Wildlife & Environment

Kangaroo Island is the place where you can quietly ‘go bush' and see native Australian animals and birds as they were meant to be seen.

In the wild. Kangaroo Island is a true wildlife sanctuary. Owing to its isolation from the mainland, the Island has suffered less from the impact of European settlement and retains more than half of its native ‘old-growth' vegetation - a vast area of some 2,250 square kilometres. Similarly, the Island has been spared the damage done by foxes and rabbits, ensuring the integrity of native bushland. Result? Animal and bird populations have thrived. Today, more than one-third of the Island is declared Conservation or National Park and it has five significant Wilderness Protection Areas. So Kangaroo Island continues to be a special and protected place. Enter and be amazed.

Wildlife Attractions & Tours

Kangaroo Island is rightly famous for its prolific wildlife, but finding some of the more reclusive residents might require a little local knowledge.

Guarantee sightings and insights on one of the Island's many wildlife tours. One of the best places to view a sustainably managed wild koala population on Kangaroo Island. During the day, stroll along the avenue of tall gum trees to spot wild koalas; at night, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary comes alive with its educational Guided Nocturnal Tours, allowing visitors to view abundant nocturnal wildlife in their natural habitat at close range.

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Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary 

One of the best places to view a sustainably managed wild koala population on Kangaroo Island. During the day, stroll along the avenue of tall gum trees to spot wild koalas; at night, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary comes alive with its educational Guided Nocturnal Tours, allowing visitors to view abundant nocturnal wildlife in their natural habitat at close range. 

To Book, please visit us at the Visitor Information Centre at Penneshaw, KI when you arrive. 

Penneshaw Penguin Centre 

Ever wondered where Little Penguins go at night? Join an informative nightly tour to see these unique birds up close in their habitat. Lasting approximately 45 minutes, tours include entrance to the interpretive centre and viewing platform walks. 

To Book, please visit us at the Visitor Information Centre at Penneshaw, KI when you arrive.

Flowers, birds & bees

891 species of native plants and 46 endemic species found only on Kangaroo Island.

This Island's plant catalogue lists 891 species, as well as approximately 250 that have been introduced from other parts of the world. There are wildflowers to be found in every season, and September and October reveal spectacular flowering of much of the flora. Over 400 of the plants are found in Flinders Chase National Park, making it the most representative area of original flora. Mallee scrub dominates much of the uncleared areas. In the east, Kangaroo Island Narrow-Leaf Mallee is the main multi-trunked mallee, and it is from this tree that eucalyptus oil is extracted. The much taller single-trunk eucalypts such as Sugar Gum, Blue Gum, Cup Gum, Swamp Gum and River Red Gum generally grow along rivers and creek banks. Two stringybark species are found in the centre to the northwest of the Island.

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The number and variety of wattles match the diversity of the eucalypts. Other small trees or large shrubs include the Drooping Sheoak, two Banksia species, Dryland Tea-tree, Broombush, Scarlet Bottlebrush, several Hakea and the slow-growing Tate's Grass tree. Because of its isolation from the mainland, Kangaroo Island has 46 endemic species; these are plants that are native to, and restricted to, a particular geographical region. Some of these, like the two Tetrathecas, are very beautiful; others, like the prickly Kangaroo Island Conestick, are more remarkable for their uniqueness than their beauty. One Hakea (Hakea aenigma), does not put on seed in the normal way, but reproduces itself by suckering. 

Spring is the best time to see the Golden Wattle (Australia's floral emblem); many species of wattle provide a mass of vivid yellow from Penneshaw to Cape Borda and many places in between. Other flowering plants, which bring a splash of colour to the bush, include Scarlet Bottlebrush, orange and red Cockies Tongue, purple Fringe-lily, green and red Correa, Azure Daisy bush and many others. The different varieties of scented white bearded heaths, white and yellow graceful Riceflower, green-orange, lovely pink and red Grevilleas and Spyridiums enhance the beauty of the understorey. 

There are also more than 80 different species of orchid found on the Island. All of them are terrestrial and they range in height from 1-100cms.

Stokes Bay Bush Garden

A natural and exciting look at a unique collection of Kangaroo Island and Australian plants, including over 150 Island species. Take a self guided walk and look up the colour-coded plants identified in your own plant encyclopaedia. Flowers, seeds and woodcrafts are available for sale, a picnic area is provided. As seen on ABC's ‘Gardening Australia'. 


267 species of birds... 

Kangaroo Island is a paradise for bird-watchers. Some 267 recorded species of birds can be found among a diverse range of habitats, including coastal cliffs, beaches and estuaries, heath and mallee, river and creek systems and wetlands and lagoons. Some of the betterknown locations for bird-watching are Duck Lagoon, Murray Lagoon and Pelican Lagoon. 

Kangaroo Island is excellent for waders and seabirds, while bush birds thrive in the large parks. One of the most prized sightings is the very rare Glossy Black Cockatoo. 

Two of the Island's most famous residents include: 

Little Penguins: found around the coastline, living and breeding in burrows under shrubs, rocks and other sheltered places. Their noisy call can be heard at night. Guided tours are conducted each evening at Kingscote and Penneshaw. 

Pelicans: feeding time at Kingscote makes for one of the noisiest, jolliest events on the island. Every evening, visitors gather on the rocks to watch the 'Pelican Man' throw fish-bits to his very appreciative crowd... 

The Ligurian Bee 

A species found nowhere else on the planet... 

The Ligurian Bee story starts in 1884 when the South Australian Chamber of Manufacturers sent Ligurian bees to two Kangaroo Island farmers, John Buick of American River and John Turner of Smiths Bay. One year later, other Island residents received Ligurian Queen bees imported from Bologna, Italy, resulting in the South Australian parliament proclaiming Kangaroo Island a sanctuary for these unique Ligurian bees in September, 1885. 

In October 1885, August Fiebig began commercial queen breeding near Penneshaw, but ceased operating in 1890 due to geographical isolation and difficulty, in those days, accessing the Island. 

Since then, no other breeds of bee have been introduced to Kangaroo Island. Because of the Island's isolation, all present-day honeybees are descendants of those early imports. These bees are pure Ligurian and, as such, are unique in the world. 

Ligurian Bees are renowned for their gentle nature and productivity. These characteristics, and the purity of the strain, make them a valuable genetic pool for breeding purposes. Mated queen bees are regularly exported interstate and overseas. 

In recognition of the bee sanctuary, status legislation was introduced in 1931 prohibiting the importation of bees and second-hand beekeeping equipment to the island. Since then, the identification of Foul Brood Disease in mainland hives have necessitated the banning of all bee products to the Island, to ensure that the Ligurian Bee remains disease free.


Explore the island's scenic terrain. There are trails ranging in length and difficulty to cater for all fitness levels. 

The Clifftop Hike at Cape Borda is the perfect introduction to this spectacular site. Sometimes you will be rewarded with dolphin or whale sightings, or views of soaring sea-eagles. The Hanson Bay Hike at Kelly Hill Conservation Park is also spectacular. It is 18km (return) taking 6 hours to complete. However the scenery is worth it. The trail meanders from the visitor centre to the south coast at Hanson Bay and showcases Pink Gum woodlands, mallee, coastal heaths, freshwater lagoons and ancient dunes. There are several spectacular viewpoints along the way. 

Below is a selection of just some of the walks around Kangaroo Island. For more information download the 'Parks of Kangaroo Island' walks booklet or pick up a hard-copy when you arrive.
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Kingscote to Brownlow Coastal Walk 

Cape du Couedic Hike 

Weirs Cove Hike

Dudley peninsula

Ironstone Hill Hike 

Location: Baudin Conservation Park, East of Penneshaw. This 4km hike follows the coast east of Penneshaw along a section of the original bullock track to Cape Willoughby. After climbing through regenerating sheoak vegetation, the hike leads to the ruins of Harry Bates' cottage and a stone-threshing floor on Ironstone Hill. The farming heritage of the area is interpreted on signs along the hike. 

American River 

Fish Cannery Walk 

Location: Lierich Drive, American River Departing from the northern side of the town, this walk takes you on a fascinating coastal trail to the Historic Fish Cannery. During the walk, keep an eye out for bird life, a variety of coastal vegetation and dolphins swimming in the cove. The walk takes about 1.5 hours; a guide is available at American River shops.


Kingscote & Districts 

Kingscote to Brownlow Coastal Walk  

Location: Between Kingscote Wharf and Brownlow Beach Beginning at the Kingscote Wharf, this trail follows the coast to the nearby township of Brownlow. The walk provides impressive coastal views over Nepean Bay and some fine bird watching opportunities. 

West End 

Cape du Couedic Hike 

Location: Departs from Cape du Couedic Lightstation, Flinders Chase Nation Park This 2km hike provides spectacular coastal clifftop views as it meanders between the Cape du Couedic Lightstation and Admirals Arch car park. Discover the varied and impressive techniques that plants use to grow here. Find out about Aboriginal connections with Cape du Couedic and how they survived in this harsh environment. Contemplate the drama of being shipwrecked here 110 years ago. Look for the water pool built by the lighthouse builders and watch for those who still use it today. 

Weirs Cove Hike 

Location: Cape du Couedic Road, Flinders Chase National Park Imagine spending three months or more waiting for fresh supplies... Hike from Cape du Couedic Lightstation to Weirs Cove (3km return) to appreciate the life of a lightkeeper, not to mention his long walk to bringing the groceries home. Discover the method of landing people and supplies along this treacherous coastline. 

Clifftop Hike 

Location: Cape Borda Lightstation This short 1km trail is the perfect complement to a guided tour at Cape Borda Lightstation. Meander through the picturesque rock gardens and observe how the vegetation changes as you near the clifftop. A stone lookout provides an ideal vantage point for spotting whales and dolphins. 

Harveys Return Hike 

Location: Playford Highway, near Cape Borda This short hike follows the original route used by the Cape Borda Lightkeepers who hauled their stores up from Harveys Return using a horse and capstan (horse-drawn winch), and small rail cars. For geology enthusiasts, there are spectacular outcrops of tightly folded, thinly bedded schists. Below the capstan, the trail is very steep, so walkers should descend carefully. 

Hanson Bay Hike  

Location: Departs from Kelly Hill Caves or Hanson Bay This spectacular trail meanders from Kelly Hill Visitor Centre to Hanson Bay. It passes through banksia heath, pink gum woodlands, mallee and coastal heath, alongside freshwater lagoons, and over dunes to viewpoints that provide wonderful vistas inland and along the coast. Allow a full day for the return trip or try to arrange a pick-up.

South Coast 

Murray Lagoon 

Location: Seagers Road The Murray Lagoon is the Island's largest lagoon and offers three walks - Bald Hill (1km), Curley Creek (11km) and Timber Creek (1.5km). All have great vantage points to observe bird life. Bald Hill in particular has great vistas over Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park. This area is particularly attractive during winter and spring when the creeks are flowing, bringing a great variety of waterbirds and waders to the region. A ranger's office and basic camping facilities are located nearby. 

Kangaroo Island Circum-Navigation 

In April and May 2009, brothers Tom & Jake Giles became the first to circum-navigate the Island in one complete go. For four weeks they trekked over 500km, following the coast for most of this. This trek was done for especially for charity (PARAQUAD SA) and Tourism Kangaroo Island does not encourage people to attempt something similar as a lot of the coast is private property and restricted area. However, their trek diary makes for some really interesting reading for anyone with an interest in walking and adventure.


National & Conservation Parks

National and Conservation parks cover more than one third of the total area of land on Kangaroo Island.

From very early in Kangaroo Island's European settlement, National and Conservation parks were declared across the Island, in recognition of the importance of preserving the unique plant and wildlife species that exist on Kangaroo Island. Some of these species of plants and animals are either threatened or exist nowhere else in Australia. 

READ details about parks

Kangaroo Island's four major parks are Flinders Chase National Park, famous for the must see Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and walking trails, Kelly Hill Conservation Park for its magnificent limestone caves and hike, Seal Bay Conservation Park where visitors can walk among the third largest and only accessible colony of Australia Sea lions and Cape Willoughby Conservation Park where tours of the first lighthouse in South Australia are held. 

National Parks provide the opportunity to access spectacular coastline, unique geological formations, be inspired by history and discover wildlife in the wild. Purchase the Kangaroo Island Parks Pass from the Visitor Information Centre at Penneshaw, KI by phoning 1800 811 080 or when you arrive.

Admirals Arch 

While many visitors take the boardwalk to photograph and enjoy the stalactite-fringed vista of the ocean and volcanic rock, a great surprise is the large colony of New Zealand Fur seals that live below. 

Cape Borda Conservation Park

Envelop yourself in the Island's history with a tour of Cape Borda light station and museum before exploring the old landing and the lighthouse keeper's cemetery. 

Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park 

Visit Murray Lagoon, a bird lover's paradise or take a drive to D'Estrees Bay, the historic site of early whaling and pastoral industries. D'Estrees Bay is also a popular surfing beach with camping and picnic areas available. 

Cape Willoughby Conservation Park 

Visit South Australia's first lighthouse for an insight into the important role Cape Willoughby played in the early history of South Australia. Re-live the stories of light keepers and enjoy spectacular views atop the lighthouse.  

Flinders Chase National Park 

Home to Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, this park requires at least a day to explore. Visit Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse and spectacular Weirs Cove. Enjoy one of the many walks and hikes for wildlife encounters. 

Kelly Hill Conservation Park 

Tour this beautiful cave system of caverns and sinkholes. Showcase tours run daily. The more daring can also book an adventure caving tour for a deeper look into this underground world of ornate calcite formations.

Seal Bay Conservation Park 

Walk among the nation's third largest and most accessible colony of Australian Sea Lions as these cute creatures doze in the sun after lengthy fishing forays in the Southern Ocean.


Wildlife Spotting

The key to seeing wildlife is to get out of the car and walk among Kangaroo Island's many national, conservation, private parks and sanctuaries.

Guided tours take you to places that are known animal habitats and experienced guides and interpretive signage allow you to gain greater insight into animal behaviour and the ecology. Many walking trails are available and are a great way to combine a pleasant walk in natural bushland with the opportunity to see wildlife. Many of the animal species found on Kangaroo Island are most active at night. Nocturnal tours are available across the Island.

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What You Might See  

Kangaroo Island Kangaroos: the Island's isolation has seen some species evolve differently from the mainland species. This is evident in the KI Kangaroo, a subspecies of the Western Grey Kangaroo which is smaller, darker and has longer fur than its mainland counterpart. Kangaroos and wallabies can be seen over most of the Island. 

Tammar Wallabies: the Tammar Wallaby has smaller and finer features than the kangaroo and is abundant on the Island. Mainland populations are extinct in southeastern Australia, with only a small population surviving in Western Australia. 

Australian Sea Lions and New Zealand Fur Seals: both species native to Kangaroo Island and most famously seen in great numbers around Admirals Arch and magnificent Seal Bay. At the latter you can join Park's Guides on beach tours to observe animals basking, playing and returning from their overnight fishing expeditions. Over 7,000 fur seals live and breed around Cape du Couedic. 

Heath Goannas: a magnificent lizard that grows up to a metre. A predator of smaller reptiles, young birds and eggs, it is often seen on warm days basking or scavenging on dead animals along the roads. 

Echidnas: an egg-laying mammal occasionally seen in the understorey foraging for ants with its sticky tongue. Kangaroo Island echidnas have distinctive ‘blonde' spines. 

Koalas: one of the Island's most famous characters. The koala (like the platypus and Ringtail Possum) is an introduced species and their numbers have truly exploded. Unlike on the mainland, you don't have to try too hard to get your first glimpse of a wild koala. 

Other natives: Brushtail Possum, Short Beaked Echidna, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Western and Little Pygmy Possum, Bush and Swamp Rat, six bat species, six frog species, Black Tiger Snake and Pygmy Copperhead. 

Tips For Wildlife Spotting 

Taking your time to discover wildlife is paramount. Take advice from National Park, accommodation and tour staff and choose walking trails and designated paths, rather than making your own trail. Wildlife is most visible during winter and, in summer, during the cooler parts of the day. Most of Kangaroo Island's mammals are nocturnal; ask your accommodation or tour providers about wildlife spotting at night in your area. Wildlife is most successfully observed (and least stressed) from a distance, so as not to interrupt their natural behaviour. Sit quietly and keep noise to a minimum. Please do not feed animals as human foods can cause illness, even death. 

The information sheet below is a comprehensive guide designed to enhance your wildlife viewing experience on Kangaroo Island.


Caring For Our Island

Kangaroo Island is home to many endangered and unique species of flora and fauna.  

Here's how you can help to protect the natural environment.

READ about caring for our island











By The Coast 

Kangaroo Island is bordered by many beautiful beaches, some of which you are sure to visit during your time on the Island. These beaches are home to wildlife species such as Little Penguins, Australian Sea-lions and beautiful beach birds such as the Hooded Plover. You can make the most of your beach experience without disturbing the natural environment by following these simple principles: 

Walk rather than drive on to the beach. Emu Bay is the only beach where vehicles are permitted onto the sand unless you are using a boat ramp to launch a boat. Keep dogs controlled or on a leash at all times. This will help protect beach birds such as Hooded Plovers - their nests, eggs and young - and Little Penguins. 

When viewing penguins, move slowly and speak softly so as not to frighten them. If watching penguins at night, do not shine light directly in their eyes. You could join a guided tour in Kingscote or Penneshaw, where the guides will use filtered light to spot them and provide interesting facts about these night critters. 

Birds of prey such as White-Bellied Sea-eagles and Ospreys are prone to disturbance in spring and summer when nesting - if you see one or two birds circling and calling please leave the area immediately to minimise risk to their young. 

Going Bush 

One-third of the Island is protected in national and conservation parks and Wilderness Protection Areas. You can help to conserve this beautiful wilderness and its inhabitants for the future, by following these simple principles: 

Save yourself the trouble of having to navigate and follow the designated walking trails provided. Help prevent the spread of the Phytophthora fungus, clean your shoes or boots free of any soil after walking. 

Many of the trails have cleaning stations for your use. Admire the beautiful species of wildflowers and plants, leaving them there for others to enjoy and so they can continue to grow and reproduce. Stick to designated camping sites and be aware of fire restrictions. 

Leave your pets at home - they are prohibited in all protected areas. Take your rubbish when you leave and dispose of it in an appropriate facility to help keep the bush clean and healthy. 

Along The Way 

Travelling from one place to the next is sure to become one of the highlights of your stay. Wildlife are frequent users of the roads and you can often delight in the experience of seeing a Heath Goanna sunning itself to keep warm, a Koala sampling the roadside eucalyptus or an echidna or kangaroo making their way home. Keep yourself and the animals safe by following these few tips: 

Allow plenty of time to get to your next destination and plan your day to avoid driving at night. Expect to see wildlife on or by the road, particularly at dusk and during the night. If you spot something of interest along the way, safely pull right off to the side of the road and observe from a distance. Keep the local wildlife wild. They are quite happy to feed themselves because they know what is good for them. Don't be tempted to feed them human food, as this is bad for their health. 

Most importantly remember when observing wildlife Observation not interaction - keep your distance - use binoculars for that close-up view - be especially quiet. 

Help Protect Kangaroo Island's Industries 

Kangaroo Island's remoteness has created an environment that is very special. Many of Australia's pests and diseases are not found on the Island. Please help to keep it that way. The Island depends on primary industries and nature-based tourism as a major part of the economy. 

The introduction of just one new pest or disease could have devastating consequences. Your attention is drawn to legislation forbidding or restricting the importation of some items to Kangaroo Island. Significant penalties apply for infringements. 

Honey products and bee-handling equipment are not to be brought onto the Island. Potatoes brought to the Island must be in new packaging. Peels and unused potatoes must be disposed of to ensure that regermination is not possible. 

Vine cuttings and soil in which grapevines have grown are not to be brought onto the Island without prior inspection and approval. 

Foxes and rabbits are prohibited under state legislation. Help Kangaroo Island protect its natural and unique environment by ensuring these pests are not introduced. 

The risk of invasive weed introduction can be reduced by ensuring that vehicles, caravans, trailers, camping gear, hiking boots etc are free of mud and weed seeds prior to traveling. 

Aquatic pests are a major threat to this environment. You can help protect the waters by cleaning your boats and gear prior to coming to the Island. Particular attention should be paid to boat surfaces (hull, propeller, rudder, anchor etc) and gear (including nets, wetsuits, life jackets, fishing tackle etc). 

For further information, contact Primary Industries and Resources SA on (08) 8553 4949. 

TOMM - Sustainable Tourism 

Kangaroo Island has developed an innovative model to monitor the impact of tourism and ensure it is sustainable in the long term. The Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM) is a community-initiated monitoring program responsible for monitoring the long-term health of Kangaroo Island as a sustainable tourism destination. 

TOMM is more than just a project: it is a committed partnership between core agencies responsible for managing Kangaroo Island's resources. Key stakeholders include Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Board, Kangaroo Island Council, Tourism Kangaroo Island, Department for Environment and Heritage, Kangaroo Island Development Board, South Australian Tourism Commission, the Island's tourism businesses and wider community. 

TOMM is about ensuring tourism develops in a way that is best for the Island and its residents. It recognises that tourism can destroy the very reason residents love living here and why tourists visit. It involves monitoring the environmental, social, experiential and economic effects (both positive and negative) that tourism has on Kangaroo Island - not what Kangaroo Island thinks might be happening. This monitoring leads to sound decision-making based on relevant information and knowledge. 

You can help and have your say by completing a Visitor Exit Survey on your departure. Survey forms are available at the airport and on board the ferries. This survey provides TOMM with valuable information about your experiences on Kangaroo Island.


Kangaroo Island, South Australia

... need some help booking somewhere to stay?

While all Kangaroo Island accommodation is suitable for exploring the Island, particular regions of the Island afford different advantages. Whether you are arriving in the evening and need accommodation close to the ferry port, you prefer to be close to shops and restaurants or if you really want to get away from it all and stay in a more secluded area, there is a region on Kangaroo Island to suit everyone. Need some help with your bookings ... then call us now on ...

TOLL FREE: 1800 811 080



Kangaroo Island Gateway Visitor Information Centre

Visit with our friendly staff at Kangaroo Island's only Accredited Visitor Information Centre and let us help you customise an itinerary as unique as you are to get the most from your time on Kangaroo Island.

Kangaroo Island Gateway Visitor Information Centre - Howard Drive, PENNESHAW SA 5222
Open: Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm, Weekends & Public Holidays 10am - 4pm, Closed Christmas Day.

TOLL FREE: 1800 811 080