Lying off the coast of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula and a 30-minute flight south-west of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island might be what you’d get if you took the best of Australia – the wildlife, the landscapes, the food – and rolled it into one package. And the island is packed with family-friendly experiences that will make a holiday here an unforgettable one.
Filled with rare and exotic wildlife, vast stretches of unspoiled beaches and bushland and with a population of just 4400, there’s plenty of room and fresh air to make you and your family feel like the only people on earth. Here are the five best things to do with the kids during your time on Kangaroo Island.
Wander Seal Bay Conservation Park
Located on the south coast of the island, Seal Bay Conservation Park is home to the third-largest colony of sea lions in Australia, with about 800 of them flapping about on boulders enjoying the sun. See them via a self-guided tour along the boardwalk (perfect for independent teens), which delivers sweeping views of the coastline and colony; or join a guided tour so a dedicated expert can get you closer to these majestic creatures while talking you through their habits, from hunting to pup-rearing.
Choose adventure at KI Outdoor Action
At some point, even the most active kid is likely to moan, “My legs are tiiiiired.” Foil their protests with a Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action private quad bike tour; the family package also includes the hire of two kayaks and four sandboards.
On the bikes, you’ll be able to explore the normally inaccessible areas of bushland that kangaroos, wallabies, goannas and eagles call home, while the kayaks will get you paddling around pristine Vivonne Bay – it was once named the best beach in Australia. Afterwards, grab the boards and go speeding down the sand dune system known as Little Sahara – some dunes are as tall as 17-storey buildings.
Swim with the dolphins on a KI Ocean Safari
Immerse yourself and the kids in an underwater wonderland they’ll remember for the rest of their lives on a Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari. Guided by experts, you can frolic with dolphins or seals. On the two-hour tours, visitors are provided with wetsuits, snorkel, mask and flippers with which to explore the spectacular and diverse coastline of Penneshaw, the second-biggest town on the island.
For those with younger kids, the sheltered Brown Beach, known for its aquamarine waters, is accessible via bus, ferry or car and includes camping facilities such as toilets, a picnic area and barbecues. Quiet and with just 10 sites nestled among the bushland, it’s perfect for a couple of days of relaxed, off-the-grid living and nights under a brilliant sky.
Take a koala tour at Little Sahara Adventure Centre
As well as offering sandboard and toboggan rides down the 2km-wide dune system, Little Sahara Adventure Centre also hosts a number of “eco adventures”, including a golden hour After Hours Koala Walking Tour. Head down for an evening walk under the gumtrees – koala sightings are guaranteed as is the opportunity to taste local bush tucker. Your two-hour-long journey begins on the dunes before leading you through bushland to the Eleanor River. It’s just the thing for the Instagram-obsessed teen, too.
Make your way to Raptor Domain
It sounds like something out of Jurassic Park and definitely delivers on thrills. Raptor Domain is the place to take your mini David Attenboroughs to learn about owls and snakes, and to watch reptile shows. But if this feels a little too “school excursion”, book one of the private experiences – the kids can hold some of the animals and gain a deeper appreciation of their unique makeup and behaviour.
Where to stay
One Kangaroo Island is a secluded, luxurious bush-meets-beach eco retreat. It has two beach houses: One KI can sleep up to 10 guests across its five bedrooms (three rooms come with twin share options) and eco-friendly Walcowrie sleeps up to eight. Both have two living areas and multiple decks offering views out to the ocean. Guests at One KI can opt for the Fully Tailored Experience with three-course dinners prepared by private chefs, as well as a full breakfast and drinks. Sip your premium Kangaroo Island and South Australian wines on the deck while you watch the kids swim. Kayaking and snorkelling is also available.
It wouldn’t be Kangaroo Island without a sighting of the island’s namesake. Fortunately, Wandering Souls has two five-metre bell tents set up just 50 metres behind Stokes Bay Beach and 30 metres from cafés and public amenities. Look out for kangaroos and wallabies at sunset, then look up at the Milky Way at night. There’s also the option of having a parents tent and kids tent, so you get a break while they feel like they’re on an adventure.
At Sea Dragon Lodge, a family-friendly property perched on a hill overlooking Pink Bay in the island’s eastern tip, you’re almost guaranteed a glimpse of the local wildlife. The property’s open balconies peer out over a valley dotted with gum trees; a known lazing spot for mother kangaroos and their joeys.
Up the convenience factor at KI Seaview Motel, a retro-themed shrine to the motels of old. There are a few more mod cons than you might remember at this Kingscote refurb however: in the two-bedroom suite, you'll find full kitchens for easy family meals, Nespresso coffee machines and a decor so trendy, you'll steal the ideas for home.
Image credit: Ben Goode/SATC (Seal Bay Conservation Park beach), Chris Bray/SATC (Sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park), Jonathan Van der Knaap/SATC (Kangaroo Island outdoor action four wheel drive), Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari (Dolphins); Greg Snell/SATC (Raptor Domain), Megan Crabb/SATC (Little Sahara Adventure Centre), Adam Bruzzone /SATC (Sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park).