Hop off to Kangaroo Island!

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You've got to love a place where penguins almost outnumber people. And love it even more when you don't have to load a sled and trek over snow and ice to get there. In fact it's an easy weekend getaway from Adelaide, or even Melbourne.

Kangaroo Island, site of South Australia's first settlement, is just 45 minutes by SeaLink passenger ferry from Cape Jervis on the coast south-east of Adelaide, or less than 30 minutes by Emu Airways from Adelaide.

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Here's a trivia question for your next pub night - a no-brainer if you've been with us so far. What is Australia's third largest island - after Melville Island and Tasmania? And another one - what is the tiny marsupial which only lives on Kangaroo Island? Answer: the dunnart. And in case you've been wondering - there are around 4000 tiny blue fairy penguins and about 4300 people on Kangaroo Island.

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Matthew Flinders did it the hard way 200 years ago. Coming ashore he found kangaroos so fearless on this uninhabited island that his advance party effortlessly snared a few dozen of them and proudly took them back to the meat-starved crew on the HMS Investigator.

You could imagine that as they gnawed the bones at dinner that night, it wouldn't have needed the brightest seaman on the ship to suggest a name for this scrub-covered island.

Yet while kangaroos feature in the name - and the island was alive with them at the time (some people say there could have been a million of them leaping around on this 155 kilometre by 55 kilometre island) - there are Tammar wallabies, found only here, several types of possums, as well as echidnas, koalas, platypus, bandicoots, bush and swamp rats, bats, wedge-tailed eagles, snakes and a rather large species of sand goanna.

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Guided tours at Seal Bay allow you to wander well-supervised amongst sea lions basking on the beach, and at Admiral's Arch in the Flinders Chase National Park, you can see some of the 6000 New Zealand fur seals that live and breed there. There are no foxes, dingoes or rabbits to disturb the wildlife on Kangaroo Island, so do plan to leave your pets at home.

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But there are plenty of these here - echidnas - as well as koalas.

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For a place that began its white settlement with a feast, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that food features rather heavily in today's Kangaroo Island.

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There's a ten-kilogram baggage allowance on the airlines that service the island, which makes it sensible to pack light, as it is almost inevitable you will carry back bottles of wine, some local honey, or call in at Island Pure Sheep Dairy for some haloumi or fetta as you are heading to the airport.

But eating is just one of the pleasures on the island. You can walk off the effects of all that good food on the island's beaches or in the bush. Surf, sail, cycle and swim, or skid down the sands of Little Sahara. Take a fishing rod and catch a delicious King George whiting, or go searching underwater for a leafy sea dragon, only found here. Don't worry, it's really only a sort of seahorse, and not at all dragon-sized!

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But this island platter serves up more than food. While the coastline has claimed many ships, the crisp white sandy beaches edge gin-clear water, ideal for every watery sport you might enjoy.

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If you come by ferry, you will land at Penneshaw, a picture pretty town to the east of the island. It's the ideal starting point for trips to the Cape Willoughby lighthouse and American River (long story about the name, ask your tour guide). Head south and west of Kingscote for farmland and the National Park, the roadsides a garden in springtime when the island's 850 species of plants are in flower.

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But in even the most delightful  places you need a place to rest when all your exploring is over and Stranraer Homestead at

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The Federation-style building was constructed in 1920 from local limestone.

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Owners Lyn and Graham Wheaton give their guests a generous country-style welcome, and Lyn is a great cook!

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One of the most unusual features of the island are the Remarkable Rocks on the southern side of the island. These giant granite boulders smoothed by the wind, look more as if a mad sculptor has attacked them with a massive chisel and drill.

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Kangaroo Island - with an animal in its name, and wildlife all over the land, as well as in the air and sea - this place is really jumping. There must really be something special about it. After all, 4000 penguins can't be wrong!

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Kangaroo Island - it's the sort of place you somehow always hoped existed. Somewhere.

 

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For more information: Kangaroo Island Travel Guide iPhone and iPad app, by Carolyn Jasinski - iPhones & iPads - on iTunes App Store or Android phones and tablets.

 

 

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