buy one for yourself if you’re hungry – it’s a huge serving and so worth it.
Vivonne Bay Beach
Take a little time to sit on Vivonne Bay beach or on the jetty. It really is spectacular.
Kangaroo Island Spirits
KIS is fast becoming an institution in South Australia, and for good reason. Their gins are original, bold, and truth be told, what got me into gin. I love their Wild Gin and their Mulberry option, but hubby thinks their Whiskey Barrel variant is super interesting. You can do a tasting if you’re game enough to drink gin with no mixer, or you can sit outside the cellar-door in the delightful garden and order a cocktail.
Find out more about Kangaroo Island Spirits here.
Kangaroo Island Brewery / Beach Picnic at Emu Bay
So, here you have a choice. If you have a four-wheel-drive, you can drive onto the beach at Emu Bay for a delightful afternoon picnic (or, you can park nearby too). If you’re feeling like a more social scene and want to keep sampling Kangaroo Island products, the Kangaroo Island Brewery is just outside Kingscote on the way to Emu Bay.
Find out more about Kangaroo Island Brewery here.
Dinner at Amadio, Kingscote
What I actually love most about Amadio is not the food (which is great), but the people. When we popped in for a quick drink before dinner on the first night, we were welcomed so warmly. We quickly booked in for dinner the next night, and when we came back we were greeted as old friends! This is the definition of a country getaway – warm, friendly locals who want to share what they’re doing with you.
Borne out of a winery with a fascinating history, you can rest assured the drinks menu is just as good as the food.
Day Three: Wine, Markets, and More Wine. Back to Adelaide.
Today’s the day for more feasting and a couple more touristy things before you head home.
Breakfast at Cactus Cafe
Another KI institution, this super cute little cafe in Kingscote is the perfect brunch spot. Huge coffees are a highlight, and the food is perfect (I had the sweet corn fritters and all I can really say is O-M-G). But make sure you leave a little room for a sneaky Portuguese Tart – they’re heaven.
Bay of Shoals Winery and Farmers Market
The Bay of Shoals Winery is a gorgeous spot for a tasting, and you can purchase local produce hampers here too. My absolute favourite is their Sailor Johnny NV Fortified.
The Kingscote Farmers Market sets up on the second and fourth Sunday of each month at the Bay of Shoals Winery. You’ll find local produce, artisanal baked goods, and locally-produced arts and crafts.
Being able to browse at the Farmers Market before and after your winery tasting makes the whole experience even more fun.
Find out more about Bay of Shoals Wines here.
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus
This kitsch-but-cute spot makes the cut because it gives a great insight into some of the history of Kangaroo Island. It’s also a great place to grab a few souvenirs for people back home. Mr. Winter’s work also uses the Eucalyptus Oil distilled here, so it was a particularly interesting place for me personally to visit.
Dudley Wines is without a doubt a huge highlight of the trip. I can’t think of many places to eat with such a spectacular view, friendly staff, and delicious food.
Sit down to enjoy a grazing platter overlooking a dramatic valley that leads right to the ocean.
Dudley Wines is without a doubt the best place to reflect on your Kangaroo Island getaway before you board the ferry home.
Day Tours on Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island 1-Day Safari
This tour ticks off Seal Bay, Cliffords Honey Farm, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, Rob’s Shearing Shed, Emu Ridge Eucalyptus, and Pennington Bay.
Tickets start from $135 AUD for an 8-hour tour in a modern vehicle. You can book your tickets here.
Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari
If you’re in the mood for a bit more adventure, and the weather is right, why not head out on the water? the 75-minute Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari gives you the opportunity to spot seals, bottlenose dolphins, and other fascinating wildlife in their natural habitat.
Tickets start from $88 AUD, departing from Penneshaw. You can book your Ocean Safari here.
Next time we’ll be hitting Sunset at Penneshaw for a Saturday lunch – this was tricky on this itinerary and they’re not open on Sundays. However, I’ve heard rave reviews so I’m really looking forward to trying it.
And I’m open to more suggestions, so if you’ve been to Kangaroo Island recently, add your best tips in the comments section below!
Need more inspo for a girls weekend? Why not try McLaren Vale?
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