Countries are starting to lighten restrictions as the pandemic slows down and some already have plans as the vaccines roll out, but let’s be real – it’s going to be a while before travel really gets back to normal I’m already looking forward towards future trips I want to take, but I thought I’d share some of my past trips to inspire your own travel bucket list!
We’re going to start with one of my absolute favorite trips. Back in 2000, my family took a trip to Australia, spending two weeks in the country and one of our stops was Kangaroo Island. Because of the size, and the fact we hadn’t really heard of it, we considered spending only a few days there, but instead decided to book a week, figuring that would allow us to relax and recuperate from jetlag after flying halfway around the world (the trip from North Carolina took 23 hours!). Ultimately, we spent no time resting (I am very good at not getting jetlagged), and wished we had just spent the whole two weeks on Kangaroo Island.
What To Know About Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is a little island off the coast of Adelaide in southern Australia. Most of the island is protected land, so there’s lots of wildlife to see, which is a dream come true for animal-lovers. To get there, you’ll need to fly into Adelaide and catch the ferry over (there are flights to the island, but not many and they are pricy), where you can then rent a car to get around. Beware, though, because due to the high number of nocturnal animals, it’s hard to get car insurance that’s valid after dark – we did not know that in advance, and arrived on the island at 10 o’clock at night, which meant we had to drive to the island, insuranceless, in the dark, on the wrong side of the road, dodging wombats.
One of the amazing things about K.I. is the variety of landscapes crammed onto the 90 mile island. From sandy beaches to rocky cliffs to caves to grasslands, it’s like visiting the whole world in one tiny space.
Where To Stay On Kangaroo Island
There are a few hotels on the island, and you can rent a self-service vacation home, but we stayed in a bed and breakfast and I strongly recommend it. Not only was the B&B adorable, but the hosts gave us a local’s view of life on the island, and showed us a lot of things we might have missed otherwise. One night, they served port and taught us Australian Christmas carols and folk songs. Another night, they took us out in their Jeep after dark so we could see the wildlife that only comes out at night. We came across one possum who was out with her baby. The baby was too big to be in the pouch, or to ride on her back as they do, but when the spotlight hit them, that baby hopped right on Mom’s back anyway – and her speed just plummeted. Suddenly, she was just dragging along the ground, trying to run with the weight of two full-grown possums. Don’t worry – we moved the spotlight away almost immediately to not scare her more than necessary. Anyway, staying with locals really elevated the experience.
What To Do On Kangaroo Island
I could harp on things to do for hours. Definitely make a trip down to Kelly Hill Caves, where you can take a tour to learn all about the formation of stalagtites and stalagmites – even for 12 year old me, the tour was very informative and surprisingly interesting.
Another odd attraction is the array of Remarkable Rocks. They are, quite literally, rocks, and yet…they are a sight to behold. The boulders have been worn into odd shapes over the centuries, and it’s a great place to take photos for the scrapbook (Literally, the whole scrapbook – our two week trip filled up an entire book).
Take some time to visit Little Sahara, a desert by one of the bays. It was an impressive sight, sand dunes as far as you could see, and quite a hike to get to the top of one, since the sand slows you down. It sounds like such a weird attraction to recommend – a big pile of sand – but Little Sahara is where it really hit me just how many different environments are crammed onto the island, and just how in tune with nature I felt there.
At Seal Bay, you can watch the sea lions lounging on the beach. The giant mammals are clumsy, lazy, and so much fun to watch, and because of the protected status of the island, they’re fearless and can come pretty close.
In the same vein, hike to Hanson Bay. We did the hike, which takes a few hours, and along the way we saw so many animals just living wild, and again the protected status makes them bolder. I, a stupidly brave child, pet a wild wallaby on the trail and got pushed down by a kangaroo who kept following me just to push me down. (It turns out I was walking upright when I passed him, which is an aggressive pose, and he decided I was a threat. I maintain that he was a bully.)
Just off the coast, you can see marine life by taking a boat ride, scuba diving, or snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. We snorkeled, and loved it, but if I have the chance to go back, I’d want to go scuba diving because I can only imagine how much more I’d get to see.
In the Wildlife Park, you can see and learn about Australian fauna, and even hold a koala (the least impressive part of the trip -the bloody thing bit me and then pooped on me!). This alone took a full day, and we probably could have spent two there.
The Best Thing You Shouldn’t Miss
After all of that, the most impressive thing we did on the island, the absolute highlight of the week, was the Penguin walk. You’ll need to go in April so that you visit during nesting season, and the nighttime tour is quite a production so plan all the details ahead of time. Basically, K.I. is part-time home to fairy penguins, or little penguins, and the rocky cliffs provide some favored nesting grounds. When the penguins are in town, streetlight bulbs are replaced to a tinted bulb that doesn’t hurt the penguins’ eyes, and people can get in trouble if their car headlights harm the penguins. The birds march through town, take over the beach, and climb up and down the cliffs, finding someone to love and settling down to mate.
The male penguin courts the female by building a nest, which sounds simple, except the nest goes near the top of the cliff, the building materials are at the bottom, and the females have some high standards. We picked a penguin couple to focus on, and the boy spent…maybe 2 hours trekking up and down, carrying pebbles, sticks, and other debris, and building a little hut. Then he went and got his girlfriend to show her the fruits of his labor…and she hated it so much, she knocked it down. I swear, you could see his little penguin face fall before he started the waddle back down the mountain again. Don’t worry, we stayed until late at night, and before we left, he had rebuilt the hut to her satisfaction, so it was a happy ending.
The Magic Of Katie
I never talk about Kangaroo Island without bringing up Katie. A little background information – in Australia, kangaroos are like deer in the U.S. – everywhere and constantly jumping in front of cars. Because they are marsupials, they generally have three babies at a time – one by their side, one in the pouch, and one fetus, so if you see a kangaroo hit by a car, you’re supposed to check the bushes and check the pouch.
Just a few months before we visited, our B&B hosts had come across a deceased kangaroo, and sure enough, there was a baby in the pouch. Despite it being unlikely to survive, they took it home and named it Katie.
When we arrived, Katie was roughly six months old, and adorable. She slept in a fabric pouch bag, which she tumbled into headfirst every note. She enjoyed toast and jam with her bottle for breakfast, and would lick the jam off before handing the toast back so you could put more jam on it. She repeated this process with an ice cream cone alongside her evening meal.
Katie alone made Kangaroo Island worth the visit. How often do you get to live with a kangaroo for a few days? While your B&B most likely won’t have a kangaroo of their own, you can visit one of the wildlife centers to meet their rescued baby kangaroos so you can have your own adorable experience.
Kangaroo Island is a beautiful, magical place, so if you’re looking for a vacation that allows you to move at a slower pace, and still have plenty to do, I strongly, strongly recommend visiting. Have you ever been? What’s your favorite vacation spot you’ve ever visited?