The bushfires in Kangaroo Island have been nothing short of devastating.
For the first few weeks of January, the fires ripped through the land, eating up everything in its path. The people of Kangaroo Island lost their homes, their businesses, the livelihoods and in some cases, even their family and friends.
Our original visit to Kangaroo Island last week had to be cancelled. The CFS had put restrictions on travel to and from KI, and it simply just was not safe for anyone to be visiting. However, once the travel restrictions had lifted there was not a question as to whether we would come back to visit. We want to do whatever we can to support the KI community, whether that be eating, drinking and shopping in their businesses, or sharing our experiences to show that Kangaroo Island is still a place you need to come and visit, and experience for yourself.
It has been so quiet on the island this week. In some places we have been the only people there. In the camp grounds there is just us and one other guy camped in a tent. We have places all to ourselves, in a way that we would usually love, but now just feels sad and eerie.
We have heard countless stories of loss while we have been here. From homes, properties, vineyards and businesses, to the tourist traffic that usually brings in so much business during the peak season in January. We have heard of people cancelling their travel plans to KI months in advance, and being extremely rude and aggressive to businesses who are ‘not getting back to them with a refund fast enough’, when they are simply trying to get back on their feet.
It’s heart-breaking, and very sobering to see this beautiful part of South Australia in such a helpless state.
In this post:
How can you help Kangaroo Island?
First and foremost, the people want you to visit.
If you already had a trip planned, do not cancel it. Much of the north side of the island is untouched by fires, and there are still plenty of places to explore and have wonderful experiences.
If you were thinking of coming to Kangaroo Island, organise a trip right now. The locals here want you to come. They want to see you at the beach, eating at their cafes, driving down their roads. There is also no better time to visit, with SeaLink offering ferry tickets from just $15 per person, for travel until the end of June this year. Find out more about that here.
Quite simply, the locals around the island want you to visit. They are craving the summer rush to give the island’s economy a boost and start to get things to more of a feeling of normality.
So we’ve put together a guide to some of the businesses on the island that are open and would really love for you to visit:
SeaLink Kangaroo Island
Start your trip to Kangaroo Island the right way by booking your ferry ride through SeaLink. This week they have launched their $15 passenger fares, making it more affordable than ever to visit the island. Add your car to your booking as well, to see more of the island during your visit.
Book your trip by the end of February, for travel through to the end of June this year and you can get fares from as little as $15. Use the promo code BOOKTHEMOUT when booking your trip for the discounted fares. Check the website for all terms and conditions, including excluded dates.
Find out more at sealink.com.au/bookthemout
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park
KI Wildlife Park is actually one of the best wildlife sanctuaries we have ever visited. With exhibits for all kinds of Australian animals, the KI Wildlife Park lets you get up close to their very active wildlife, offering encounters that you won’t find anywhere else.
These guys have also been critical as a response team for injured wildlife across KI during the fires. They have set up a temporary wildlife hospital on their grounds to give critical veterinary help to any rescued animals that are dropped off to them and are in the process of building a more permanent structure.
Open from 9am to 5pm, make sure you check the times for their koala feeding demonstration where you are actually allowed to go into the koala pen and meet some of their lovable residents.
4068 Playford Highway, Duncan || (08) 8559 6050 || kangarooislandwildlifepark.com
Seal Bay Conservation Park
Home to one of the largest wild colonies of Australian sea lions, a visit to Seal Bay is a very unique experience on Kangaroo Island. Book onto a guided tour where you will be taken right onto the beach that the seals call home and able to watch them up close in their natural habitat. During our visit we were told that the sea lions always return to the same beach, so these sea lions are returning every year and spending most of their days at Seal Bay.
We were booked onto the second tour of the day at 9:45am and the seals were so so active during this time. There were pups playing with each other and chasing each other round the shore. There were seals coming out of the sand dunes, walking along the beach and swimming in the ocean. There were pups feeding, seals diving and even a cheeky seal who followed us down the boardwalk.
We were told that when their most active is largely dependant on the weather, as they start to come out from the sand dunes and move down to the water the hotter it gets throughout the day, but I would highly recommend an early morning tour for an extra active bunch!
Seal Bay is open from 9am until 5om each day, with multiple tours throughout the day. Check out their website for tour times and to find out everything you need to know for you visit.
Seal Bay Road, Kangaroo Island || (08) 8553 4463 || sealbay.sa.gov.au
Discovery Lagoon Campgrounds
Only a short drive away from the beautiful Emu Bay, Discovery Lagoon is a great place to base yourself during your stay on Kangaroo Island. The campground is big and open, with large sites and plenty of room to spread out. They have toilets and showers on site for you to use, as well as a great camp kitchen for all your cooking needs.
The location at Emu Bay is a great central location on the island. It’s only a short drive to the main town of Kingscote if you need groceries or fuel, and puts you within easy driving distance of many other attractions, beaches and towns around the island.
Camp sites start from $25 per night for a site, with an eco glamping cottage also available. These guys really need your business, so we would highly recommend checking them out before the council campgrounds, as sites are roughly the same price.
948 North Coast Road, Wisanger || 0412 422 618 || discoverycamping.com.au
Kangaroo Island Spirits
This award-winning distillery started with dreams of creating botanical gins, but has expanded to include vodka, whisky and other liqueurs as well. Open daily from 11am to 5:30pm, visit their cellar door in Cygnet River for free tastings, bottle sales, or even a cocktail or two in the afternoon.
At the moment KI Spirits are donating $10 from every online sale to the bushfires as well, so there’s never been a better time to grab yourself a drink. We can highly recommend the SLAP Vodka, which is infused with samphire, lime zest and pepper. It’s absolutely delicious.
856 Playford Highway, Cygnet River || (08) 8553 9211 || kispirits.com.au
Emu Bay Lavender Farm
This cute little lavender farm, just around the corner from Emu Bay’s main beach is a great stop on your KI travels. Wander through the lavender where you can see bees busily moving between the flowers. Their on site cafe has delicious lunch and snack options, as well as cocktails made with local spirits from KI Spirits and local beer and wine.
The best part about Emu Bay Lavender Farm though is definitely it’s little store. Inside the cafe you will find a small shop section, stocking all the products that they create from the lavender. There’s all kinds of different things to try out, packaged beautifully and ready to improve your wellbeing! Some of my favourites are definitely their sleep balm and blemish cream. Both are so effective!
205 Emu Bay Road, Wisanger || (08) 8553 5338 || emubaylavender.com.au
Kangaroo Island Brewery
Stop by the Kangaroo Island Brewery to try out some of the island’s best locally brewed beer. One of KI’s newest places, the Kangaroo Island Brewery was established in 2015, with their tasting room found in a picture perfect shed, with views that reach out across KI’s country side.
Open from 11am to 7pm from Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) the KI Brewery have a range of different beers for you to try during your visit. If you’re not sure where to start grab yourself a tasting paddle and taste test four of the best before you make a decision. If you’re not a beer drinker, they also offer wine from The Islander Wines just down the road.
61 North Coast Road, Kingscote || 0409 264 817 || kangarooislandbrewery.com.au/
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery
Producing 100% pure Australian Eucalyptus Essential Oil, the Emu Ridge Distillery pride themselves on creating a unique product. Visit there store where you can watch a short video about their story, as well as the history of eucalyptus distilling on Kangaroo Island.
They have all kinds of eucalyptus products in their store, from the straight oil to their delicious eucalyptus and honey lollies, giving you a great range of things to choose from.
691 – 703 Willsons Road, Kingscote || (08) 8553 8228 || emuridge.com.au
KI & Co. Australia
Created by local mother and daughter duo Robyn and Kellie, KI & Co. create some truly beautiful pieces that completely encapsulate the spirit of Kangaroo Island. Their collections include handmade leather leaf earrings, porcelain earrings, leather goods including bookmarks and keyrings, and souvenir Kangaroo Island t-shirts, hats and tote bags.
KI & Co. don’t have a physical address on the island, but you can find them in many of the local stores and businesses around the island, as well as at the Penneshaw community and cruise ship markets. They are also stocked by a number of boutiques across Adelaide and the rest of Australia. Check out this full list of all their stockists in Australia.
Until the end of January KI & Co. are donating 20% of all sales to the Kangaroo Island Bushfire Appeal & Wildlife Recovery.
Check out their full range at kiandco.com.au/
The Islander Estate Cellar Door
Unfortunately the Islander Estate did not come out unscathed from the bushfires. While their cellar door is still open for business and welcoming visitors again, they unfortunately lost their vineyards in the fire, as well as all their wine making equipment and extensive farmland.
They still have wine though! And that’s why they’re still open and need you to visit more than ever. Sample their wine selection for just $10 per person, which will take you through about 7-10 of their popular wines, or if you prefer you can choose just a red or a white tasting for $5 each.
We can highly recommend the Pétiyante bubbly, as well as their SoFar SoGood Sauvignon Blanc, which is all natural and has absolutely no added preservatives. Grab a glass and one of their build your own picnic baskets and find a seat on their deck to enjoy an afternoon amongst the bush land.
78 Gum Creek Road, Cygnet River || (08) 8553 9008 || iev.com.au
Another great winery, all the way on the side of the island, Dudley Wines can be found just 20 minutes down the road from the main town of Penneshaw and offers beautiful views across the ocean. From their cellar door panoramic views show you the hills of Kangaroo Island leading to the water and on a clear day you can easily see the mainland of South Australia on the other side.
A great spot for a wine tasting or to grab lunch in the afternoon, Dudley wines was one of our new favourite places we checked out on this visit and is definitely worth checking out.
1153 Cape Willoughby Road, Penneshaw || (08) 8553 1333 || dudleywines.com.au
Vivonne Bay General Store & Bottle Shop
The lone general store in the Vivonne Bay region, this cute little corner shop went through quite an ordeal with the bushfires. The fires came dangerously close to them throughout the final week, and many days afterwards were spent without power and just trying to get things back up and running. But the Vivonne Bay General Store and Bottle Shop is happily back up and running now, and ready to cook you way more food than you could possible eat!
Head here for lunch when you’re visiting Vivonne Bay beach or Seal Bay just down the road and try out one of their famous whiting or lamb burgers. They also have lots of souvenirs and gifts to browse, and if you’re staying locally they have grocery basics that you might need.
LOT 4417, South Coast Road, Vivonne Bay || (08) 8559 4285
Bees and honey are actually very big on Kangaroo Island, so much so in fact that you can’t bring any mainland honey onto the island with you. So if you find yourself looking for some, look no further than the Beehive just out of the main town of Kingscote.
Now one of the biggest organic honey producers in Australia, the Beehive offers an onsite cafe, all kinds of honey products in their store, as well as a live beehive that you can check out full of bees. If you want to learn and see a little bit more of the action, personalised tours can be organised for just $6 per adult and go for about 15-20 minutes between 10am and 3:30pm each day.
Before you leave make sure you do a little tasting of their Honey Mead. It’s delicious and will warm up your insides!
59 Playford Highway, Kingscote || (08) 8553 0080 || island-beehive.com.au
Beaches that are still open to visit
Most of the beautiful beaches and river areas around the island are also still open and a perfect place to base yourself around the island. This includes the following:
- Emu Bay
- Vivonne Bay
- Stokes Bay
- Pennington Bay
- American River
- Antechamber Bay
- Penneshaw Beach
- Bales Beach
What to do if you can’t visit Kangaroo Island
If you can’t visit right now there are still ways to support the island. You can purchase products online directly from many of the businesses around the island from the links we’ve included above, and online purchases still go a long way into helping these guys stay afloat.
Alternatively, you can donate directly to one of the following fundraisers to give them a helping hand:
- Donate to the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park to help save injured and rescued koalas, kangaroos and wildlife from around KI
- Help rebuild Hanson Bay Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary which was completely wiped out by the fires
- Donate directly to the Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief & Recovery Bushfire Fund which is giving all donations directly to people whose homes, properties or businesses have been impacted by the bushfires
- Give to the CFS Volunteers to help support the firefighters who have been tirelessly battling against the fires
Every single dollar goes a long way to supporting the community of Kangaroo Island, so if you’re in a position to donate to any of these causes, the people of KI would very much appreciate it.
During our visit, we tried to visit as many businesses as we could to support the community of KI as much as possible, but of course it’s impossible to get to them all in just a few days. If you’re a Kangaroo Island business that we haven’t listed please leave your details, including your website in the comments below so that readers know you’re open for business.