Why were we going south for a winter holiday? Well, frankly, an opportunity arose and I took it, but according to many, winter is the best time to visit Kangaroo Island, despite the next stop being Antarctica! Better, I say, than the relentless heat of a South Australian summer, where temperatures regularly and persistently top 40° C and heat stroke and sunburn are real dangers.
We flew to Adelaide and hired a car at the airport. WARNING!!!! If you are planning to take the car from the mainland to Kangaroo Island you must inform the hire company. There may be restrictions on your permissible use of the vehicle. We were restricted to government maintained roads and only town areas after dark. Too many kangaroos! If you are planning an extended trip to Kangaroo Island, I would advise hiring a 4WD (SUV).
We drove to Normanville on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide. Our base for the week was the Lady Bay Resort where we had a one bedroom apartment. We have stayed here before, also in winter, and really enjoyed it. The resort is a golf resort (we don’t play) and has tennis courts (we’re now too decrepit!) and a pool (too cold), but is also in a beautiful rural setting with ocean views and kangaroos. It is just fabulous watching the roos whilst eating breakfast. The young bucks frequently practise their ‘boxing’ skills, and are a delight to watch. Be careful in the car park when arriving after dark, there may be lots of roos.
Normanville has a pub (amongst other things) which has a great restaurant with good food, friendly service in a cosy environment. We also love Lilla’s Cafe which has a rustic setting and is great for coffee and cake or weekend dinners.
The area is proud of its links to the well-known artist Hans Heysen, and boasts a Hans Heysen trail for both driving and, particularly, walking. Hans Heysen is particularly known for his paintings of eucalypt trees and there are many fine examples all over The Peninsula.
Good walking abounds on The Peninsula. We did a lovely walk at Ingalalla Falls , near Yankalilla and another in Deep Creek Conservation Park, both an hour-long, though the falls walk was steep. I think I should invest in a book about Australian fungi as we keep coming across some interesting specimens and don’t know what they are. This one looks like Big Ears’ house from the Noddy stories, whilst this one is just huge – no, I didn’t pick it!
It had rained in the weeks prior to us arriving and the countryside was lush and green, the views were more reminiscent of England than Australia. The Ingalalla walk, in particular, was curious as much of the track was verdant grass, not a usual feature on Aussie bush walks.
Deep Creek Conservation Park was fun. We were chatting with a camper when we noticed a herd of deer run past on the other side o;f the road. A very alarmed teenager emerged from the bush claiming that there were wolves chasing the deer! She was Canadian. She figured that if the deer were running then a predator must be chasing them. We assured her there were no wolves in Australia, but hubby and the camper, with whom the girl belonged, took great delight in telling her all about sharks, jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, spiders and drop bears!
The bird life in Deep Creek Conservation Park was extensive with cockatoos, kookaburras, Fairy wrens, finches and honey-eaters. We also saw some kangaroos, but no wolves. There were carnivorous plants though, some with the most exquisite white flowers.
A visit to Victor Harbor is a must. It is an attractive town, proud of its whale centre (although we have never seen whales off the SA coast) and its horse-drawn tram (very cute) which will take you to a nearby island where there is a penguin rookery (fees apply) and a café. It is also a very pleasant walk.
Goolwa is further along the coast and is the gateway to the Coorong and the Murray River mouth. There are boat cruises you can do from here to the Murray mouth and around Lake Alexandrina and the Coorong (made famous by the movie Storm Boy). Unfortunately they have reduced services in winter and were booked out when we arrived on their doorstep. So, we found a micro-brewery that offered tours and tastings and came away with some unusual flavours of beer.
Kangaroo Island. My advice is don’t book anything until the last-minute when you decide when to go based on the weather report. We took the car across on the ferry and stayed at The Mercure hotel in American River. There is not much at American River besides houses and a small general store with petrol, but we really liked the hotel. It had great views and lovely grounds, including its very own bushwalks. The staff were great, the rooms spacious and comfortable and the restaurant was excellent. After having been on a couple of the walks in search of the rare red-tailed glossy black cockatoo, where did we find them? in a sheoak tree in the car park! Magnificent, but exclamations from a loud person scared them off before we could photograph them – not us!
Day one we drove out to a farm that specialises in rare breeds. Along the way we encountered scores of Tammar wallabies – the cutest, tiny wallabies ever! The road on the farm was somewhat of a quagmire so we parked just inside the gate and opted to walk up to the property. What fun. We were greeted and escorted by an eclectic group of baby animals (known affectionately by the farmer as the rat pack) comprising several lambs, a goat, an extremely friendly piglet and a miniature calf known as Mini-moo! The tour of the farm was fascinating and we were there for nearly three hours.
That night we went on a nocturnal wildlife tour. Yes it was cold, but we were well prepared with thermal underwear, gloves, hats and scarves. We saw lots of kangaroos, including two males having a full on fight with punching and whopping kicks, possums; who seemed to like walking down the middle of the road! and penguins.
Day two and the weather was perfect – blue, sunny sky and 18° C. We visited Seal Bay, took the tour onto the beach and walked the boardwalk, and saw lots of seals. Funny about that! We went to Flinders Chase National Park and visited Admirals Arch – more boardwalk, lots of different seals and interesting geology – and Remarkable Rocks, which were, indeed, remarkable. We started a walk in the park which was a really nice walk – we saw baby (and adult) Cape Barren Geese, a koala and more kangaroos – but it threatened to get dark and our hire car might just turn into a pumpkin! Actually we didn’t fancy hitting a kangaroo – dangerous beasties.
Day three and the weather closed in with squalling rain, so we booked ourselves onto an earlier ferry, watched some cavorting seals in the harbour and retreated to the pub for lunch.