From whale watching and sampling the well-regarded food scene to big-ticket events, here’s everything you need to know about the best times to visit Kangaroo Island.
Located 13 kilometres off the coast of South Australia, just 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide, KI’s climate is Mediterranean: warm to hot summers with very low humidity and cool, temperate winters. Be prepared for fresh winds whipped up by the wild Southern Ocean no matter when you visit.
What’s on in summer
December through February on Kangaroo Island usually means sunny skies and very little rain. It’s also peak tourist season, so be sure to book your accommodation well in advance. Expect warm daytime temperatures of 25°C (it rarely exceeds 35°C) and lows of around 15°C in the evening. Pack breezy dresses and separates, a swimming costume, plenty of sunscreen and at least one light jacket – given the island’s exposed location, conditions can change quickly.
Exploring KI’s 540 kilometres of coastline is a must – swim with dolphins at family-friendly Emu Bay, cast a line off Vivonne Bay jetty or simply drink in the view (and a glass of South Australian rosé) on the deck at Sunset Food and Wine.
It’s also prime time to taste freshly caught seafood, including southern rock lobster, and dine beneath the canopy of The Enchanted Fig Tree, open December to April.
Dress up with the locals at the Kangaroo Island Racing Carnival in February. Highlights include trackside cocktails by Kangaroo Island Spirits and the relaxed picnic day held at Cygnet River Racecourse.
What’s on in autumn
Ask a local and they’ll probably tell you March through May is their favourite time of year – it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beaches (water temperatures hover around the 18°C mark) but cooler 12°C nights call for cosying up in front of an open fire. Plus, the island returns to a quieter pace of life after the high holiday season.
Mild temperatures make for excellent bushwalking, especially if you’re undertaking an extended trek like the five-day Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. Bonus: flowering natives such as banksias and gum nuts will keep budding nature photographers well occupied.
The Adelaide Fringe Festival comes to town in March with a one-day line-up of theatre, circus, music, magic and comedy. You’ll find food stalls showcasing KI produce as well as face painting, workshops and games for the kids. BYO picnic blanket and warm clothes.
Set up camp and rock out to Aussie acts like Something For Kate and Jebediah at the New Shoots Music Festival, held for the first time in April 2022. Run by a local not-for-profit committee, proceeds go towards supporting charities BlazeAid and the Breakthrough Foundation.
What’s on in winter
Wildlife is at its most active from June to August as cooler temperatures (15°C days and 8°C nights) and smaller crowds see many species come out into the sunshine. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot camera-shy echidnas, kangaroos bounding around with joeys and southern right whales splashing along the coast. Fancy cuddling a koala or getting up close to a dingo? Head to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.
Fishing gets serious as winter waters pound the open shorelines. For the full experience, join a Kangaroo Island Fishing Adventures charter at dawn to chase snapper and kingfish. If you’re still working on your sea legs, sheltered spots like Eastern Cove, Smith Bay and Boxing Bay are brimming with King George whiting at this time of year.
Though it’s the low tourist season, most restaurants, cellar doors and producers are open during the cooler months. Bay of Shoals vineyard, Kangaroo Island Brewery and Millie Mae’s Pantry are as hospitable as ever.
You’re likely to witness a spectacular storm or two as fast-moving fronts roll in from the southern seas. Though they pass quickly, it’s worth bringing a raincoat or waterproof jacket as well as cosy knits, jeans and hiking boots.
What’s on in spring
Days get longer and warmer from September to November with average highs of 18°C. The island is strewn with wildflowers: native wattle erupts into colour, orchids pop up beside bushwalking tracks and Emu Bay Lavender farm begins blooming.
Fresh produce is also in abundance. Taste spring honey at Clifford’s Honey Farm from the world’s purest strain of Ligurian bees, fresh oysters from The Oyster Farm Shop on the American River Wharf and new-season lamb at top-notch eateries like The Odd Plate. You’ll see the island’s best cheese and biggest pumpkins on display at the Kingscote Show in October, along with rides, vintage cars and much more.