Road Trip 2014: Kangaroo Island
Now back to this road trip, and the highlight of this trip, Kangaroo Island, we didn’t read a lot about it but we had high expectations based purely on all the hype that surrounds the place. I may sound a bit harsh here, but personally I found it quite underwhelming, from the lack of good eating options (apart from expensive wineries) to the lack of wildlife (we saw a lot more dead kangaroos than live ones), to the not-that-amazing scenery. Now, given that we didn’t do any wildlife tours (which are quite expensive), I guess you might be able to understand not seeing any wildlife, but come on, it’s called Kangaroo Island, I saw one mother kangaroo and her joey on the roadside near Seal Bay, and that was it, I might have seen a dead snake on the road at one point too. Seal Bay, at least did live up to its moniker, there were seals there, and they were quite close, although quite sleepy at the time of day we went.
On day one, after arriving at Penneshaw via the ferry, we drove to Kingscote and found our accommodation, the Seaview Motel, and it did actually have a seaview, unfortunately, the door, or the windows of our room weren’t sealed properly so there was a little wind getting in (it was crazy windy in Nepean Bay). Not a great accommodation, very old and in need of an upgrade, maybe they can’t because it is an historic site or something, I’m not sure. We arrived in the afternoon and were pretty tired from a long day of driving from Robe, so we just had a quick look around Kingscote to see what we could eat and that was it.
Day two consisted of a drive down to Seal Bay (seals) and Vivonne Bay (amazing beach apparently) on the southern side of the island, finished off with a trip back to the north side visiting Emu Bay (didn’t see any emus), the beach and also the lavender farm. As I said, there were lots of seals and good close-ups of them, most of them were sleeping, and such, but it was quite nice, although nothing special. Funny moment, we were thinking about how to take a family portrait and I decided against asking the guide, and instead asked another tourist who had a DSLR thinking that he probably knew what he was doing. Turns out he was an idiot, he took four photos, the first one out of focus, the next three were in focus but with no seals in the picture, so while I was grateful for him doing that, I should probably check what type of lens the next person I ask is using, and make sure that it is not just the kit lens. The moral of the story is, bring a tripod.
We couldn’t really find any good place to park to visit Vivonne Bay, and with the weather cold and windy we just rushed a quick walk down there, I could tell that the beach would be pretty amazing in good weather with fine white sand and crystal clear waters, but it just wasn’t happening for us, so we headed off for lunch at the fresh marron farm in Parndana right in the middle of the island. Marron are basically big prawns, and yeah, they’re pretty yummy, so that was nice. To finish off, we went up to Emu Bay (no actual emus) on the northern coast, the beach was pretty nice with pelicans, and the weather was a little warmer there. The lavender farm was good but I wouldn’t bother with the lavender iced cream, it’s just crappy vanilla iced cream with some lavender thrown in. Afterwards, we went back to Kingscote just in time to catch the 5pm pelican feeding show, quite interesting and amusing, word of warning, there is a voluntary donation.
Day three we went to Penneshaw to visit the community market, and Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, then dropped by Dudley Winery for lunch, and finished off with a stop at Prospect Hill Lookout, and a visit to the sheep cheese farm. The market was pretty underwhelming (as these things tend to be) with not a lot of stuff to see, we were thinking that there would be a lot more fresh produce to try, the lighthouse was very unspectacular, so much so that I didn’t even take a picture of it. Pizza and wine at the winery was good though, definitely a recommended visit. Prospect Hill Lookout was good, nice steep climb up stairs followed by a spectacular view over the island (would be good for a partly cloudy sunset/sunrise), and finally, the sheep cheese farm was so-so. The cheese was good, but the tour was a bit of a waste of time, I wouldn’t bother with that and just buy the cheese Island Pure Sheep Dairy, hey you can get it from Queen Vic Market.
Day four was to be the pinnacle of the trip, with a visit to Flinders Chase National Park to visit Cape de Couediac (lighthouse), Admiral Arch, and Remarkable Rocks. This was where I was expecting to see some spectacular landscapes but the vistas that we saw did not match what was in my head. The lighthouse was nice, and the walk from the carpark too, as well as the walk down to Admiral Arch and the seals, that was good, but nothing spectacular. Remarkable Rocks were described by emmy as “interesting“, didn’t sound too remarkable to me. They’re not like the Remarkables in New Zealand, let’s just say that much, they’re okay, but again, nothing special, especially if you can’t climb them haha. Food at the cafe at the national park visitor centre was okay though.
Finally, we were set to leave, and head back to the mainland and our next destination, Adelaide. Before that though (we had an afternoon ferry), we visited one of the honey farms, Clifford Honey Farm and bought some honey, again, I wouldn’t bother with the honey iced cream, it’s just cheap vanilla with some honey mixed in. From there we went to the oyster farm shop in American River and had a big seafood platter (mostly oysters). It was nice, not as good as the oysters we had in Hobart, but pretty good, this was actually the one day where we got some pretty fine weather (it was okay the previous day, I actually got sunburnt but more just sunny, not warm), so while waiting for our ferry, I had a wander along the beach next to the ferry which was quite nice, good for collecting sea shells, some nice snail shells there, and the water is clear and the sand, fine and white.
And that’s when we realised that tourism in Australia kind of sucks, if I list the things that we don’t like:
- food, good (relatively cheap) food is hard to find
- attractions are usually over-hyped
- expensive to visit some places, Cape Otway Lightstation for one fits this point and the previous point
- the weather is too important (e.g. a good tourist spot should be good regardless of the weather)
- it’s too damn big
- not much variety/culture
I’m not saying that these points only apply to Australia, I mean, we sort of had the same experience in Europe, but then, at least everywhere you go is different, it’s only an hour or whatever and you’re in a new country with a different culture and language. Any way, on to the reviews and recommendations.
Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel, as I stated above, very outdated and not particularly clean, the wifi didn’t work. I wouldn’t recommend.
The places where we ate expensive food, were all reasonable, the marron farm, oyster farm shop, and Dudley cellar door. The places where we ate cheap food not so much, the fish and chip shop (next to the Caltex) in Kingscote was nothing special (considering it’s an island where there is plenty of seafood), the restaurant we had pizza was typical take away shop quality. I didn’t mind the take away shop that sells giros, nothing special but at least not horrible. Also, the café at the Flinders Chase National Park had some reasonable food that wasn’t too expensive. The cheese from the sheep dairy farm was pretty good, no issues with that at all. Here is another problem as pointed out by emmy, seafood in Australia is expensive, it’s always expensive, it doesn’t matter if it is caught right next door, or we’re in the middle of the desert (I wouldn’t recommend eating seafood in the middle of the desert any way), it’s expensive. It seems that transport is a minor cost for seafood, I remember when we were in Borneo in Malaysia, and we had these giant prawns and squid cooked in front of us and they were seriously cheap and yummy, it doesn’t happen here.
Just a quick note, if you’re driving and taking the ferry, fill the car up before you get to Cape Jervis, it’s more expensive than Kangaroo Island, probably Normanville (coming from Adelaide, not Victor Harbour) is the last main stop before Cape Jervis, the petrol was still reasonable there.
Okay, long post, well, we’re heading to Adelaide, Naracoorte, and the Grampians next to finish off, we were very much winding down at this point, so while there are a lot of things to do, we didn’t do them, so the post should be kept reasonably short.