Join island’s wave of support
IN JANUARY fires ravaged the picturesque western wilderness of Kangaroo Island, covering our television screens with heart-wrenching images of destruction.
More than 30 per cent of the 4416 square kilometre island was affected, but there is still much to see and do on what is Australia's third-largest island (and that includes Tasmania).
While there is a long road ahead for the island's recovery, getting visitors back onto KI, as the locals call Kangaroo Island, will help rebuild the economy as tourism and agriculture are the primary industries.
Kingscote local Craig Wickham, who operates Exceptional Kangaroo Island's wildlife and food tours, says he is optimistic about the island's ability to recover from the bushfires, particularly if there is good rain.
"Nature is resilient, and the animals have learned how to bounce back from fires over millions of years. Once we get some rain, things will start to green up pretty quickly," Craig said.
Where can you visit, and what can you see? Work is under way to restore access for visitors to fire-affected areas of the island, including Flinders Chase National Park, home to the iconic Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, where the Visitor Information Centre and cafe were sadly destroyed.
Iconic attractions such as Seal Bay Conservation Park, where a colony of endangered sea lions frolics on the beach, the interactive birds of prey experiences at Raptor Domain and the KI Wildlife Park, where more than 150 species of native animals live, are all open as usual.
Cape Willoughby lighthouse on the eastern point of Kangaroo Island was built in 1852. There are daily tours and self-guided walking trails that give insights into life as a lighthouse keeper.
Food on KI is artisan, seasonal and boutique, all words that bring joy to a food lover's heart.
The island's first hatted restaurant, Sunset Food and Wine, focuses on South Australia's seasonal best.
Cactus Kangaroo Island is a newish cafe at Kingscote where you'll stop for a coffee hit and find it hard to resist the freshly baked sweets.
Visit wineries in Kingscote, Cygnet River and on the Dudley Peninsula, where the clifftop Dudley Cellar Door sells award-winning locally grown and produced wines.
Emu Bay Lavender is not only a stop for lavender products, lavender scones and ice cream, it's also close to a favourite swimming spot for locals.
At American River, The Oyster Farm Shop farmgate sells marron, abalone, King George whiting and freshly plucked Pacific and Angasi oysters.
Drop into Kangaroo Island Spirits and taste its premium gin and vodka.
Mark Norek walks around KI guiding visitors on Life's An Adventure walking tours.
"It does not take long for fire-affected areas to regenerate, sometimes only three to six months, and it is amazing to walk through," Mark says.
One of KI's significant losses in the fires was Southern Ocean Lodge. Owners James and Hayley Baillie had an architect on the site within days and are committed to rebuilding their vision echoing the resilience of the Kangaroo Island community that has recovered from severe bushfires in the past.
Locals say a helping hand is always welcome and it's a bonus when all you have to do is visit.
How do you get to Kangaroo Island?
Take your car to Kangaroo Island via a ferry with Sealink or KI Connect, or fly with QantasLink or Rex direct from Melbourne or Adelaide into Kingscote.
Donate to help the recovery. You can also help recovery efforts by donating to the KI Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund, SA Country Fire Service or KI Wildlife Network.