Kangaroo Island – October 2011 - A Perfect Family Holiday Destination

Saturday, Dec 10, 2011 at 16:26

Member - Stephen L (Clare SA)





Back in March Fiona and I spent 10 fun filled days over on Kangaroo Island and it was a great disappointment to have to leave the Island, as there were so many things that we just did not get around too, either seeing or doing. Knowing what the Island had to offer anyone who enjoys the Great Outdoors, we decided that we would again return and this time hopefully see what we had missed out on seeing in March.

From what I had learnt about the Island and talking to the locals, October sounded like an ideal time for our revisit, so plans were put in place and we would spend the last 2 weeks of October again over on the Island. To take advantage of greater discounts, I again booked our return ferry and the first 2 nights accommodation direct with Sealink. In this way there are substantial discounts to be had and anyone thinking of travelling to the Island, it would be the recommended way to book.

The Trip

Leaving Clare just after 6.15am, we had an uneventful trip down to Cape Jervis, the departure point for the 45-minute ferry crossing to Penneshaw over on Kangaroo Island. Arriving around 10.45 am, we had plenty of time to obtain our ferry passes and stretch our legs before the scheduled 12 noon departure. While I walked over to inspect the Cape Jervis Lighthouse, Fiona went straight to the cafeteria and topped up her caffeine intake with a cappuccino. The waves were white capped, but the wind speed was not as intense as our last return ferry ride.
The returning ferry soon came into sight and like clockwork, cars, motorhomes, caravans and trucks were quickly unloaded and all waiting vehicles were soon loaded. Unlike many timetables, the ferry operators do not muck around and we were powering out of the breakwater by 11.50am.




The Captain of the ferry advised anyone that suffers from seasickness to sit down on the lower deck and towards the rear of the ferry, but compared to last time, the ferry crossing was not a concern. The only time that I had to be careful was when I would get up to take photos, and then it was walking as if you were very drunk. Around 20 minutes into the crossing, it started to rain and it become quite misty, so I went outside to take a few photos. It did not take very long at all for the mist to completely obliterate the mainland and it was covered in an eerie mist. The closer that we were getting to Kangaroo Island, the sky was clearing and it looked like it was going to be a fine afternoon. It what seemed like very little time at all, drivers were requested to return to their vehicles and to get ready to prepare to unload when we were docked at Penneshaw.




Once we were off of the ferry, we went straight to the Penneshaw Caravan Park where we set up camp for the next 2 days. It felt so good to be back on KI and it seemed like we had never left, as we drove around Penneshaw. After a quick bite to eat once everything was set up, we headed out to Cape Willoughby and the moment that we started to head out, the roadside colours were getting ever intense with every kilometre travelled and this was to the order of the day for the next 2 weeks. Arriving at the Lightstation, the wind was blowing quite strong, which is to be expected at a location like this, perched high up on the cliffs overlooking Backstairs Passage. We knew that we were too late to do the Lighthouse tour, but it did not matter, as we had planned to do it on the Sunday as well as the Lightstation Heritage Walk. While out there, we inspected the Devils Kitchen, the site where the stone was quarried to build this lighthouse back in 1851 -1852.



It felt great to get that salt air into our lungs, as living in the country, that smell of the sea air always is very refreshing. It was soon time to head back to Penneshaw and the drive back was at a very slow pace, stopping many times to photograph the different Wildflower that flanked the road. Back at the Caravan Park, we had the whole Park to ourselves and it was not until just after 7pm that 2 Caravan turn up from the 7pm ferry arrival. The wind had now dropped completely and the only sound that you could hear were the waves breaking on the beach, less than 200 metres away. After tea and as soon as it was dark enough, we headed towards the ferry site to try our luck at penguin spotting. For this we had covered our torch with a red lens so as not to blind the little creatures.

It did not take long and we could hear the distinctive calls of the penguins and there appeared to be quite a few around. This was one time that we did not take the camera, as the flash from a camera can blind a penguin for up to 5 minutes and we did not want to put the penguins under any stress. On our way back along the beach boardwalk, we managed to view a young penguin chick as its parents were feeding it. By the time that we arrived back at the tent, it was quite cool, so the fan heater in the annexe soon warmed up the tent to the point where it was getting quite warm. After quick showers it was off to bed with the sound of the breaking waves on the beach and it seemed like only two seconds and we were asleep.

For the next 2 days we had luck on our side, with no wind what so ever and mostly clear skies. Making the most of this perfect weather, we decided to do the Ironstone Hill hike first next morning. This hike followed the old Bullock Track that once went from Penneshaw to Cape Willoughby, until it reaches the old ruins of the old Bates Cottage and then the old Thrashing Floor. This easy hike followed the coast and then passes through the drooping sheoaks and then out into open terrain with magnificent views across Backstairs Passage and the mainland beyond.



After the hike, we returned to the Caravan Park where we had lunch, before heading back out to the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse for our Lighthouse tour and the hike that takes you to many of the important locations dating back to the times when the Lighthouse was an important little isolated outpost from the outside world. The fine weather and no wind made the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse a pleasant spot to be and to see this part of Kangaroo Island with no breeze. We had a most enjoyable afternoon out at Cape Willoughby and to add to the day further, we headed back to Penneshaw via more back roads that were covered with the most vivid displays of wildflowers. On one of these roads, we met up with Dean and Bev Overton again who were with some locals from Kingscote who were out checking out the wildflowers. I got talking to the property owner and it was a very small world, as he was a cousin to one of the Clare locals that I know and he then gave up permission to enter his farm and guided us to where we should find more species of wildflowers. It was now getting late and by the time that we arrived back at the Caravan Park it was close to 7pm, so thank goodness for daylight savings.



After 2 great days in Penneshaw and the Dudley Peninsula, it was time to head a little further west and with another perfect day, took the back roads towards American River. This normally short drive would usually take just over a half an hour, but sticking to our preferred roads of travel, we stuck to the back roads and five hours later arrived at the Council run Caravan and Camping area which was located right on the shores of American River. Once the camp had been set up, we were off again, this time north of the town and travelled many back roads and spent some time at Red Banks. The view from the top of the cliffs was great and after a quick scout around, I found a way down through the gullies to the beach below. Even though it was only early afternoon, the colours of the cliffs were very vivid and I would imagine that late in the day would be the best time to see the colours, as the sun set over the ocean.



Making our way back to the camping area, the weather was just perfect and to set the day off, we launched the kayak. As calm as the water was, the moment that we were out into the channel, I was quite surprised that the incoming tide was noticeable and when we stopped to take a few pictures of yachts moored in the harbour, I was surprised at how quick we were moving back into the bay. The water that clear we could see many fish swimming below the kayak and then Fiona thought that see saw a shark. I told her that it would not be a shark, (only to find out a few days later that there was a small white pointer shark in the channel a few days later) as the fin looked too small. As I paddled towards the object that was slowly moving now in the shallow water, Fiona was getting quite anxious and as we approached the sea creature, we laughed as it turned out to be a large stingray that for some strange reason, had the tip of one of its wings out of the water, giving the appearance of a shark fin. As we made our way back across the channel we could now see more stingrays and we were able to get quite close to them before they would dart off at a quick pace. To top the day off, there was a lone dolphin putting on a display in the channel, as it jumped completely out of the water and turned sideways, making a big splash as its body hit the water. Back at camp, we sat back and watched the many species of water birds including black swans and pelicans that were out on the water and both commented on what a very pretty camp we had, right on the water.



Next morning was another perfect day and we were on the back roads to the main Highway, so we could again see and climb to the top of Prospect Hill, which was first visited and climbed by Matthew Flinders back in 1802. Knowing what was to be expected, it did not take that long to climb the 512 steep steps to reach the summit of the hill and with not a breath of air, it was just perfect. As the crow flies, we were now less that 25 kilometres from Kingscote, but it still look another 5 hours and again many back roads before reaching the Brownlow Caravan Park, where we booked in for 5 nights. On one of the dirt roads that we were travelling on, we came across a couple of beekeepers that were collecting frames from their beehives. Wanting to get some photos, we stopped the car and started to walk towards them and this was a very gig mistake. Still around 30 metres from them and we were greeted by some very angry bees. I had a number trying to sting me in the hair and then one flew up my nose and stung me. I will not say what I said but it was not very pleasant and then Fiona was stung on here head. This was the quickest retreat that we have ever made and it was not long before my lips were numb and I had one very sore nose. For the next four days, Fiona looked like he had been in a fight, with one very sore and swollen eye.



Once at Kingscote, we set up camp before heading into the main shopping centre. Knowing that rain was expected within the next day or so, we decided to do the Pelican feeding that night while we still ad perfect weather. The feeding takes place every night at 5pm and when we arrived at 4.30pm, there was quite a crowed there already, as well as lots of Pelicans waiting to be fed. This was a great little show and we revisited it again after a few days and it was still a great experience.



Over the next 5 days, we again travelled many dirt roads in the area, made 2 trips to Seal Bay for the beach viewing of the Australian Fur Seals. The first morning it was quite wet, but it was calm, so that was one consolation. After the first visit, we were able to then head to the Birds of Prey show, which I would recommend for anyone travelling to Kangaroo Island. We also did a number of hikes in the area and took lots of photos of wildflowers. For those like us, a visit to Hope Cottage, a National Trust property was well worth the very small admission fee and it was great to see many old items from years gone by. Being on the go all the time, the time passed very quickly and it was time to head further west where we knew that the time would go just as quick.



There was a sea mist as we headed along the South Coast Road and it was strange to have to use the wipers when it was not wet. As we approached the Seal Bay turn off we decided to do another beach walk with the seals, as by now our National Parks Pass had paid for itself about 3 times over. After another enjoyable time with the seals, we headed for Little Sahara, a series of steep pure white sand dunes where you can sand board down the steep slopes. Walking towards the dunes, we could see a small group of people on top of the main dune, and as we reached the top of the dune, it was no ordinary group, but a film crew.

I walked over to the Sealink bus driver to see what was going on and what a small world it was. We had met the drive first in March, and we knew his Uncle who was once a local from KI and left the Island over 40 years ago to set up his Veterinary Clinic in Clare, who we knew very well. Glenn explained that the group were from Singapore and the lady was one of their top TV personalities and they were doing a photo shoot to promote Kangaroo Island for the Asian tourist market. After they had finished their shoot, we introduced ourselves and wished them all the best. In return, the cameraman asked if I could take a few group photos of them with his camera, which I gladly did. We were to meet them a couple more times at some of the major attractions over the coming days.



From Little Sahara, we went into Vivonne Bay to have lunch overlooking the bay. Talk about four seasons in one day, as it went from fine to heavy sea mist and light rain all within a few minutes. After lunch, it was back out to the main highway and further west towards our next intended stay for 5 nights, at the Western KI Caravan Park. With steady rain for most of the way, it now looked like our luck had changed, with steady rain falling and it was not until about 5 kilometres from the Caravan Park the rain finally stopped. Once we were booked in and the tent set up, Fiona put a load of washing and then just relaxed in the very peaceful surrounds of the Caravan Park. After an early tea and showers, we settled down for the night in the annex with the fan heater to make it very cosy, while I caught up on my journal and Fiona was Internet surfing.



Next morning it was a cool and damp, with 10mm of rain last night. Our first visit that day was into the Flinders Chase National Park and after a coffee, we did the 4 kilometre Platypus hike that took us through various forms of terrain, from open large grass covered plains, through to tall forests of sugar gums. Once at the Rocky River, we sat very quite for over half an hour and only using hand sigh language, we waited and waited and did not see any Platypus, so we retraced our tracks back to the Interpretive Centre. Once back at the Car Park, we had lunch before heading further into the Park and headed for Remarkable Rocks.



Heading off to walk the short distance to the actual rocks and after a few photos, my battery icon on the camera started to blink. If the weather was fine I would have walked back to the car to get the spare battery, but it was blowing a gale so it did not matter if it ran out, as we had been here twice before. After a few photos at the actual site, the battery died completely, so we headed back to the car and made our way back to the Caravan Park. What a difference 20 kilometres makes, as there was not a breath of wind at the Caravan Park and it was quite fine. Topping up our caffeine intake, we then headed off to do the 2 small walks within the land owned by the owners of the Caravan Park. The first and smallest is their Koala walk amongst the gums. It was so peaceful doing the walk that we just took in the surrounds and did not bother to look for Koalas, as we again had one in the trees only metres from our tent. In the open area of the walk, there were around 10 Tamar Wallabies sunning themselves and they did not take any notice of us, as we crept quite close to them to get more photos. After completing this small walk, we then did the longer dam walk, which was through open terrain and down to their large dam that contained lots of birdlife and then does a big circuit, and head back to the caravan park. Once back from the walks it was just sitting back and sunning ourselves and admiring the parks wildlife that many places charge you to see such animals.



Last night was a very interrupted night with Dot the kangaroo trying continuously to get into the tent, as well as possums clambering over the table and chairs in the annex. Being a mostly fine day, we decided to do the Shackle Road Self Drive Tours (Which I have recorded for a future Trek for EO) and it was again into Finders Chase to get our permit, which was free as we had the National Parks Pass for KI. This is a very pretty drive as an alternative to the bitumen to head out to the Playford Highway and then further west and on to Cape Borda, arriving with 10 minutes to spare before the 12.30pm Lighthouse tour and Historic Cannon firing. After we had been to the Lighthouse Museum and waiting for the door to be opened into the Lighthouse, I was gazing out at the sea below and saw a very large dark object coming out of the water and then one very big splash. Not knowing what I just witnessed, I said nothing, as I did not want to make a fool of my self in front of the other people there. When inside of the lighthouse, the Ranger asked if there were any questions and then a British Tourist asked of there were any whales in the area, as he had seen a large splash, at the same time that I did. When I then mentioned that I also witnessed the event, the Ranger asked why we did not mention it at the time, as for the 3 years that he had been stationed there, he claims that he had never seen such an event. While out there we also did the Clifftop Hike before heading back to do the Harveys Return Hike.



Making our way slowly down the steep rock covered track, we finally made it out to the bottom of the cove and out to the old crane platform site. Looking out to see, there less than 100 metres from the shore and 1 whale came to the surface for air and then disappeared again. Excitedly I asked if Fiona had just seen what I had again witnessed and unfortunately she did not. We both then made our selves as comfortable as possible on the rocks and gazed out in the vicinity that I had just seen the wale and in a few minutes, Fiona then next was first to see not 1, but 2 whales as they then slowly came to the surface for air and for the next 40 minutes, they had us in suspense and they would come to the surface, just lay there, roll on their sides if playing before diving deep back down into the crystal clear water. We could have stayed here for hours watching them, but it was now 4.45pm and we still had to climb back up the cliff and head back to camp. Heading back along the main dirt Playford Highway, there was a small tourist hire car on the side of the road, jacked up. The American lady had a puncture and could not undo the wheel nuts, so in a few minutes, I had the tyre off and back on and she was on her way again.




It was now getting dark and our biggest concern were the very numerous large kangaroos that would come bounding out of the bush and head straight across the main road. We now sat on around 70 kilometres per hour and it seemed like eternity to get back to camp. What a fun filled day it had been, so it was again, tea, showers and relaxing and talking about the great day it had been.

It was a sleep in the next morning, as we did not wake up until 7.30am and after getting reading, we headed out just after 10am to head to Vivonne Bay where we were to kayak on the Harriet River. It took some time to be able to find a suitable spot to launch the kayak and once out on the water it was quite cool. We could have kayaked for hours, but time was against us and around and hour and a half later we were loading the kayak back onto the roof and headed north on more dirt roads and headed back to Parndana. After zig zagging our way over the western back roads, we were again back on the main South Coast Highway and headed for Kelly Hill Caves where we did the May Walk and were again rewarded with more different wildflowers.



Next morning we took down the awning as rain was forecast for later that day and we did not want to pack up wet gear the following morning on the day that we were heading back home. Once that was all packed away, we headed again into the Flinders Chase National Park, obtained our daily entry permit and headed back out on the Shackle Road as far as the West Bay Road turnoff and headed for Snake Lagoon. There is a great hike here and the return time to the mouth of the Rocky River is stated as around 1 ½ to 2 hours return. As we were travelling at Grandpa pace, stopping constantly to photograph the flowers and the scenery, it took us just over 3 hours. Who was counting time, certainly not us, as we looked at many features that most people would walk straight past. From here we headed out to Cape Du Couedic to see the New Zealand Fur Seal Colony and Admirals Arch. After starting the walk, down came the rain again, so once more our plans were cut short. Again it was another long day and we did not get back to the park until 5.30pm. Once again it was over to the camp kitchen, cooked tea and then settled down for the night.




Next morning we were both out of bed by 6.45am and headed straight for the showers. When I got back to the tent, Dot was again trying to get into the tent and the moment that I unzipped the tent, she was in and there was no way that I could get her out. Try as I did, she wanted this as her home, so I went to back of the car, got some bread and this worked a treat. They do not encourage people to feed the wild animals, but this was the only way that I could get her out of the tent. Taking more back road, we arrived back at Kingscote by 11.45am, where we went to the local Foodland Supermarket for some nice fresh fruit. After lunch it started to rain and we had seen everything that there was to be seen here, so we headed back to Penneshaw at a very slow pace, at we had 2 hours to kill before our 2pm sailing. As we arrived at Penneshaw at 12.50pm we could see the ferry coming into dock, thinking that they would be here for an hours break. When I went to the Sealink office to get our boarding pass, the lady said we were early, but if we would like, she would put us in the stand by lane. Again like clockwork, the ferry was unloaded and with most of the smaller vehicles, we were waved on before the larger trucks. Just after 1pm, we set off back to Cape Jervis. Even though it was drizzling with rain, the crossing was as flat as a billiard table and was a very smooth crossing. We both now had the blues, knowing that in less than 4 hours time, we would be home again and back into the usual daily routine. To add to the finish of the trip, even though it was only 2.15 pm in the afternoon, there was a pea soup fog as we climbed the hills out of Cape Jervis and visibility was less than 20 metres. The fog lasted for around 20 minutes and from here until home was an uneventful trip.





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