Food and Drink in Kangaroo Island
KI is quickly gaining a reputation for high quality, pure and organic produce and you'll be delighted at the range of eating options available in this little village. Almost every corner seems to have a cafe or little restaurant of some sort and the quality of food commonly exceeds the expectation of visitors. Naturally the seafood is the most popular choice, particularly the whiting and lobster.
Fish: This tiny 'hole in the wall' fish and chippery seems to have 'rock star' status and a long queue. The choice offering is the ocean-fresh King George Whiting, a local specialty, usually filleted and fried in a light delicate batter, served with chips, tartare sauce and lemon. You might flinch when you see what little you get for $20-something, but it could well be the best fish you've ever tasted. (43 North Terrace, Penneshaw; 0439 803 843; open until sold out on cruise days.)
The Penny: The local pub, the Penneshaw Hotel, certainly has a great view and tagline. "Is this the only hotel in the world where you can have a beer and look at Australia?" Obviously, you get a great view of the mainland from its special cliff-top position while enjoying a lager and maybe a meal of local meat or seafood. There's an excellent selection of KI wines from several of the two dozen wineries on the island. (North Tce, Penneshaw; +61 8 8553 1042; open for lunch from noon to 2:30pm.)
The Sportsground: On cruise days, many local businesses will come to town and set up stalls to display their wares and fares. Apiarists, winemakers, craftsmen and women, artists and numerous types and styles of food and drink will be on offer. It's a great way to sample snack-size offerings from various producers and artisans. (Middle Terrace, near the bank and post office.)
Isola Pizza: This highly-rated Italian pizzeria consistently pleases its guests with quick, friendly service and a good range of vegetarian and gluten-free alternative pizzas and salads. (Lot 43 North Terrace, Penneshaw; +61 8 8553 1227; open all day cruise days.)
Best Cocktail in Kangaroo Island
For a true local flavour with 'buzz', you'll need to be on a tour that visits Clifford's Honey Farm where the microbrewery The Drunken Drone has been set up by locals Greg and Sharon Simons. The top drop is the small batch, hand-crafted Honey Wheat Ale. Currently only available at the farm gate, it may soon be found in the visitors' centre.
For something a little more feisty, local distillery KI Spirits create their own special Mulberry Gin, infused with mulberries from a tree that predates Adelaide itself. Fantastic served in a smashed cocktail with basil and lemon juice. Or try it with Fevertree Lemon Tonic (bitter lemon) or ginger beer.
--By Roderick Eime, Cruise Critic contributor
Beaches in Kangaroo Island
While Kangaroo Island loves to boast about its 50 individual beaches, the only beach you will have time to relax or swim at during shore time is in the immediate vicinity of Penneshaw and the terminal.
Best for day visitors: Hog Bay at Penneshaw is the premium, long, white sand beach a stone's throw from the terminal and cafes. With its own strip of parkland, it's a lovely spot for a stroll, picnic or nap. The water is safe to swim in, clear and sheltered, but anywhere you go in Kangaroo Island you'll find the water cool and rarely more than 20 degrees. Brrrr. The beach is also home to a colony of Fairy Penguins and if you visit before February, you may see some of the young ones making their first forays into the sea.
Don't Miss in Kangaroo Island
Visitor Centre: This new facility serves both visitors arriving from the mainland by ferry and cruise passengers coming ashore. Apart from regular souvenirs, like postcards, fridge magnets and fluffy koalas, you can find much of the island's famous produce under one roof such as the delicious pure honeys as well as eucalyptus salves, oils, creams and lotions. There are even fishing rods for hire if you want to drop a line in across the road in Christmas Cove. Staff are happy to answer all your questions about KI and the free Wi-Fi has been upgraded, too. You can phone or email a few days in advance and book locally operated shore tours here, too, often at a considerable saving to onboard tours. (Howard Drive, Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island; +61 8 8553 1185 or 1800 811 080 within Australia; email@example.com)
Maritime Museum: Opposite the Visitor Centre is an old schoolhouse converted into a maritime and folk museum. There is quite comprehensive historical coverage of the shipping history of Kangaroo Island and documentation of the astonishing number of shipwrecks that occurred mainly in the late 19th century. The museum also contains quirky relics of the old school days, too, as well as some of the local characters and war veterans' stories. (52 Howard Dr, Penneshaw; +61 8 8553 1109; open on cruise days for a small admission fee.)
Ironstone Hill Hike: If you're tired of the jogging track around Deck 6 of your cruise ship, you might like to stretch your legs on this delightful short hike located at the far end of Hog Bay, near Frenchman's Rock. Officially called Baudin Conservation Park, the hike trail follows the original bullock track used by the old farmers. Birders bring your binoculars because you could well spot the rare glossy black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami) or even a wedge-tailed eagle. Generalists may catch a glimpse of the oh-so-cute tammar wallabies. It's a loop track easily completed in less than two hours and completely free of charge. (For more information, head to the Visitor Centre.)