KI Kangaroo grazing at Vivonne Bay Lodge

Kangaroo Island – On a Shoestring

Travelling to KI from the main land is not as hard as many people may think. It is only two hour bus trip from Adelaide followed by a 45 min ferry from Cape Jervis, then voila, made it! It is actually quite easy to do KI as a backpacker on a shoestring, heck even if you’re not a backpacker and want to bring over the family for a couple days, it is possible to do so and not spend a fortune! Really. And this is how.

Road leading from Penneshaw to Prospect Hill and the western part of KI 24-12-13
Road leading from Penneshaw to Prospect Hill and the western part of Kangaroo Island
Consider what you want to do and see when on KI. Most people want to visit the highlights of the islands remarkable scenery and see some of the endemic wildlife that so naturally roams the landscape and coastline. They often would like to spend two days one night, or even three days and two nights. As much as I would love to try and convince you to stay longer, I know that most people travelling Australia really only have time to fit in a couple days max on KI, and trust me when I say it is well worth the time and effort.

So with your expectations set, it’s time to start planning the self-drive excursion and factoring in the costs. To do the island trip solo bringing a car from the mainland is a pretty hefty expense for the backpacker. If you plan on doing the trip self-drive I would suggest car-pooling to save money on gas and be also allow you to split the ferry cost. Once on the island you can pick up all your food, fuel, and drink supplies at the local grocery, service station, and bottle shop in Penneshaw or Kingscote. From there you can head out exploring the island and spend the evenings camping where permitted under a nights sky with starts like you’ve never imagined. This is by far the most economical way to visit KI solo, the only down side is not having any of the incredibly valuable information you would receive by doing KI on an organized tour with a tour guide.

A set tour of KI is truly much more informative and allows you the chance to really get a feel for the island in a short period of time. As most backpackers shy away from tours, this is one that you should really consider as a secondary option to the self-drive and one that I have personally done and enjoyed. I travelled with Kangaroo Island Adventure Tours over two days one night and loved it, see the above video for a quick summary of my trip.

Many operators offer one to three day excursions to KI both leaving and returning from Adelaide all inclusive. That’s travel, accomm, food, activities, and drinks (non-alcoholic), for a very similar price to the potential self-drive itinerary highlighted above. Yes, it will be slightly more expensive as the business needs to make a profit, but for the services of the especially the guide/driver/cook/walking encyclopedia, it is well worth the extra cost.

KI Adventure Tours!
KI Adventure Tours!
Kangaroo Island is a special and unique ecosystem with an extensive history and incredibly interesting present, not to mention future. The island is popular for a reason and just coming here because you’ve seen some cool pictures doesn’t really cut it, for me at least. Thereis so much to learn and to gain from this trip that having the option of the set tour from Adelaide is one not to look over lightly. I see people travelling here every day and I can truly say that the bus tours (as critically discussed as they are) are one of the best ways to see and understand a portion of the island in a short period of time.

For more information on how to go about seeing Kangaroo Island – On a Shoestring, please refer to the following: I would personally recommend the Kangaroo Island Adventure Tour, it is awesome!

Safe travels and catch you on KI 🙂




5 thoughts on “Kangaroo Island – On a Shoestring

  • Hi Greg!

    My name is Kate and I am a family friend of your uncle Duncan (he and my older brother Mark were good friends growing up in London, and Duncan has been my dentist for 30 years or so)
    So a few days ago I was in, and telling him we had just booked to Australia. He said he had a nephew who was on Kangaroo Island as wildlife caretaker – and I said the whole reason I was going to Australia was to get to KI and see animals! Small world? So, my husband Sean and I are going to be on the island Feb 24 – 27, renting a car (checked out full tours but too pricey for us alas) and hoping to stay a night at the Wilderness Lodge near Flinders, and for a couple at a self catering cottage (sent some feelers out on airbnb and vrbo, haven’t heard back). If you had any tips for us, or had time for a beer at some point, you have two Canadians running from the cold who’d be glad to say hello.

    Kate Greenway

  • Hi Kate,

    Thanks for the comment. It is amazing to hear that you and your husband are coming to KI. The idland is an increible place and you guys are going to love it. Right so the lodge in the SW is called the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat, I have stayed there and couldn’t recommend it higher. Perfect location and incredible staff 🙂 Plus its close to Hanson’s Bay Sanctuary which is one of my favourite places on the island.

    I would also spend one night in Kingscote to give you good access to the other side of the island. Try the Ozone Hotel. There are really great beaches near by as well as dolphin trips 🙂 See for more on that.

    I am not exactly sure on my schedule as of yet, but there is a good chance I will be on the island. Lets be in touch and closer to the day make plans to meet. See you soon!!


    • Perfect! We’re booked Wilderness Lodge Feb 24, and Sunset Cottage in Penneshaw Feb 25 and 26. Hope we get a chance to meet!

  • Great news Kate, you’ll love it!! For Penneshaw, make sure you contact Kangaroo island Ocean Safari for dolphin swims and other fun marine activities. I also hope we can meet. Be in touch soon and safe travels!!!

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