Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finding Paradise on Kangaroo Island


As excited as I was to go to the Australian Open and see Melbourne, after the turmoil that Oprah’s visit caused to my trip, the thing that kept me going (literally) was the week at the end in South Australia, especially my trip to Kangaroo Island.  Everyone I met who had ever been there couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful it was and every photo I had seen confirmed it.  Still, seeing is believing and I quickly became a believer.

It was a quick 20 minute flight on Rex Regional Express from Adelaide to Kingscote.  Rob, my tour guide from Exceptional Kangaroo Island was waiting for me in the airport.  He had gotten the message that I was interested in going to some wineries and visiting the distillery, but since my tour was private (the company will do anything from small groups to fully customized individual itineraries) he asked me what I really wanted to do.  It didn’t take me long to blurt out, “go to the beach!”   Rob responded that there were about 50 beaches to see on the island and he would get me to as many as possible.  I couldn’t have been happier as I was on week three of my Australian adventure and the only beach I had seen was the few minutes at Glenelg the previous day.

We were starting our tour on the North Coast of the island.  Kangaroo Island is much bigger than I had imagined.  It is actually the size of the Long Island I had grown up on.  The difference here was that the population (not counting the kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and other non-humans) was only about a tenth of that of the New York peninsula!  This allowed for plenty of open space and a place where people that lived 50 miles apart to easily know each other. 

Just a mile from the airport we stopped to see a sleeping koala in a River Red Gum tree, known to the marsupials as home.  There are six varieties of koalas on this island and their population went from 18 in 1923 to 35,000 in 1997, when the island began sterilizing and relocating them to other parts of Australia before they destroyed all the trees.  It was a perfect 85 degree day and that meant the koalas would enjoy partaking in their ritual 20 hours of sleep so we were off to more exciting places.

Before I would get to see the white sand, we had a stop to make for some white liquor.  Rob whipped out a container of Australian baked goods and I filled my stomach enough to handle the wares of Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS).  I’d be lying if I said the distillery was an attraction to miss (it’s really just a small building), but the spirits are worth a visit.   John has a KIS Wild Gin made with a wild juniper that is just full of herbs.  KIS Mulberry Gin is the first flavored gin that I’ve tasted and I loved it.  The grape-based KIS Vodka is available plain and in samphire, a salty plant that tastes a bit like pickles or relish, making a great dirty martini.  The Anisette reminded me of the one my grandfather used to put in his espresso and the KIS Chili Vodka is a spicy as it sounds! There is also a selection of liqueurs.

We then drove through Kingscote and stopped for my first view of the water (there are 450 miles of coastland). The Pelicans were all sitting there on the calm, sheltered waters of the northern side, a good spot for fishing scallops and lobsters.  We got back in the jeep to Bay of Shoals Winery.  They produce a nice selection of typical Australian wine, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Rose, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.  It was the Sauvignon that caught my eye (or rather, my taste buds), with enough tropical and peach tones that it didn’t need to be too sweet.

We drove to the next beach, passing a salt lake (the first I’ve ever seen outside of Salt Lake City, UT) and an Emu Bay Lavender Farm, where I had to make a quick stop.  We then took a look at the light blue-green waters of Jaom Beach (above, left), a good place for snorkeling and diving, before heading to Emu Beach (right), a perfect mixture of flat white sand, no rocks and turquoise water.  It was there that Rob set up a picnic lunch with free range chicken, local cheeses, salad and bread with pumpkin spread.  For the first time since I had arrived Down Under, I felt I was really in Australia as I watched the light waves on the sea and drank a glass of yet another great Kangaroo Island Sauvignon Blanc, this one from False Cape Wines.

After Emu Bay, we stopped at Island Pure Sheep Dairy, where Rob got the delicious cheese from lunch.  I also tasted their great Greek-style yogurt before we were off to Seal Beach, which has no seals.  Since Rob is a recognized tour guide, we passed the official groups and walked the long bridges down to the beach where we sat for about a half hour watching the sea lions frolic on the sand!  There were so many of them that I couldn’t believe to count – mothers, fathers, babies – all spread out (see the video below).

We stopped for a very quick view of the golf course, the smallest of four on the island which don’t have actually putting “greens.”  Then it was Vivonne Bay (right), where the beach was also stunning and the water almost purple.  At this point we were on the South Coast, where the Southern Ocean leads nowhere except Antarctica, 3,000 miles away.  I thought it was just a bit more beautiful than our next stop, Hanson Bay, where the white peaks of the waves didn’t go quite as far as my stop for the night – the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat.


1 comment:

Christopher said...

That definitely seems to be the paradise!
Were those animals in the beach?
In my rent apartments Buenos Aires I used to watch TV shows about this paradisaic places, but I never had the opportunity to visit one of them.

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