How to plan a holiday to Kangaroo Island

A holiday to Kangaroo Island in South Australia can feel like a big deal. Although it’s a skip and jump over the sea, there’s a lot to plan  and to consider. Because a trip to KI involves taking a ferry, you should absolutely stick around for a while. Plus, the island lends itself to some thorough planning, with its numerous sites and attractions scattered across the island. And what’s more, visitors might also be surprised to hear that Kangaroo Island is actually seven times as large as Singapore. In this article, we help you navigate the planning of your next holiday to Kangaroo Island, making sure that you’re well informed and ready to go!

Pic credit: Megan Crabb / SATC – Little Sahara Adventure Centre

What makes Kangaroo Island so great?

You’ve seen it in the photos, heard about it from friends and perhaps even seen it in the distance from the coastline of the Fleurieu Peninsula – Kangaroo Island is an increasingly popular holiday destination in South Australia. In fact, the island became a little more famous in 2023 with the New York Times listing it in the top ten places to visit in 2023. And for those who have visited, there’s no wondering why the island (the third largest in Australia) has started receiving so much attention.

Kangaroo Island is a real gem in Australia. Its long rocky coastline offers visitors rock pools and coves to swim in, cliffs to marvel at, and a turquoise colour sea that will wow even experienced travellers. Numerous sweeping, hardly touched beaches are found at every corner. Plus, in 2003 one of Kangaroo Island’s beaches – Vivonne Bay – was named the best beach in the world. What more can we say?

Stepping away from the coastline, thick eucalyptus forests are home to diverse native wildlife in the heart of the island, and quaint towns entertain visitors with their bars, restaurants, shops, wineries and hotels. To top it all off, with Kangaroo Island’s tourism numbers being relatively low in comparison to other equally beautiful parts of Australia, you’ll feel like you’ve got the place to yourself.

Time to plan your holiday to Kangaroo Island!

SeaLink Ultimate Kangaroo Island Tour

How to get to Kangaroo Island

To get to Kangaroo Island, you’ll need to take a ferry – the Sealink – from Cape Jervis on the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Running multiple times per day, the ferry takes about 45 minutes and provides guests with all the comforts they need for the short crossing, including food and drink at the onboard cafe. On the way over, you’ll be able to sit inside or enjoy the fresh sea air from the top deck.

Do I need to take a car?

Yes, you do need to take a car to Kangaroo Island. Although going to Kangaroo Island as a foot passenger is a little cheaper, unfortunately it is not worth cutting costs. Once you arrive, it is pretty much essential that you have a car with you. Driving from one side of the island to the other will take you two hours and there are no buses, meaning that if you want to see as much as possible and avoid staying in one town for the duration of your trip, you’ll need to take a car with you. We wouldn’t want you to miss 98% of the island because you didn’t bring a car.

Is the Kangaroo Island ferry expensive?

In short, yes – it is a little expensive. Before doing your research, you might have heard from friends that the Sealink ferry is a little expensive. And you’d be right. For two adults, two children and a car, the ferry crossing typically costs more than $500. The crossing has actually been dubbed the most expensive crossing in the world when it comes to the amount paid and the distance covered.

Having said this, a visit to Kangaroo Island is totally worth it – it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Next, we talk about how long you should spend on the island and how to best plan your time.

Pic credit: Isaac Forman / SATC

How long to spend on Kangaroo Island

You’ll receive different answers regarding how long you should spend on Kangaroo Island. Our advice is – stay as long as possible! Ideally, a week on the island would be a great amount of time to see most parts (remember, it’s seven times as large as Singapore).

Those looking to stay in hotels might want to try picking two or three different accommodation options across the island and staying for two nights in each, offering them enough time to see and do everything in each location. Similarly, campers could do the same by swapping campsites every few days.

If it helps, during a whole week on Kangaroo Island you’d be allowing yourself enough time to visit a number of great local restaurants, more than one winery, drop into Kangaroo Island Sprits (or a brewery if you prefer), spend a couple of days exploring the national parks, enjoy some relaxing days at the beach, go on some hikes, see the seals at Seal Bay, visit a wildlife park, enjoy an activity with Little Sahara and much more. On the contrary, if you spent just two days on KI, you’d have to select only a few of these activities (remember – the drives between different spots are long!).

Can I see Kangaroo Island in a weekend?

It depends on how you like to travel. For those hoping to see as much of the island as possible and not spend the weekend in a car trying to tick off itinerary items, it is advised that you spend more than a weekend on Kangaroo Island. Three or four days would make your stay much more relaxed and would ensure that you get to enjoy the places on your list.

However, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys a driving holiday and doesn’t mind spending a lot of time in the car, you can certainly try and fit in as much of the island as possible during a weekend. Just be warned; if you do this, you may have to come back again in the future and see the sites you missed. Or (more likely), you’ll be persuaded to come back and spend some more casual time in your favourite spots!

remarkable rocks kangaroo island

Pic credit: Tourism Australia – Remarkable Rocks

Places to visit on Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island – also known as Karta Pintingga – is a popular tourist destination for many Australians. From exploring Flinders Chase National Park to visiting Seal Bay Conservation Park, there are plenty of things to do on the island. In fact, there’s enough to do for more than a week. Below we outline five great attractions to get your trip to Kangaroo Island started.

Explore Flinders Chase National Park

Flinders Chase National Park is park is home to some of the island’s most stunning natural features. We’re talking about Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, to start with, as well as plenty of other beautiful natural sites. You could easily spend a whole day exploring (and two would be even better).

Tour Seal Bay Conservation Park

Always wanted to see seals in their natural habitat? Sea Bay park is home to a large colony of Australian sea lions, and offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures.

Bask on the Shores of Vivonne Bay

Named one of the best beaches in the world, Vivonne Bay is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sunshine. Bring a picnic and set up for the day. You’ll never want to leave.

Cuddle a Koala at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park

Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is home to a variety of animals, including kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. Get up close and personal with the animals and even cuddle a koala. The kids will love it!

Visit Kangaroo Island Spirits

Although Kangaroo Island is all about the nature, there’s much more to do. So if it happens to be raining, you’ll have plenty to see, try and taste. Boutique distillery Kangaroo Island Spirits produces a range of high-quality gins and vodkas using locally-sourced ingredients. Visitors can take a tour of the distillery and enjoy a tasting of the spirits.

And there’s much more where this came from! Plan your holiday to Kangaroo Island with our Ultimate Guide to Kangaroo Island. 

kangaroo island lodge accommodation

Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge

Where to stay on Kangaroo Island

Receive 10% of your Kangaroo Island stay using the code SAWE10. 

Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge is a beautiful accommodation option for those visiting Kangaroo Island. Located just a short stroll from the beach, the hotel offers spacious and well-appointed rooms, some of which boast panoramic ocean views.

Other amenities include an on-site restaurant and bar, outdoor pool, and tennis court. With its serene setting, comfortable accommodations, and numerous activities, Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty of Kangaroo Island.

Book your stay at Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge here. 

kangaroo island lodge pool