At times, Kangaroo Island can feel like our continent in miniature: a big land of few people, teeming with exotic animals and blessed with a natural beauty that ranges from wetlands and soaring cliffs to pristine beaches and forests. At 155km long, Kangaroo Island is not much smaller than Bali and the road network is simple, so plan your itinerary to tackle one slice at a time.
Southern Ocean Lodge is one of Australia's most stunning properties: a 21-suite architectural gem above Hanson Bay that delivers fine foods and wine alongside impeccable hospitality and surrounds. Kangaroo Island Lifetime Private Retreats offers three luxury holiday homes on the island, each with dress-circle sea views. For more rustic digs, escape to the simple life at Hanson Bay Cabins, with its six huts nestled between ocean and wildlife sanctuary; or book a night in a restored lighthouse keeper's cottage at either Cape Borda, Cape Willoughby or Cape du Couedic.
One-third of Kangaroo Island is protected national or conservation park and there are few better places to view Australia's unique animals in the wild. Tiptoe past touchy Cape Barren geese at Flinders Chase National Park, watch sea lions bodysurfing at Bales Beach, walk beneath an arbour of koalas (there are 13,660 on Kangaroo Island) and keep eyes peeled for some of the island's 200-plus bird species.
Little penguins perform nightly parades from the beach to their burrows at Kingscote and Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island's two largest settlements. Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures runs whale-watching tours from May to October when southern right whales are migrating, and takes visitors swimming with resident dolphins. Craig and Janet Wickham's Exceptional Kangaroo Island Camping tailors private 4WD tours to individual passions, whether wildlife, wine, art or heritage. They know the island better than almost anyone.
It's easy to enjoy the good life on Kangaroo Island. Primary producers offer farm-gate tastings and sales of goods as diverse as seafood and cheese. Taste prized marrons at Andermel Marron's café or pick up some to take home - grab a bottle or six from their Two Wheeler Creek vineyard while there.
Since Ligurian bees were introduced in the 1880s they have tirelessly produced unique honeys from the island's eucalypts and wild flowers. Meet these hard-working Italians and tour the honey visitor centre at Island Beehive in Kingscote, or have a honey ice-cream at Clifford's Honey Farm. For ewe's milk cheese and yoghurts, head to Island Pure sheep dairy beside the Cygnet River.
There are some 30 local vineyards on Kangaroo Island, though few have cellar doors. Dudley Wines' ridge-top tasting room is a prime spot to savour their renowned Porky Flat shiraz. Chapman River Wines pairs tastings of their small range with platters of local produce. Book ahead at The Islander Estate Vineyards to sample Bordeaux winemaker Jacques Lurton's elegant red and white blends and a select range of French varietals.
This online feature was published on the Gourmet Traveller website in October 2012.