Walk On The Wild Side
By Caroline Jasinski
We all dream of getting away from it all. For some it’s escaping into the wilderness … leaving stress behind and detoxing from all the gadgets that keep us constantly connected and on call.
What if you could immerse yourself in nature, go for a gentle walk or trek through rugged country? What if that time out meant seeing some of Australia’s most intriguing wildlife, eye-popping scenery and iconic landmarks? I’m talking about the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail – a five-day, 61km hike through the Flinders Chase National Park.
This is a way to escape the daily grind … replace the white noise with bird song, enjoy some exercise and fresh air.
It’s not easy, though. There is the swag to carry, and sleeping bag, clothes, food and cooking gear for five days. It can be hot during the day but cold at night, so you’ll need to be prepared. Campsites are well equipped with shelters, toilets and water; some with raised platforms for swags. But, you’re still out in the elements.
Is this taking the great escape one step too far? Is a little glamping required … you know, the camping you do when you’re not really camping.
What if there was a way to get away from it all … but get back to just the good bits … at the end of the day? Where all you have to carry is your hat, sunnies and food and water for the day? And all this without impacting the very environment that you’re here to admire.
There is a way for wilderness wusses – like me – to do just that. Now, I love a bit of bush bashing … a bit of it. But the entire trail? That sounds like too much for my creature comfort-loving, unfit (but optimistic) self. Trekking 61km over five days I could manage. But it’s being “stuck” out there for five days and carrying all that “stuff” that I’m not too keen on.
Queue my new options … the opportunity to get dropped off at the starting point, hike 10-14km then get picked up again from the next campsite and returned to the comfort of a caravan park. For me, that’s how a five-day slog in the bush turns into an almost heavenly hike.
What can you expect on the trail?
Here’s an insight from a recording I did while on the trail. *We are hiking a tiny section of Day 3 on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail from Remarkable Rocks to Sanderson Cove. *
*Lucky I have hiking boots … it’s a 4WD walking track going over lots of limestone rocks and patches of sand. The ground is uneven with ledges and holes and it’s quite steep in sections. *
The vegetation started at head height for me (I’m 5ft nothing) and shoulder height for my husband, Rick, but it’s now down to my waist as we weave around towards the coast. **The closer we are to the coastline, the shorter the vegetation gets to survive the winds coming off the water. It’s down to ankle height at the cliff edge.
We’re surrounded by all shades of green. Mainly olive and dark colours with a few patches of bright green thrown in. It’s scrubby with typical coastal succulents that thrive here because they can hold in the water.
We can still see Remarkable Rocks at times and the coastline stretches on and on in both directions. There’s a little bay and sandy beach in the distance that we hope is Sanderson Cove … it’s a long way off. **It’ll be a nice reward for a challenging hike.
*It just hit us how isolated we are. No sight or sound of another soul. *
It’s actually really lovely. Quiet. Just the birds and the wind for background noise.
*We are so glad for the safety briefing before we left. Even though this is just a short stretch of the trail, if you tripped and sprained an ankle out here, you would have to sit still while the other person went back to get help. *
After 2.5 hours, we make it to Banksia Campground - about half-way along the 13km hike. We detoured to Sanderson Cove and spent time fossicking among the driftwood and cuttlefish backbones that cover the beach. The rocks are so sharp and craggy … no rock climbing.
It’s 20 minutes from the beach to the campground which is really well set up.
There’s a big shelter where you can cook if there are no fire bans – and toilets, water and a platform with views out over the bush you’ve just hiked through.
It’s nice to get that different perspective of the national park … and even better when we see Fiona arriving in the bus to take us back to the caravan park. I’m bushed!
Five days of walking 61km, 4 nights camping with the trail weaving through Flinders Chase National Park to the Southern Ocean – rugged, remote and spectacular.
- 5-day pass costs $90.
- 5-day pass using campgrounds $165.
- SeaLink can organise park passes and transfers for you.
- 2 to 5-day passes available. Minimum cost is $35 for 2 days.
- Transfers $24/day + park trail fee or $120 for 5 days.
The road trip to KI starts at the SeaLink ferry base in Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s a 2-hour (110km) scenic drive from Adelaide with the road following the coastline, hugging the cliffs before winding around the hills back into farmland. Sheep graze on rolling hills, cows follow a well-trodden path back to dairy farms and century-old gum trees line the road. Norfolk pines stand guard along the coastal sections – a remnant from original settlement days when immigrants were given seeds to indicate European communities.
A long, steep road leads into the tiny town of Cape Jervis where SeaLink ferries dock for the 45-minute journey across Backstairs Passage to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island.
These ferries carry passengers plus all sorts of vehicles and freight to and from the island. The ferry loading can seem daunting. Cars are driven on forwards and follow an arc around the ferry so they can be driven off in the same direction. Big vehicles are reversed on board. But never fear, if nerves get the better of you, the staff are happy to load your vehicle for you.
We (and I mean my husband) managed just fine.
Once on board, there’s a café, air-conditioned lounge and TV interviews all about the island to keep you entertained. Or you can stay outside in the fresh air and hope to see dolphins that regularly play alongside.
Where To Stay
Western KI Caravan Park
Perfect if you like being in the bush but want all the comforts of home. The park has its own koala and lagoon walks. Accommodation options include cabins, powered and unpowered sites. We brought our caravan along for all the creature comforts of home.
Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat
Stay close by to the trail at the KI Wilderness Retreat. Accommodation options include eco lodge rooms, courtyard suites and spa suites. Dine in their restaurant serving local produce in the evening.
This feature by Carolyne Jasinski is from Caravan World (issue 588). For more regional stories, visit caravan.hemax.com