Jamie Mi shares a wild first-time visit to South Australia with readers of Australia China Connections.
There are times in our life where we feel a need to seek out a closeness with nature, to gain a sense of the earthy reality of predator and prey, in contrast to the security and predictability of city life.
Travel, especially a wild adventure, is usually a rare dream for us urbanites, and one that entails a long-haul flight. But if you are ready to explore somewhere close to a capital city, but which provides a sense of isolation and grandeur, a place to wow you is Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
If you are familiar with Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast already, perhaps now is the time to visit South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. My recommendation is to stay two or three days in Adelaide itself, then take the 20-minute scenic flight to Kangaroo Island with Rex (Regional Express Airlines) – to an island that is, for me, one of the most unspoilt places in the whole of the Asia-Pacific.
The origin of Kangaroo Island’s name is itself recognition of the remoteness of the place and the need for travelers to survive in a distant environment. The modern history of the island can be traced back to 1802 when British explorer Captain Mathew Flinders, navigating the south coast of Australia in the Investigator (as the first sailor to ever circumnavigate the continent) discovered the island. Needing to feed the whole ship’s company, he found fresh food – kangaroos by the plenty. And so the island received its name as a mark of gratitude.
Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island has an area of 4500km2. The best way to appreciate the true heritage and natural beauty on this island is to tour at your own pace in a car or four-wheel drive. Alternatively, a self guided tour with a planned coach journey or sailing charter will provide you with an ultimate experience.
*Pictured above: A return to nature on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. (Courtesy Jamie Mi)
Kangaroo Island is like a zoo without fences, with rare bird life, Tammar wallabies, short-beaked echidnas and plenty of kangaroos and koalas seen across most of the island. It also has abundant habitats of marine wildlife, including penguin and sea lion colonies.
There are 21 national conservation parks on Kangaroo Island covering almost a third of its land area. This ensures the continuing protection of native fauna and flora.
A about 55km south of the island’s main township of Kingscote lies Seal Bay with its long stretches of golden sand. The bay is home for the majority of sea lions on Kangaroo Island. Accompanied by tour guide Nikki Redman and Gaylene Booth from Kangaroo Island Odysseys, we trekked along a wooden boardwalk winding through the limestone cliffs and dunes. We walked quietly in a line along a single corridor to the endangered Australian sea lion’s resting territory. On the platform, you can take all your time to observe the sea lions surfing the waves and sea lion puppies sunning themselves on the beach and playing. It’s a moving and mesmerizing spectacle.
A Surprising Ride
Just a 15-minute car drive from Vivonne Bay is Kangaroo Island’s best outdoor action meeting point – KI Outdoor Action. Jump on a prepared quad bike and off you go. It was an exciting taste of some 500 acres of open grassland and pristine native bush, and in just one afternoon, having been in Australia for 10 years already, I’ve never felt this excited to see so many kangaroos and wallabies in their natural habitat. And there was more – we were also able to see koalas, echidnas, goannas and much birdlife.
Of course, Kangaroo Island is more than just beaches, wilderness and wildlife. There are historic sites to visit as well as interesting and unique geographical features such as Admiral’s Arch at Cape du Couedic (named by Flinders’ French rival, explorer Nicolas Buadin sailing the Geographe, in 1803) and, about three kilometres east, Remarkable Rocks, a cluster of weather-sculptured granite boulders sweeping out to sea.
Nikki and Gaylene our tour guides showed us a stunning spot at Remarkable Rocks, where we sampled a sparkling rose from the Bay of Shoals vineyard and a local cheese plate. It’s hard to imagine what could be better than this, taking time to absorb the stunning 180 degree sea views of Flinders Chase National Park while enjoying some of Kangaroo island’s finest produce on the natural stone table of the Rocks!
Not to be missed, Food and Wine
For seafood lovers, Kangaroo Island serves up some unique natural flavours, such as abalone from American River; freshwater crayfish; premium oysters; Andermel marron and King George whiting, to name a few of the island’s iconic seafood produce. Also, the stunning Clifford’s honey; Kangaroo Island sourced South Rock lamb; Kangaroo Island spirit; walnut spirit ice cream and Echidna chocolate ensure that the epicurean is never left dissatisfied.
Bay of Shoals
At 6am, the ocean outside of my hotel was still dark, by 6.45am a mixture of grey and blue skied punctuated by the sun’s first rays had kicked off the dawn. By 7am, we arrived at Bay of Shoals – a winery north of Kingscote, overlooking the eponymous Bay of Shoals itself and Reeves Point. The view of the vineyard changes every minute depending on the shade of the sunlight, from purple to green, from orange to bright pink.
Further away, a family of wallabies was watching the sunrise calmly in between the vines, heedless of us, as a group of took photos of them. In the opposite direction, a huge cloud of mist shifted from west to east, gently and expectably revealing a rainbow across the mountains. So there we were, already at 7am in the morning, enjoying premium wine tastings at a cellar door!
If you are coming here as a group of people or a family group on a special occasion,
Lifetime Retreat is an ideal destination.
There are three styles of house to choose from: the sensuous curves of the Cliff House, perched on the cliff overlooking beautiful Snelling’s Beach, the romantic Sky House providing sweeping views of the rugged coastline as far as the eye can see, and the heritage three bedroom Stone House, providing a blend of beach and bush.
*Pictured above: Lifetime Retreat on Kangaroo Island, SA. (Courtesy Jamie Mi)
After enjoying the magnificent panoramic view, we were taken to a tiny house made out of roll tile board, which was almost falling apart. Lunch was served here!
15 of us passed through the tiny wooden framed door and as soon as we were inside house, it was a totally different world. What an amazing place – candles everywhere, a well-maintained vintage piano sitting right opposite the doorway, a long, polished, wooden table and benches with romantic roses and tableware setting, plus vintage silver cutlery and French chandeliers above us.
Lunch was served with matching premium wines from the region and from other parts of South Australia. At this moment, the beauty of Kangaroo Island was definitely raised beyond its wildlife and natural landscape.
While you are in Adelaide, do take the opportunity to visit the unique Central Market.
This is the true social centre where everyone meets and the place is all about food and grocery shopping. The Central Market has all the local produce that you can think of, with influences from the generations of European and Asian immigration to the city, whether it’s organic apples, local honey and cheese, to the most authentic Korean and Russian dishes, everything is covered.
*Pictured left: Home grown goodness at Adelaide’s Central Market. (Courtesy Jamie Mi)
Adelaide is a beautifully humble city that contains lots of modesty, hidden treasures and friendliness. Take your time to explore the best and you will be amazed just how many precious surprises you will discover and how appreciatively the city returns the favor to you.
Seeing it all through my Chinese eyes, Adelaide is indeed Asian friendly. The tie with Asian culture can be traced back to 1880s when the first generation of Chinese migrants arrived in Adelaide for their mining and gold rushes. Today, you can feel the close sense of Chinese community by exploring all the Chinese restaurants and shops surrounding the Central Market.
Whether it is Kangaroo Island or Adelaide, this is just a first chapter of a South Australian trip. Of course there are still the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Port Lincoln, not to mention the remote Flinders Ranges and outback to explore. Are you ready? ■
*Jamie Mi travelled to South Australia courtesy the Adelaide Convention Bureau.
**Pictured top left: Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. (Courtesy Jamie Mi)