Last Updated on November 18, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ
Much of Kangaroo Island’s 509 kilometre-long (316 mile) coastline is rugged and rocky, with dramatic and spectacular scenery. The soaring cliffs, towering dunes, dense coastal vegetation, and rock formations that make up much of the shoreline are frequently battered by strong winds and pounding seas. And several active lighthouses scattered around the island indicate further offshore hazards.
The conditions are perfect for shipwrecks.
But despite the dangers, they’re also perfect for beaches.
There are over 50 Kangaroo Island beaches, in fact—each with its own unspoilt beauty and charm. They’re not all safe for swimming, but discovering the characteristics that make each of them special is an excellent way to explore the island’s different regions and find your own special “KI” (Kangaroo Island) spot.
Come here outside the peak holiday season, and many of the beaches are deserted—apart from seals, penguins, dolphins, sea-birds and the occasional whale out at sea, that is.
With so much choice, however, finding the perfect beach to match your mood can be time-consuming. So narrow it down with my 10 favourite Kangaroo Island beaches and see if there’s one that suits you!
After a rough ferry ride on heaving seas from the mainland to Kangaroo Island (KI) across Backstairs Passage, Penneshaw’s sheltered harbour with its deep, turquoise waters and sweeping curve of white sand is a welcome sight and wonderful introduction to the island’s natural attractions.
Just 600 metres (1968 feet) long, the beach stretches around the bay from the jetty terminal to Baudin Conservation Park. Walk the historic trail along the foreshore, try fishing from the beach or jetty, and admire the brilliant colours from vantage points on the walking tracks. At dusk, take a guided tour to see the world’s smallest penguins return from the sea to their nests on the rocks near the beach.
Spend a little time here, and your sub-tropical island beach fantasy may just come true!
From Penneshaw, the road to Cape Willoughby lighthouse passes through Lashmar Conservation Park on the banks of the Chapman River, which flows through the park and out to sea into the beautiful Antechamber Bay. The bay is a 4.2 kilometre-long (2.6 mile) stretch of more of that distinctive KI white sand we first saw in Penneshaw, with beautifully coloured aquamarine waters lapping its shores.
Camp in the park to take full advantage of the spectacular views across Backstairs Passage to the Fleurieu Peninsula. Walkways on either side of the river lead to the beach, perfect for walking and swimming. In the distance at the bay’s easternmost point is the unattended Cape St Albans lighthouse.
Picturesque and protected, the bay and its amenities are so relaxing, it’d be possible to spend your entire KI stay here!
Mouth Flat Beach
Despite—or perhaps because of—being hard to reach, unsafe for swimming and difficult to explore, Mouth Flat beach is easily my favourite of the Kangaroo Island Beaches. The Willson River meanders through the dune system before entering the sea at Mouth Flat on the Dudley Peninsula’s south coast.
The rough track leading to the flat eventually becomes a private road, so the only way to reach the beach without trespassing is to hike a rough, overgrown and undefined trail along the eastern river bank’s high cliffs through the often impenetrable coastal scrub and through the dunes. Keep the river on your right and the dunes on your left for a couple of kilometres (1.2 miles) and you’ll eventually get to the beach. Watch out for snakes!
Wild seas lash the uneven shore that drops away quickly into treacherous rips and currents. Small footprints in the sand around rocky hollows and small caves in the cliffs at the western end of the beach are evidence that penguins nest and roost here. However, the “path” through the dunes would be difficult to walk at dusk when the penguins are active, and virtually impossible in the dark.
Retracing our steps was difficult enough in daylight, as our footprints weren’t always visible. After exploring the beach, cliffs and river mouth, then deciding that returning via the river bed could be tricky, we bush-bashed our way back through the dense coastal scrub instead.
Untamed, pristine and totally deserted, Mouth Flat beach is the ultimate KI natural attraction that even some locals haven’t been to. Seek it out if you dare!
Site of KI’s most scenic public loo (IMHO), Pennington Bay is a surfing and fishing beach surrounded by high sand dunes on the south-western coast of the Dudley Peninsula. The loo—and the magnificent coastal scenery—compensate for the dangerous rips and rough seas that can make the beach unsafe for swimming. Vantage points overlook the beach at various locations, and watching the ever-changing ocean colours as the waves roll in can be mesmerising. Dolphins—and sometimes whales—can be seen from the lookouts too.
Several access points lead down to the white sand beach, where you’ll often be the only visitors. Don’t miss the surfboard storyboards on the tracks to the beach, or the awesome view from the loo!
Admiring the killer coastal view, inspecting a whale skeleton in the dunes, and watching (and photographing!) the ever-present seals frolicking on the beach and in the surf replace traditional beach activities at Seal Bay, on KI’s south coast.
Access to this beach is limited to guided tours, ensuring that the colony of around 1,000 sea lions that live here are not disturbed by visitors. Alternatively, take a self-guided tour and descend the long, sloping boardwalk (see photo in introduction) down to a vantage point above the beach and watch the seals at rest and play. Above, from a lookout on top of the cliff, the spectacular coastal views are some of the best on KI.
But the seals are the real stars of Seal Bay, and watching them is one of the best beach activities the island has to offer.
The horror bushfires of the 2019/20 Australian summer burned right down to Vivonne Bay’s shoreline. But with its multi-shaded blue waters and six kilometres (3.7 miles) of white sand, it’s still easy to see why the beach was voted best in the world in 2003, and still regularly makes it into Australian Top 10 Beach lists. Including this list of Kangaroo Island beaches! And in photos, the blackened vegetation makes a nice counterpoint to the beach’s vivid colour palette too.
Explore the Vivonne Bay Conservation Park at the western end, fish from the jetty or snorkel the clear waters over the reef. Otherwise walk around the bay and admire the captivating view. On a fine day, the bay is pretty close to paradise!
Western River Cove
From the access road on the high, rocky cliffs above Western River Cove, the beach is like a small, brightly coloured jewel amidst craggy, glistening rocks. Up close, the north coast’s rugged scenery is postcard-perfect with clean lines and intense colours. Watch out for the endangered glossy black-cockatoos feeding in the patches of sheoak near the road as it descends steeply to the bay.
The Western River enters the sea here, and there’s a small beach on the river bank below a campground and picnic area complete with scenic loo. Swim in the beautifully clear water, or explore the rocky cliffs on either side of the bay. Unless there’s a group of school children present, as there was during our visit, it’s a peaceful and picturesque place in which to chill out.
Atop Constitution Hill, high above Snellings Beach, the view over the surrounding steep, rolling hills and the beautiful Middle River as it flows into the sea at the small bay’s eastern end is spectacular. If you are lucky enough to stay in accommodation overlooking the beach, waking up to the magnificent view is an added bonus.
Be careful when walking the beach—the tiny beach-nesting hooded plover, with a conservation status of “vulnerable”, can sometimes be seen here. Check the trees around the area too, as koalas are frequently sighted (and heard!) in the area.
Centrally located on the north coast, Snellings is an excellent base from which to explore KI’s top end, but its main attraction is its scenic beauty.
(Little) King George Beach
The otherworldly jagged rock formations and smoothly pebbled shore of what I am reliably informed is actually “Little King George Beach” couldn’t be further from the traditional white sand/turquoise water combo found elsewhere on the island.
While it isn’t a conventional swimming beach, it’s good for fishing and excellent for exploring. The colours of the oddly-shaped rocks in the late afternoon sun are spectacular, and walking around the western headland, while taking care not to slip on the rocks, opens up many photo opportunities. So different from the other KI beaches, this little gem is definitely worth visiting.
Finding the “real” Stokes Bay isn’t easy. The car park overlooks a pleasant stony beach, but it doesn’t look anything like the photos. So take the narrow path east to what looks like an impenetrable rocky cliff, follow it through a gap in the rocks, squeeze through an even smaller opening and suddenly you’re on a beautiful stretch of beach. It’s worth the effort.
A series of natural rock pools near the entry and exit point near the cliff are safe for swimming and exploring. It’s a pleasant stroll along 300 metres (980 feet) of white sand to the other end of the beach where you’ll discover some unusual rock formations.
An escape through the unusual entrance onto the secluded cove of Stokes Bay beach is an escape from your cares for a few hours.
Of course this is just an introduction to the amazing array of beaches to explore on Kangaroo Island—there are plenty more to discover and enjoy.
- Beautiful beaches aren’t the only natural attractions on Kangaroo Island. See what else I discovered on this amazing island HERE
- For a local perspective, visit the KI Tourism Alliance website HERE.
- And … for Authentic KI, go HERE.