Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail Over Five Days
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks,” John Muir.
By Natalia Borojovich
During the Christmas break I set off with my husband to walk 61km along the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail over a five-day journey. We’d trained, we’d researched, and we’d packed our belongings into two 14kg backpacks; so off we went to experience this remote area of Kangaroo Island.
We are by no means professional hikers, but we love walking and the outdoors, so we decided to give camping along the trail a go. We had heard from other walkers that the campground facilities were excellent so what better way to get to know this region.
Day One: Travelling to Kangaroo Island & the Rocky River Section
We made our way down to Cape Jervis, South Australia for the 9am SeaLink Ferry to Kangaroo Island and off we went to KI. Upon arrival in Penneshaw, we made our way straight out to the Flinders Chase National Park for the 2-hour drive where we signed in for the trail and left our car, where it would stay for the duration of our hike.
Once our safety briefing was complete, we took off and started our walk on the Rocky River section past the Platypus Waterholes walk. This section took us around 4-hours and we arrived at the Cup Gum Campsite by 5pm to set up our tent before nightfall. The first day of walking was very scenic and we encountered lots of kangaroos and Rosenberg goannas. We took many moments to stop and admire the rockpools of the Rocky River and enjoy the stunning views from the lookouts along the trail.
We were impressed with facilities at the first campsite, Cup Gum, and this was consistent throughout the trail. There were areas for tents separated for groups and for independent walkers, very comfortable wood platforms to set the tent, filtered rain water (fresh and abundant but needed to be treated prior to drinking), notes on the blackboard from the local Ranger and an undercover eating area. Trail signage was easily spotted as well.
Day Two: Maupertious Section
The hike began from Snake Lagoon following the trail along Rocky River and out to the Southern Ocean. This was one of our longest days of walking and took us just over 7-hours but it offered incredible rugged and remote scenery with a 10km stretch along the coast. We came across benches every few hours where we could take well-deserved breaks and stop to take in the wild scenery and grab a snack!
The trail descended onto Maupertuis Beach for 1.5km and we saw a number of Hooded Plover birds which we kept our distance from, so we didn’t frighten them. The trail then turned inland to Hakea Campsite, which is named after a native plant in the area, as are the other trail campsites.
At the end of this trail there is an additional 9.6km return that takes you to Admiral’s Arch. It’s well worth it if you have time but we had seen it before, so we opted to give it a miss on this occasion and rest our legs after our long day of hiking.
Day 3: Sanderson Section
The remoteness of the trail started to set in. We headed inland and through shady Tea Trees before making our way to the east. There is an option here to do a side trip to Remarkable Rocks, but we decided to skip this as we’d been there previously. We were still rewarded when looking back from our unique vantage point, a location were only walkers on this trail can see, as the rocks looked very artistic.
Before reaching the campsite, we walked to Sanderson Bay and the beach was completely isolated except for the remnants of an old jetty.
As we arrived at the Banksia Campground, we took in the views from the lookout balcony, did a bit of stretching after another long 6.5 hour walk and prepared our dinner. There was some windy conditions at the time, but the surrounding trees protected and shaded us from the conditions.
Day 4: Grassdale Section
Day four of the trail took us through Mallee forests, before trekking along the coast for the first half of the walk. The shady tea tree forests greeted us as we weaved our way inland and crossed behind the famous Southern Ocean Lodge.
We made our way across the South West River Crossing which is crossed with a self-operated punt. I think we had a little too much fun here and took the trip back and forth a few times for a laugh. We then made our way to Hanson Bay beach with an additional 700m return trip and we’re so glad we did, as we were greeted with the most beautiful blue water and idyllic views. We jumped in the water and treated ourselves to a swim and it was the first time we had seen other people in four days!
When arriving at the Tea Tree Campsite for our final night of camping we looked around a small original cottage close by, which holds the interesting story of the Edwards family, who were pioneers in the early settlement of the western end of Kangaroo Island. A well-maintained fire pit was at this site and we hear that during the cooler months wood is also available for campers to use.
Day 5: Kelly Hill Section
We started our final day of hiking at sunrise with mixed emotions of fulfilment and sadness, as this amazing experience was coming to an end. This section took around 2.5 hours and we passed through Wilderness and Grassdale lagoons, both with abundant birdlife, providing an absolute paradise for bird watching.
As we arrived at the finish gate, our muscles were sore, but we had this great feeling of achievement and had the most incredible time completing this trail. At the end, we find a pole for our camera to get the perfect selfie (as you can see!)
Trail Tips (from a now seasoned pro!)
- Train in advance walking about 10km per day (ideally, also train walking with a backpack).
- Taking walking poles was the best thing we did!
- It was a struggle getting our bags down to 14kg each. Make sure you don’t take anything you won’t use and bear in mind you will need to bring all your garbage with you.
- Organise a pre-night and post-night stay on Kangaroo Island if you have time. We really could have used an extra day at the end of our trip to unwind after the trail.
- Plan, plan, plan – we booked our ferry and trail pass all through SeaLink. We booked well in advance and checked the type of equipment, clothing and food to take… so there weren’t any hiccups along the way.
- The Trail pass includes access to Kelly Hill Caves as well, so make sure you leave enough time at the end of the trail to go on a guided tour of the underground cave system.