Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Exceptional Kangaroo Island

Exceptional Kangaroo Island is not just the name of the tour company my guide Rob works for, it’s one of the words I’ve used to describe this place.  I fell in love with Kangaroo Island the moment I arrived and that didn’t change on day two.

I spent the night at the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat.  I had to admit I was disappointed when I found out I wasn’t staying at the beach and concerned at the words “wilderness retreat,” but it turned out to be great.  It’s a fun place to be, with the animals wandering freely outside your door.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find a gourmet eatery on site, The Nicolas Baudin Restaurant, where I warmed up with a spicy tomato soup, followed by the Pumpkin, Pine Nut and Ricotta Ravioli with Ginger and Coconut Chilli Cream Sauce.  It was delicious, as was the Raspberry and White Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding with Vanilla Bean Custard.  I relished the free internet in my room for awhile before all the fresh ocean air got to me and I drifted into eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Rob was waiting for me in front of the Wilderness Retreat with a full day planned. First we drove to nearby Hanson Park where kangaroos and wallabies were out enjoying the cloudy day, which was also the coolest I’d encountered in South Australia. We watched them for awhile and then drove to Flinders Chase National Park, as Rob pointed out unique plants, such as the yacca, which is the slowest growing tree on earth, and the wattle, Australia’s plant. 

Our first stop in the park was at Remarkable Rocks, a beautiful granite formation that stands above yet another perfect Kangaroo Island beach.  I climbed for awhile, taking in the view and Rob had some hot coffee and Australian baked goods (this time KI Chocolate Cake and Anzac Biscuits) waiting for me.  He told me about our next stop, Cape Du Couedic, where the Lighthouse that guided the first settlers here still stands.  It is also the spot of another beach that took my breath away, this one home to some New Zealand fur seals. Unlike sea lions, seals will eat just about anything, including penguins. They are a bit smaller and move to other areas in the winter – even as far as Sydney.

We reluctantly left Flinders Park and made a brief stop to check out Southern Ocean Lodge, a luxury all-inclusive hotel on Hanson Bay, with perfect views from each of its 21 suites as well as the common areas.  From there we were off to the North Coast, where Rob promised I would see the best beaches yet. 

The first was Snelling Beach, which has some of the tallest cliffs on the southern hemisphere.  It was truly amazing, as was Stokes Beach , which you can only enter by climbing through a rocky tunnel!  It was worth it to see the view on the other side, where snorkeling is a popular pastime.

Before heading back on the road, I had a latte at Rockpool Café.  It was the kind of place I wish every beach would have, casual and fun, where you could have dinner with a glass of wine, or a sandwich and soda to take down to the sand.  We then took a drive through the small town of Kingscote so I could quickly check out some of the hotels (like Aurora Ozone and Queenscliff) and restaurants (such as Three Shekina Café and Bella) before boarding my plane back to Adelaide and leaving Rob and his Exceptional Kangaroo Island.

Once back at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Adelaide -- where they had turned the previous visits glitches into the perfect room for my second stay – I enjoyed a Toasted Ciabatta with Pesto, Tomato, Goat Cheese and Rocket (arugula) at the lounge with a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, full of ripe fruit and kiwi.  I tried to get into the cricket game on television, but decided my concentration level wasn’t there, so I went back to my room for a good night’s rest before my final day in Adelaide, with a side trip to McLaren Vale on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

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