Hop­ping Across to Kan­ga­roo Is­land

Let's Travel - - AUSTRALIA - Words and im­ages by Shane Boocock

On March 22nd 1802, the English­man, Matthew Flin­ders, was chart­ing what was then known in Latin as ‘Terra Aus­tralis Incognita’… The Un­known South­ern Land. Dur­ing his cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of what is now known as Aus­tralia he came across an un­charted and un­known is­land with an abun­dance of kan­ga­roos that in­hab­ited the fer­tile land; not sur­pris­ingly he named it Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

Hav­ing lived on salt pork for much of their jour­ney, the crew of Flin­ders’ ship, the HMS In­ves­ti­ga­tor, were said to have shot 31 is­land kan­ga­roos for a fresh sup­ply of meat. Half a hun­dred­weight of heads, fore­quar­ters and tails were stewed down for soup, and as much kan­ga­roo steak was avail­able for of­fi­cers and men as they could con­sume “by day and night”. It was de­clared to be a “de­light­ful re­gale”.

I was trav­el­ling there with AAT Kings. It’s a 45 minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Penin­sula to cross the Back­stairs Pas­sage to the small com­mu­nity of Pen­neshaw on Kan­ga­roo Is­land. The is­land’s 4,350 square km land mass mea­sures about 150 km long and is be­tween 57 km - 90 km wide with a res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of about 4,600 people.

The third largest is­land in Aus­tralia is a sanc­tu­ary to large pop­u­la­tions of na­tive Aus­tralian an­i­mals, with rock for­ma­tions unique to South Aus­tralia and with just three small town­ships; there is pris­tine wilder­ness in abun­dance. Be­sides Kan­ga­roos, the is­land is home to sea lions, fur seals, pel­i­cans, short beaked echid­nas, koala, Rosen­berg goan­nas, Tam­mar wal­la­bies, brush­tail pos­sums, South­ern Brown bandi­coots, Western and Lit­tle Pygmy pos­sums, bush and swamp rats, bats, frogs and, I was told on good author­ity, many thou­sands of slith­ery Black Tiger and Pygmy Cop­per­head snakes.

Our ac­com­mo­da­tion for the night was the un­usu­ally named Ozone Ho­tel in Kingscote, man­aged by the Aurora Re­sorts Group. The orig­i­nal build­ing was con­structed in 1908 and was once con­sid­ered the finest ho­tel in the state with a 155 foot long sand­stone frontage. The ho­tel of­fered 57 rooms, sa­loon, or­di­nary bars, billiard room, two din­ing rooms, and sev­eral par­lour rooms, but alas it was razed to the ground in a de­struc­tive fire in 1918. It was re­built in 1920 but is a less or­nate replica of the orig­i­nal.

Very lit­tle of the ho­tel to­day shows the glimpses of it’s glory days, as in­side it is now a fully mod­ern bistro restau­rant and bar as well as con­tem­po­rary fur­nished bed­rooms. For din­ner on a cold, windswept night I started with de­li­cious lo­cal oys­ters and then opted for a kan­ga­roo and veg­etable pot­pie but on see­ing the King Ge­orge whit­ing on other peo­ples’ plates, I wish I had cho­sen more wisely.

Af­ter an early break­fast we were on the road at 8.00 am. It was cloudy with light driz­zle but the fore­cast was for clear­ing skies, as our friendly AAT Kings tour di­rec­tor Dave in­formed us. Our first stop was the Flin­ders Chase Vis­i­tors Cen­tre in Flin­ders Chase Na­tional Park. Dur­ing our visit a big Cape Bar­ron Goose wan­dered down from the scrub and walked across the ze­bra cross­ing as though it had right of way – as it very likely did – a loose goose tak­ing a bit of a gan­der.

We mo­tored on for an­other 15 min­utes to the south­west­ern edge of the is­land to a place named Cape du Couedic where the is­land’s fa­mous Ad­mi­rals Arch is hid­den be­low the cliffs. Here you’ll find the Cape du Couedic Light­house built in 1909 and a net­work of walk­ing trails, the best of which is a board­walk to the base of the cliffs where the stun­ning see-through Ad­mi­rals Arch is lo­cated. It’s a pre­ferred lo­ca­tion for a colony of bask­ing New Zealand fur seals, a small por­tion of over 7,000 seals that live and breed around Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

From the Cape it was an­other short drive to Re­mark­able Rocks, gi­nor­mous gran­ite boul­ders in sculp­tured for­ma­tions that are said to be more than 500 mil­lion years old on a dra­matic coastal bluff with spec­tac­u­lar views out to the South­ern Ocean. This is an iconic tourist draw card on Kan­ga­roo Is­land, es­pe­cially at sun­set due to the sym­me­try of the shapes and shad­ows.

The beat­ing heart of Kan­ga­roo Is­land was where lunch was be­ing served. Leav­ing the smooth high­way we ven­tured onto the red dirt road for about 15 min­utes un­til we reached An­der­mel Mar­ron & Café, which turned out to be the high­light of our visit. It was started 16 years ago on the site of a for­mer run-down sheep sta­tion that over time was con­verted into a vine­yard and a se­ries of breed­ing ponds stretched over five hectares filled with fresh­wa­ter cray­fish (Mar­ron).

It looks like a sim­ple café, but the cui­sine served is any­thing but. We were first in­tro­duced to the owner, John Mel­bourne, who guided us through the his­tory of fresh­wa­ter cray­fish in Aus­tralia and how they rear the clawed critters and even­tu­ally plate up the dishes in their café. Af­ter a short wine tast­ing of John’s Two Wheeler Creek Vine­yard wines it was on to lunch. A no brainer was choos­ing from the menu their Mar­ron seafood plat­ter for two. It con­sisted of roasted cray­fish in the shell, cold cray­fish in the shell, prawns, scal­lops, fresh fruit, green salad and gar­lic bread. This was a plat­ter that stole the show.

There is a range of ac­tiv­i­ties to keep any vis­i­tor happy on Kan­ga­roo Is­land: wines, vines and spir­its – try the KIS Is­land Gin, char­ter fish­ing, kayak­ing, quad bike tours, golf, pho­to­graphic tours, wildlife walk­a­bouts, lo­cal fes­ti­vals, walk­ing tracks, wildlife parks and sanc­tu­ar­ies, as well as na­tional parks and wilder­ness ar­eas. There’s some­thing for all the fam­ily to en­joy.

Fol­low­ing our guided tour across the Mar­ron Es­tate we headed for an­other well-known tourist at­trac­tion, Seal Bay Vis­i­tor Cen­tre and Seal Bay Beach, based in­side the Cape Gantheaume Wilder­ness Pro­tec­tion Area. Only guided tours by qual­i­fied staff al­low vis­i­tors to am­ble down onto the chalky white sands where a colony of sea lions bask (lounge room lizard like) in the af­ter­noon sun­light, where oc­ca­sion­ally a male on male ruckus would turn into a loud grumpy sea lion slang­ing match – a scene where big­ger males al­ways seemed to win hand­somely.

Vis­it­ing the seals was a great way to end our Har­vest Tour of South Aus­tralia. We’d hap­pily en­gaged in and wit­nessed a chef’s life, sea life, wildlife, nightlife, fresh­wa­ter fish life and people just liv­ing the good life.

We never did get to see any slith­ery snakes, but that aside our group all had huge smiles on their faces and a mem­ory bank of unique ex­pe­ri­ences that will be hard to let go of. Hop­ping across to Kan­ga­roo Is­land is one ferry jour­ney that will last for­ever.

Mar­ron Cafe seafood plat­ter

Goose Cross­ing

Old Goal at Kingscote

Ozone Ho­tel

Re­mark­able Rocks

Re­mark­able Rocks

Ad­mi­rals Arch

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