KANGAROO ISLAND, AUSTRALIA — We hop off the ferry that brought us here from nearby Penneshaw onto a jetty that overlooks a crescent-shaped beach and crystal-clear blue waters.
We’re instantly psyched.
But where are the kangaroos we’ve come to see?
Apparently, the marsupials do not come to greet arriving visitors to the island that bares their name —we have to go find them in the parks and wilderness protection areas that dominate Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third largest island that lies just off the coast of Adelaide.
The only way to get around Kangaroo Island is by car. There’s no public transport or taxis. This island, which is dominated by marine parks, looks small but the attractions are spaced well apart.
Above: Isabel fell in love with an abandoned Joey and did her yoga in unique settings.
So we hire a 2WD vehicle and set out in search of kangaroos along main roads that are well paved, well maintained and well marked. However, the rest of the island’s roads are unsealed and gravel. Thankfully, they’re wide and easy to manoeuvre.
What’s missing, though, are cars. We seem to be alone most of the journey as we pass through sections flanked by trees that cast spiderweb shadows on our vehicle.
We follow the main highway until we reach Little Sahara. As the name suggests, this area of Kangaroo Island features lots of desert-like sand dunes that you can ride like snowbanks on rented sandbars or toboggans that cost about $25 (Cdn.) for two hours. Unlike the real Sahara, though, this miniature version only stretches for a few kilometres, but still impresses.
We stop at lovely Vivonne Bay for a picnic lunch of fish and chips and a side order of gorgeous scenery. This picture postcard beauty is one of the most photographed spots on Kangaroo Island and quickly jumps to the top of my favourite spots on our journey.
Above: Visitors are greeted to Kangaroo island by some jaw-dropping scenery.
When we reach Point Ellen, we’re greeted by more postcard scenes — swaths of seaweed stretch along a shoreline that’s lapped by turquoise water.
Our first day of driving ends when we reach Flinders Chase National Park, on the western point of Kangaroo Island. This lovely piece of real state features lots of nature walks, which range from 200m to over 61km — the latter takes five days to complete.
After obtaining our park pass at the visitors' centre, we point our car in the direction of famed Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. There’s plenty of wildlife in this area, including lots of kangaroos, so we keep our speed to the required 40km/h because animal crossings are extremely common.
Besides kangaroos, park inhabitants include koalas, wallabies, seals, sea lions, birds and echidnas. Believe it or not, we encountered all of them on our drive around Flinders Chase National Park.
Above: Forests that look like cobwebs shade roads and dramatic rock formations are common.
As we approach Remarkable Rocks, which sit perched high above the sea, their sheer size impresses. Sculpted by the elements for over 500 million years, the rocks look most beautiful when highlighted by the setting sun. They bring out the child in us and soon we start playing hide and seek among the rocks.
Nearby Admirals Arch is no less impressive. Strolling along the long boardwalk that borders the stalactite formations, we are hypnotized by the giant waves that crash against the shore with relentless ferocity.
Looking out, we see Australian sea lions and long-nosed fur seals on the rocks. Some are soaking up the sun while others play mischievously — not a care in the world.
Above: Watching a koala climb a tree in a national park is one of the thrills of Kangaroo Island.
Nothing can prepare you for the rock bridges that tower above the Arch.
Mother Nature’s artistic creativity is on full display here.
Just outside the park is where we set up camp for the night. There’s lots of caravan parking, camping sites and cabin accommodation available in this vast 17-ha park that features lots of bushland and grassland.
The real treat for me is the koala walking track where you’re guaranteed to see one of the cuddly creatures. The chubby koalas sit perched in tree branches and because their fur camouflages them so well, at first it’s hard for us to spot them. But once we do, their sighting instantly brings a smile to our face.
Up bright and early, we head back to civilization — to the small town of Kingscote, which is home to 40 per cent of Kangaroo Island’s 4,702 population.
There we are treated to what locals claim to be the best fish and chips on the island at a place called Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood.
Later, we’re even treated to some local entertainment at the nearby family-run Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery. A joey — baby kangaroo — who was rescued after its mother was killed in a car accident, sits in a wicker cradle sucking on a milk bottle. The scene melts my heart. I can’t resist. I lovingly cradle the small creature in my arms and wish I could take it home.
On the 45-minute ferry ride back to Adelaide, the autumn sun lights up Kangaroo Island and as I look back, I wonder how my joey is doing.