Must-Read Tips about the Kangaroo Island Ferry
Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia's most popular tourist attractions, attracting over 140,000 visitors each year, with international visitors, primarily from Europe, accounting for more than 25% of these visits.
Much of the Kangaroo Island’s vegetation has been left uncleared, and a quarter of it is reserved as National Parks, Conservation Parks and five Wilderness Protection Areas.
Tourists come here to see rare flora and fauna, sample local Australian produce such as organic honey from Ligurian bees and sheep cheeses, taste fresh seafood caught from the jetty and enjoy the varied landscapes including beaches, rock formations and forests.
History of Kangaroo Island ferry services
In 1802, British explorer, Matthew Flinders landed near Kangaroo Head on Dudley Peninsula. Soon after, French explorer, Nicolas Baudin, followed and circumnavigated the island.
In 1836, the barque Duke of York anchored on the island and began the first formal settlement in South Australia including sealers and sailors.
The prime freight and passenger vessel that operated between Port Adelaide and Kingscote was the SS Karatta which serviced the route from 1907 to 1961.
Two years after they began, Kangaroo Island SeaLink began services from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw creating competition for Island Seaway.
Numerous other ferries have started crossings which were relatively short-lived ventures, including Philander 1 from 1970-1972, the Islander from 1980-1982, Superflyte from 1994-1997, and SeaWay which travelled from Wirrina Cove to Kingscote. There are some recent discussions about a second ferry starting up services again from Glenelg to Kingscote.
For now, SeaLink is the main player in ferry transport to Kangaroo Island, primarily due to its long term lease of the Cape Jervis berth.
The SeaLink Kangaroo Island ferry travels between Cape Jervis (about 2 hours drive from Adelaide), and Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. The crossing takes 45 minutes.
Facilities – On Board
SeaLink operates two large, air-conditioned catamarans – SeaLion 2000, and Spirit of Kangaroo Island.
Both vessels have licensed cafeterias, airline and café-style seating, lounges, TV/video monitors, free Wifi, accessible toilets, baby change facilities, kids activity packs for sale and EFTPOS on board (no ‘cash out’ facility).
Facilities – At Ferry Terminals
Cape Jervis Ferry Terminal has a cafeteria selling snacks and drinks, souvenirs, free Wifi, seating and accessible toilets.
Penneshaw Ferry Terminal has a cafeteria selling snacks and drinks, elevator, waiting lounge, free Wifi, accessible toilets, and a retail store selling Kangaroo Island produce and wine.
There are around 4 departures each way daily, with up to 12 services per day during peak times like Easter, Kangaroo Island Cup Carnival and Christmas/school holidays. Pre-booking is necessary.
Adventures Beyond includes the cost of the ferry in all our Kangaroo Island tours, so you can travel with peace of mind on both weekends and weekdays.
Why you should visit Kangaroo Island:
- Vibrant events - such as Kangaroo Island Cup Carnival in February and FEASTival food festival
- To witness all aspects of wildlife cycles - including animal births, migrations, nesting, feeding
- Seafood harvesting – lobster, oysters, fish, abalone
- Food and wine – a monthly Farmers Market held the first Sunday of every month in Penneshaw, organic honey, sheep cheeses/yoghurt, biodynamic eggs, seafood, chutneys and homemade preserves
- To marvel at seasonal changes – including grape harvesting at vineyards, and blossoming yellow canola and blue linseed flowers
There are many things to do in Kangaroo Island tours. Similar to customs regulations imposed when you enter Australia, there are prohibited items that you are forbidden to take to Kangaroo Island as many of Australia’s pests and diseases are not found on the island.
Kangaroo Island depends on primary industries and nature-based tourism as a major part of the economy, and it is an area of rare and protected species so visitors are asked to keep it safe from pests and disease. The introduction of just one new pest or disease could have devastating consequences.
Please bear in mind that you are not permitted to bring bee or honey products, vine cuttings, declared weeds, potatoes (for consumption or planting), foxes or rabbits. Here's another information about Kangaroo Island that you should know.
Which tour to choose
If you only have one day to spare, the ‘Kangaroo Island Highlights Tour’ (tour code: KI1D) covers many of the must-see attractions of Kangaroo Island including a guided tour at Seal Bay, Remarkable Rocks, Admiral's Arch and Flinders Chase National Park. This highlights tour saves you time arranging everything yourself – it even includes a 2-course lunch, your ferry ticket, transfers to/from Adelaide, park entry fees and air-conditioned transport on Kangaroo Island!
If you have two days to spare, we offer a ‘2 Day Kangaroo Island Wildlife Adventure’ (tour code: KIWA) that includes iconic highlights that Kangaroo Island is so famous for as well as sand boarding, farm stay accommodation at Flinders Chase Farm, and optional extras like quad bike adventures where you may see kangaroos.
For those visitors who prefer a more customized travel experience, we also offer personalized and luxury options for Kangaroo Island – the world is your oyster, suggest something and we will meet your needs!