Kangaroo Island is the ideal place to get up close and personal with koalas. No, that wasn’t a typo. Yes, you’re bound to meet some kangaroos when visiting, but it’s the koalas that top the wildlife spotting bucket list on KI, as the locals call her. In fact, over 25,000 koalas consider KI home, and females are routinely sterilized to keep their numbers down. That might sound like humans interfering with nature, but left to their own breeding devices, koalas would literally eat themselves out of house and home.

So where does the island’s confusing name come from? Back in 1802, after a long stretch at sea without much meat to eat, English navigator Matthew Flinders commented that it was a great source of food: “In gratitude for so seasonable a supply, I named this southern land Kanguroo (sic) Island,” he wrote. This was on day two of European contact, and it has been referred to Kangaroo Island ever since.

Today, KI is one of the few islands in Australia that can lay claim to having more furry residents than those of the human kind, as there are only 4,400 people on its 4,400km land mass. There are also Rosenberg’s goannas, echidnas, Australian fur seals and long-nosed fur seals roaming free, making it a photographer’s dream and a family friendly paradise.

Although quite close to Australia’s mainland, KI is only a 25-minute flight from Adelaide, and if you’d rather take the Sea Link Ferry, it’s only a 45-minute ride across from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. A day trip is possible, but the island has a few amazing natural attractions, so staying at least a few days is recommended.

Hanging Out with Sea Lions

Seal Bay Conservation Park is a must-do for anyone visiting KI, as it’s the only place in the world where you can walk amongst a colony of over 1000 Australian Sea Lions, which are one of the rarest species in the world. And if it’s pup season, you’re in for a real treat as the adorable little critters bumble around, playing with their parents and siblings. Guides are entertaining and exceptionally informed, and although you can get up quite close for wonderful photos, a safe and respectable distance is given so that these creatures can continue to remain at the heart of the Kangaroo Island community.

Catching up with Koalas

Famous for its abundance of native bird and animal wildlife, the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is set upon 5,000 acres and surrounded 100,000 acres of protected wilderness lands and the Great Southern Ocean. Guests can encounter kangaroos, Tammar wallabies, possums and a prolific population of the Rosenburg goanna. You might see the short-beaked echidna (the world oldest mammal) and the Bush Stone Curlew, and of course, most guests visit to check out a sustainable population of koalas living in the wild. It’s quite a thrill seeing them sitting in the branches of the gum tress munching away on eucalyptus leaves. Or sleeping. As koalas do, very often. There are also six self-contained cabins in the sanctuary, which gives families the option of doing a guided nocturnal tour.

Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch

Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch are two of the many natural wonders that make Kangaroo Island such a special places.

Remarkable Rocks is a stunning ensemble of red-orange and white granite boulders on the top of a granite dome within KI’s Flinders Chase National Park. Millions of years of wind, ocean waves and lichen have assisted in an erosion process that has left behind a majestic arrangement of sculpted boulders in different shapes and sizes. The bright red, orange and white rock faces stand out brilliantly against a blue sky or a storm.

Admirals Arch is a distinctive rock bridge near the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse on the island’s southwest coast that achieved its spectacular form after thousands of years of erosion. The viewing platform under the arch is also the perfect spot from which to observe the New Zealand fur seal colony that has established itself in the rocky alcoves below.