Traversing this rocky cliff-top is slow going. I’m surrounded by a dense but low patchwork of ground-covers and shrubs, and with every step I feel the twisted branches of the coastal heath grabbing at my gaiter-clad legs.
I pause to rest and, as I look around, it strikes me that relatively few people have ever walked here before. I’m off-track in one of the most remote areas of Flinders Chase National Park, following one of the harshest and most stunning coastlines I’ve ever seen. This isn’t easy walking, but the views are worth working for.
This section of coastline was once overrun with goats – it seems like the perfect place for them. They were culled by helicopter in recent years, and now their bones litter the rocky cliff-tops.
Our guide, Holger, points out the rugged, sharp-edged rocks that we’re walking on.
“Imagine walking on this with no shoes.”
He goes on to tell us about a group of four shipwreck survivors who spent more than two weeks walking here in search of help, having lost their shoes while battling violent swells on their desperate swim to shore.
They were the only survivors out of 34 passengers and crew on the Loch Sloy, which went down near here in 1899. After making it to shore and somehow managing to scale these intimidating sea-cliffs, three of them managed to make it to safety. How any of them made it at all is hard to comprehend.
Any complaints that I’m resisting the urge to voice about tired legs and the hot sun are jolted into perspective. I’ve never been more thankful for my hiking shoes, and I could hug the folks from Trek Tours Australia for providing me with a pair of gaiters.
There are sections of beach-walking on each of the two off-track days. Trek Tours Australia suggests that guest bring a “karma bag” and pick up some of the plastic rubbish that litters these otherwise pristine beaches, and kills thousands of marine animals and millions of birds each year.
This is day 4 of the Trek Tours Australia 5-day Kangaroo Island Walking Tour. If you’re thinking it sounds a bit too challenging for you, just stick with me here… The itinerary consists of two days of off-track walking (13 and 16km) alternating with three easier days (5 – 9 km). Each day includes a visit to one of the island’s more popular attractions, either before or after a walk. The tour caters well for all levels of hiker.
After a ranger-guided tour of Kelly Hill Caves on our first day, we enjoyed an easy 9 km stroll through Kelly Hill Conservation Park to our accommodation at Hanson Bay. This was a great introduction to the flora and fauna of the island, which is quite unique. But having had very little sleep in my hostel dorm room the night before, I must admit that the highlight was walking over a sand-dune and spotting Hanson Bay Cabins, perched on the hill overlooking the bay.
I like sleeping in a tent as much as the next hiker, but I’m not averse to having a roof over my head either. “The ten dollar accommodation with the million dollar view”, as the cabins seem to be affectionately known, strikes a nice balance between the two. The view from the cabins makes the perfect backdrop for our evenings of relaxing and getting to know each other, over a few drinks and a meal.
Trek Tours Australia provide an amazing selection of food (yes, even for vegetarians!), with a focus on local produce. Every meal was sensational, and they didn’t even make me feel like too much of an outcast. It probably actually worked out that I got more food than everyone else. Total win.
Each night we watch the sunset over the sea-cliffs behind Hanson Bay Cabins, with a nice glass of Kangaroo Island red in hand.
Kangaroo Island’s wildlife is undoubtedly a stand-out for many visitors. During our hikes we see all kinds of coastal birdlife, kangaroos, Tammar wallabies, goannas, fur seals, and even an almost-white echidna. That’s right, I said white… Apparently Kangaroo Island is touted as Australia’s Galápagos, since some species here have evolved differently to those on the mainland.
The critically endangered hooded plover breed on the beaches here, where they have fewer predators than on the mainland.
Tammar wallabies can be found all over the island but catching a good photo is tricky. These ones were being fed at the koala sanctuary.
New Zealand fur seals rest and play all along the south western coastline of the island, but the best photo opportunities can be found at Admirals Arch.
We also visit an Australian sea lion sanctuary, where we walk amongst the sea lions as they rest. They appear deliciously sun-baked and lazy, but this is the ‘down-time’ of their feeding cycle – the sea lions spend three days in the water fishing continually, followed by three days of rest and relaxation on the beach. The certainly look happy about that – I know I would be.
The walking tour also includes a visit to the koala sanctuary, where we unfortunately only see one of the highly endangered, naturally shy marsupials.
The seal colony at Admirals Arch and the imposing, Daliesque form of Remarkable Rocks are some of the other, more-touristy highlights of the itinerary. But we’re at a distinct advantage, being able to visit these places either early or late in the day, so we barely see another soul for the entire trip. We’re also lucky to have Holger at our disposal, to tell us all about the island’s natural and human history. His detailed knowledge of the area astounds me.
Our second day’s hiking started from Remarkable Rocks. Here the group is spreading out and making their own path, in order to keep our impact low.
The Ravine Des Casoars hike (on day 3) leads to a beautiful beach, lined with caves of all shapes and sizes.
Two of my fellow-hikers crossing the mudflats at Murray Lagoon, on our final Kangaroo Island hike. Murray lagoon was a brilliant spot for bird watching.
I’ve wanted to visit Kangaroo Island for a long time, and I had an idea that it would be a pretty amazing place. This tour certainly confirmed my suspicions – Australia’s third largest island, situated just off the South Australian coastline, is a remarkable place to be.
Neil was a guest of Trek Tours Australia on this hike. This does not influence the views put forward here in any way.
Length (km): 50.5 km (9 km / 13 km / 7km / 16 km / 5.5 km).
Time: 5 days (including plenty of relaxation time).
Grade: Moderate – A reasonable level of fitness is recommended.
Region: Kangaroo Island.
Parks: Kelly Hill Conservation Park / Flinders Chase National Park / Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park.
Further Info: Pickup is from accommodation is Adelaide. Ferry transfer and all meals are included in the tour price. See the Australian Wilderness Adventures website for full details and pricing.
Have you visited Kangaroo Island? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.