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Cruises to Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island (Photo: Greg Brave/Shutterstock.com)

About Kangaroo Island

Australia's third-largest island, located to the south of Adelaide, is known for its landscapes and abundant wildlife, all wrapped up in a colourful history. Once the butt of local jokes as the lazy 'overseas' holiday, 'KI' is having the last laugh as a food, wine and ecological destination rapidly gaining credibility for its quality produce and slick tourism businesses. Cruise lines are lining up to get ashore in record numbers, driven by positive passenger feedback.

If you've never been to Kangaroo Island before, a shore excursion is probably the best way to experience some of what this special place has to offer, but you need to travel long distances (about 150 kilometres across) from one sight to another, so you won't be able to do it all in a day.

Cruise season is November through March and likely to be warm and sunny. Most ships arrive around 7am and are gone by 8pm, making full use of the extra summer daylight hours.

Much of the best landscapes and animal life is found in the Flinders Chase National Park, including the famous Remarkable Rocks, a cluster of granite boulders sculpted by the weather and perched on a granite dome rising steeply from the ocean and formed into a 'Salvador Dali' mass of weird and wonderful shapes.

A highlight of wildlife-watching, however, is Seal Bay, with its colony of sea lions -- the third-largest breeding colony in Australia. With a National Parks officer as a guide, groups can watch the seals from a distance of about eight metres as they bask in the sun, swim and jostle for position on the beach.

Regular cruise ships anchor off the small port village of Penneshaw and use tenders to transport visitors to the pier, and if you just want to hang locally, it's an easy 10-minute walk to the main street. There's a lovely swimming beach (water can be a bit cool) known as Hog Bay, which also has a picnic area and barbecues, or you can try out the town's gourmet seafood joints opposite the park where you'll find in-season produce such as lobster, scallops, marron, prawns, whiting, oysters and garfish.

  • Why go to Kangaroo Island?

  • Kangaroo Island Cruise Port Facilities?

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Regatta
Regatta

77 Night
World CruiseDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Oceania Cruises
Oct 4, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

117 Night
117 Night World CruiseDetails

Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Jan 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Westerdam
Westerdam

28 Night
New Zealand & South Australia Discovery CollectorDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Nov 8, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Azamara Quest
Azamara Quest

13 Night
Australia Intensive VoyageDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Azamara
Feb 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Sponsored

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Oceania Cruises

128 Night
128-day Grand World VoyageDetails

Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Jan 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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33 Night
Grand World VoyageDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Feb 9, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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77 Night
World CruiseDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Oceania Cruises
Sep 25, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

94 Night
Grand Australia & New Zealand VoyageDetails

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Jan 3, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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140 Night
140-day Extraordinary DiscoveriesDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
Jan 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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35 Night
Far East CruiseDetails

Leaving:Singapore
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Feb 14, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

9 Night
Australia CruiseDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 13, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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5 Night
Australia CruiseDetails

Leaving:Melbourne
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Jan 22, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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14 Night
Australia CircumnavigationDetails

Leaving:Perth
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Dec 3, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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27 Night
New Zealand & South Australia Discovery CollectorDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Nov 23, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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102 Night
102 Night World CruiseDetails

Leaving:Southampton
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Jan 11, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Why go to Kangaroo Island?

Pros:

Kangaroo Island is home to abundant wildlife and boasts stunning natural landscapes

Cons:

It takes a long time to travel from one sight to the next, so an organized excursion is usually the way to go

Bottom Line:

This island is an intensely beautiful destination, but don't expect to see it all in one day

Kangaroo Island Cruise Port Facilities?

Your cruise ship will anchor offshore and deliver you via tender to a jetty at the recently upgraded SeaLink ferry terminal, used by the local ferry service to the mainland. More than likely, you will be met by a delegation of helpers and volunteer guides with pamphlets and information for you. Here's an opportunity to buy a last-minute shore excursion in case all were sold out on the ship. You may even save a dollar. There are washrooms at the terminal and your pre-booked shore excursion transport will be waiting here, too.

The small hamlet of Penneshaw (pop. 300) is a delightful location with a large grassy foreshore park ideal for just relaxing with a seafood snack from one of the cafes, such as Fish, while you enjoy the view. It's easy to stroll around the town and take in the main attractions like the pub, information centre and folk museum. The local community will often set up a fairground-style display at the sports field with stalls of regional produce, arts and handicrafts.

Should you need, there is a chemist/drugstore, small supermarket, ATM, post office and several cafes should your coffee craving kick in. Wi-Fi is most reliably obtained from the cafes, the visitor centre or via the mobile phone network.

Good to Know?

Don't be all taken aback if you get 'the finger' from another driver on the roads of KI. It's actually a popular local greeting. Just gently lift your fore or middle finger off the steering wheel as the oncoming vehicle approaches. You can accentuate the gesture with a short nod making a quaint and endearing acknowledgement of your fellow road user. Not sure it will work back in the big smoke.

Getting Around?

On Foot: If you're not on a booked shore excursion, then you are likely strolling the streets of Penneshaw. Most everything is just a couple minutes one way or the other, but the Tourist Information Centre and Maritime Museum is a little bit further out, past the Christmas Cove marina.

By Shuttle Bus: On cruise days, the local school buses are commandeered for shuttling visitors between the terminal and the visitor centre. The free service runs at regular intervals throughout the day.

By Car: with some pre-planning, you may be able to hire a car and self-drive for a few hours. Both Hertz and Budget have desks in Penneshaw serving visitors arriving by ferry.

Note: there are no longer any bicycles for hire, and there is no taxi or Uber service

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

While most stores will happily accept credit cards and EFTPOS transactions, Australian dollars in cash can be obtained from either of the ATMs in the Penneshaw Hotel or IGA Supermarket. The big town, Kingscote, is an hour by road and your tour (if you're on one) may not stop there.

Language?

English is the official language all over Australia, but sometimes visitors from overseas will have trouble understanding the thick drawl sometimes invoked by truckies, tradies and footy fans. It has been claimed (usually by South Australians themselves) that theirs is the clearest and most 'correct' English spoken anywhere in the country and a few little nuances will give it away. Like castle said 'CAR-sell' (not CASS-sell). And 'croweaters' (the slang name for South Australians) will go swimming in 'bathers', not 'togs', 'swimmers' or 'cossies' as they do in the other states. South Australian 'schooners' (the most common beer glass) are actually equivalent to Eastern states' 'middies', so don't look shocked if your draught lager has shrunk. If you want the big one, ask for a 'pint'.

Where You're Docked?

The newly built tender jetty at the Penneshaw Ferry Terminal is where you will get off the transfer from your ship. Straight away you will see eager ground handlers waiting to whisk you away on pre-booked shore tours. But there's even a second chance in case you missed out as there's a desk where local community operators will also offer supplementary tours and excursions, sometimes at substantial saving. There are washrooms here, too. The town centre of little Penneshaw is just a few hundred metres up the gentle slope.


Kangaroo Island Cruise Reviews
We hired a car from Budget, and drive to Seal Bay - worth the trip just to see the sea lions there. Stunning. Read More
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Claireoncruise
Unfortunately, our excursion to Kangaroo Island was cancelled due to poor weather. I have given it five stars as I am sure the excursion planned would have deserved this rating.Read More
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Nola Cordell
The Remarkables Rocks on Kangaroo are amazing shapes all weathered into weird and wonderful shapes. The koalas at the very large sanctuary are so easy to find snuggled in the trees - a large area to walk and view theRead More
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primaD
We couldn't afford the excursions, it would've been nice to get a student discount.Read More
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deysy024

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