When I began planning a trip to Australia, a whole list of Must See’s immediately made it onto the list: Sydney, The Great Barrier Reef, Uluru… It was a few days into Hardcore Planning Mode before I’d even heard of this place mythically dubbed Kangaroo Island. I pictured kangaroos as far as the eye could see and immediately crammed a stop into our itinerary. While we did see a few kangaroos and quite a few wallabies (that’s for another post), the Island turned out to be so much more than the macropod utopia I’d imagined.
Day #10,284: Despite the eponymous promise of kangaroos, the island offers up one of the best places in the world to see platypus in the wild. Platypus are exceedingly rare, and even here, where they’re known to nest, it’s almost impossible to get a glimpse. The ranger we talked to the day before said our absolute best chance was to show up at dawn and keep our fingers crossed.
So we set our alarm for 4am and headed out into Flinders Chase National Park just as the sun was cresting above the frosted grass. Mr. M & I hiked the 1½ miles out to the Rocky River to the viewing platform and stood frozen, not wanting to scare any of them away. The platypus are super timid, and you really do need to wait in near silence if you want any hope of saying hello.
We waited, silent in the icy dawn. And waited. We waited some more.
Apparently the platypus were away on vacay, too. After two hours in the cold, you couldn’t say we didn’t try.
Mr. M & I drove out to the furthest possible point on Kangaroo Island to the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse.
The winter waves broke rough and foamy on the rocky black giving the area that edge-of-the-earth feeling that’s so elusive and rewarding. The lounging New Zealand Fur Seals were an added bonus.
On the way back across the Island, we stopped at a place called The Remarkable Rocks.
How in the devil did they get dropped up here? We were never too sure on the geology of the situation.
Mr. M & I were headed back across Kangaroo Island to the main town of Kingscote and decided to drive a bit of what’s known as Kangaroo Island’s Farm Gate & Cellar Door Trail along the way. The Island has a wealth of local producers making everything from eucalyptus oil to oysters to Ligurian honey.
The Eucalyptus Oil Distillery had a self-guided walking tour of the plantation, but Mr. M & I got distracted by the gift shop, which housed eucalyptus soap perfect for sister S… and this little bundle of joy.
Because we were visiting in Australia’s winter, many of the participants- notably the wineries and lavender farms- were closed for the season. Island Pure Sheep Dairy is open year-round and never having tasted sheep cheese before- doesn’t the name alone make it sound just… foul? Sheep cheese?– and I was intrigued. We visited with a few of the sheep, then went inside for a tour of the dairy.
Along the way, the friendly proprietess had us sample some of the sheep’s wares- sheep cheese (verdict: Subtle and Yummy), sheep yogurt, and sheep curds. Honestly, all of it was quite good, but can I put in an official request to rename the products? “Sheep curds” is not gonna have anyone jumpin at the bit.
Mr. M & I decided we were both ready for something a bit more substantial and decided to stop at Island Beehive, a café-slash-apiary- slash-honey-factory. I was especially excited, as I had just finished reading the non-fiction book “Plan Bee: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Hardest Working Creatures on the Planet” by Susan Brackney, which was fascinating and more than lived up to the title’s claim. We learned even more at the Beehive and got to sample a whole bunch of honeys, the tastes of which differed based on the flowers that the bees supped upon. Mr. M & I split an order of scones with clover honey and thanked the Ligurian bees for their hard work.
When we made it to our little motel in Kingscote, the only town on Kangaroo Island, we were ready to relax and realized we were in grave need of doing a little laundry before returning to the mainland and the rest of our three-week trip. Fortunately, our motel had a washer/dryer… unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the dryer was broken until 11pm when we went to fish out our very clean, but very wet clothes. After jiggling every knob and unsuccessfully trying to suss out the dryer’s ‘sweet spot’ (Mr. M maintains that every malfunctioning electronic has such a sweet spot, which can be tapped, banged, or kicked to immediately restore perfect function), we realized we needed to get creative.
It’s true that we went to Kangaroo Island to see us some kangaroos. For all my itinerary planning, I had no idea we’d be eating sheep curds, stalking platypi, or ironing our underpants at midnight.
Somehow those are the moments I end up treasuring.
Details of the Day:
Accommodations: The Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel in Kingscote is the ultimate in motor inn. Accommodations are bare-bones, and I’m 98% sure the décor hasn’t been updated since the mid-70’s, but this may be precisely why it was so enjoyable. While we waited for our laundry to air-dry, Mr. M and I settled in with our grainy UHF tv with the knob you turn for different channels (remember those?) and stuffed a towel under the front door to keep the winter chill from coming in the visible crack. Service was great, but the main reason to stay at the Seaview is for… well… the sea view. Just across the street is a shoreline hiking trail that’s perfection at sunset.
And isn’t nature the real reason you’re in Kangaroo Island, anyway?
Kangaroo Island Farm Gate & Cellar Door Trail: For maximum enjoyment of the Trail, visit during Australia’s warmer season (Sep- May). All of the wineries and most of the lavender farms were closed while we were there in the winter, but the bonus is that we didn’t have to share the island with hardly anyone else.
Keep in mind that if you’ll be stopping in New Zealand afterwards, you won’t be able to take any of your food items with you (honey, cheese, produce, etc). New Zealand is VERY STRICT about its import policy… as we found out when poor Mr. M forgot he had an apple in his carry-on and was shamed in the Auckland airport by a produce-sniffing police beagle who dragged his backpack away and jumped on it repeatedly.