Kangaroo Island is an excellent destination for family travel. Its diversity, open spaces and guaranteed wildlife encounters make it perfect for creating lifelong memories.
To assist you in planning your visit, we have put together our top ten tips for an amazing Kangaroo Island family holiday. Logistics, season and the size and ages of any young travellers in your party all impact your plans, but this should get you off to a good start.
1. Allow plenty of time
Kangaroo Island covers over 4000 square kilometres in area – this makes it seven times the size of Singapore, four times Hong Kong and a touch smaller than Bali. Depending on where you stay, a trip from one end of the Island to the other might cover over 300 km of driving. We recommend a visit of at least five days for an immersive and relaxing Kangaroo Island family holiday or vacation.
Need help planning your visit? Our reservations team can book tours, accommodation, transport and experiences for you.
2. Split long driving days with quieter days
When you plan out your days, look for some experiences close to home for the day after those long days. Most holiday accommodations are close to walking trails or have beaches to explore.
Try fishing from local jetties or off the shoreline, bring a favourite book for yourself and the kids, and explore some of the Island heritage at one of the folk museums located in Parndana, Penneshaw and Kingscote. A couple of favourite historical sites worth a look at the Old Wisanger School and the rebuilding of The Independence wooden sailing ship on the wharf at American River.
You can find playgrounds, sandpits and other fun play equipment at:
- Parndana Lions Park + Parndana Oval
- Emu Bay
- Dudley Wines
- False Cape Wines
- Kingscote foreshore, oval + skate park
- Reeves Point
- American River foreshore
- Vivonne Bay
- Wisanger Sports Club
3. Have one hero activity per day
Try to schedule the most active elements early in the day, so energy levels are high – and then a cruisy afternoon. When planning your days, allow plenty of time for travel. You may have interruptions like echidna encounters, a mob of sheep being driven down the road, a random kangaroo or koala crossing or other typical Kangaroo Island traffic snarls! Arrive in enough time for a quick loo stop and prepare with appropriate shoes, sunblock, cap and whatever else you need to participate.
4. Plan your food stops – and maybe loo stops as well!
There are limited places to get food and supplies on the Island – this does not mean you cannot get good supplies, but work out where they are. Check opening times of all venues and refuel before leaving for the day unless you are confident you can get fuel along the way.
Food availability, in particular, has been impacted by the Black Summer bushfires on the south coast and west end of the Island. This list is not exhaustive, but here are some of our favourite daytime places to eat:
- Vivonne Bay Store – whiting burgers are the best!
- False Cape Wines – the hardest choice is which homemade pie you’re going to have.
- Emu Bay Lavender Farm
- Cactus Cafe (Kingscote)
- Fish and Chips at Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods (Kingscote)
- The Deck Cafe (American River)
- Parndana Community Hotel
- Milly Mae’s Pantry (Penneshaw)
- Rockpool Cafe (Stokes Bay)
5. Team up with local operators to deliver excellent experiences
There is a range of options for activities such as guided quad-bike tours, e-bikes for families with older kids, a guided ATV tour to the coast at Little Sahara, fatbike cycling in the dunes, an ocean rafting trip from a couple of locations with an optional dolphin-swim, a delicious barbecue at a bush camp, a hands-on beekeeping experience, or simply enjoying a picnic on a remote beach or clifftop.
There are also opportunities to meet ecologists and scientists for a “Day in the Life of a Wildlife Researcher”. These immersive experiences can get you off the beaten track and discover what is happening behind the scenes, ensuring your Kangaroo Island family holiday will remain a highlight for years to come.
6. Engage all the senses
We have become very “visual” in the way we interact with the world around us. Often it takes a deliberate choice to re-engage all of the senses. It can be really fun and something of a revelation to get your family back in touch with the world around us.
A daily challenge can be fun – “today, we want to find something that feels smooth, or lumpy, that smells awesome – or gross” if you happen upon a dried-out fish washed up on the shore. Even a sensory treasure hunt could be part of your family adventure. Try to build in a way to include all of your senses – and if you have someone in your travel party with poor vision or hearing – they might lead the way if their other senses are elevated.
Specific tasks can hone the focus – “I want everyone to lay down on the sand/grass/picnic rug and close their eyes. Listen to see how many different things you can hear and to try to work out what they are”. Do this for 10 minutes – yes, it will seem like AGES for some – and then regroup and talk about what you heard.
An extension of this is that you get everyone to draw what they heard – with themselves being in the centre of the page and listening out in every direction. The task of recording sound with a pencil on paper gets the creativity going. Seal Bay Visitor Centre has a “please touch” rather than “please don’t touch” table for us to get a sensory experience – you can feel the pelt of a fur-seal, the worn teeth in an old sea-lion skull, and just how heavy their bones are.
Some of our memorable sensory experiences:
- The guttural bellowing of a male koala sounding out its territory
- A sea-lion pup’s mournful call of a familiar mammalian “Muuum, I’m hungry.”
- The smell of rain on dry grass in summer
- The taste of freshly harvested honey – or even licking some fresh nectar shaken out of a cup gum blossom onto your hand
- The feel of silky, smooth, warm sand beneath your bare feet on a hot day
- The incredibly salty fresh taste of the sea – particularly our North Coast in summer
- Carefully exploring the spines of the prickly hakeas, which make them perfect homes for little wrens and thornbills.
7. Use maps and tech tools to help you plan
Use https://eatdrinkki.com.au/map/ to sketch a loose outline, then get the kids to help fill the days. The excitement of a pending holiday or vacation is an integral part of the enjoyment: plan; anticipate; experience; remember; repeat! We have so many tools at our disposal to check distances, look at photos in advance, which can assist in setting expectations. It will also pay to compile a list of what to bring as part of your planning for your Kangaroo Island family holiday.
8. Have a Plan B for challenging weather – any time of year
Kangaroo Island has a maritime climate that moderates many of the temperature extremes – at least on paper! The reality is the wind can feel cold any time of the year so bring layers – a T-shirt, fleece and a wind-proof top layer, and you are ready for anything. Summer days can get hot – but usually cool down overnight.
It is a safe bet that little kids will get sandy, muddy, wet or all of the above – sometimes several times a day, so having a wet bag and dry clothes in the car will always come in handy. If you do not want to get your car sandy, bring some baby or talcum powder. A sprinkle of powder on sandy feet and legs will help it dust off in a flash.
Check out the weather forecast – there is always a sheltered side to the Island so if it is looking rough – unless you want an elemental adventure in the teeth of a gale, head to the opposite shoreline. Ask a local if you need some help finding a sheltered spot. In a southerly blow, Nepean Bay beach gives you a snug spot to explore a long beach comprised solely of millions of tiny shells, even in the stormiest conditions. The forecast might give you a lead on balancing more indoor activities with the active, outdoor days.
9. What about me? Include some stops for yourself!
It wouldn’t be a fun Kangaroo Island family holiday without a couple of stops for the adults, would it? Our beverage options are creative, diverse and delicious. Explore some of the foodie experiences largely clustered not far from Kingscote. Some of these are Emu Bay Lavender, Island Beehive or Clifford’s Honey Farm for the Ligurian bee experience, local seafood from Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood or The Oyster Farm Shop.
Both of the honey places have delicious ice creams which large and small kids all enjoy! Our adult favourites are Kangaroo Island Spirits, The Islander Estate Vineyards tasting room, False Cape Wines (great family-friendly play space), Springs Road Wines, and Kangaroo Island Brewery. These venues all have lots of open space for kids to explore so everyone can enjoy a good time. If you are looking for catered excursions rather than self-drive, you might consider our Fine Flavours day tour or, for a deeper dive, our Fished, Farmed and Fermented 3 day private tour.
10. Get someone to do it for you with a fully hosted family adventure.
If you need a complete break and want someone to host your experience, check out our Young Families or Active Explorers itineraries – our guides love meeting young travellers. These privately guided excursions are fully catered and designed to meet your specific needs. The more we know about your interests, likes and dislikes, the better we can shape the experience to suit.
We hope these can assist you in planning your dream Kangaroo Island family holiday – but if this seems all too hard, you can always contact our local team who can look after your entire holiday, including tours, experiences, accommodation and transport.