Your Guide To American River - Kangaroo Island

Your Guide To American River

American River is centrally located and a great base to access all parts of Kangaroo Island. Known by locals as ‘The River’ American River sits on the western shore of Eastern Cove and is named after the American sealers that stayed on this part of the island back in 1803. While the area was named ‘American River’ by explorer Matthew Flinders, it’s actually an ocean inlet and boasts impressive coastline views. From fishing, boating, bird-watching and a range of culinary delights, there is plenty to do around this laid back part of the island.

Image by Jesse Ehlers, from South Coast Aerial Images.

Nearby Attractions

Boating and Fishing

Boating and fishing is one of the most popular activities in this area, due to the sheltered waters which are home to fantastic fishing grounds, especially for the prized Australian King George Whiting. The best way to explore them is with a local who’ll take you out in their boat to all the good spots. The local charter operators have many years’ experience and offer full day and half day charters which usually include lunch, transfers, bait and tackle and fish cleaning. If you have your own boat, there is a boat ramp at American River, too.

Another way to view the quiet waters of American River and Pelican Lagoon is to take your own or hire a kayak and travel to the reaches of the Bay into Eastern Cove and along to exclusive Island Beach. Stop for a swim or just bask on the white sands of this gorgeous beach.

Interpretive Trail and ‘Red Tailed Glossies’

Take the interpretive trail around the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge which tells the tale of the flora and fauna located in this area, including a flock of the endangered Red Tailed Glossy Black Cockatoo that inhabits the Sheoak Trees around the property. You’ll see why this region is known for bird-watching.


Image by Catrina Howard.

Climb Prospect Hill

If you’re up for a challenge, head to the Prospect Hill Track for a walk up the case of 500 steps. You’ll marvel at the look out over the most narrow section of Kangaroo Island. Allow just over half an hour for your return walk.

Pennington Bay

This is Kangaroo Island’s premier surf beach, and has to be seen to be believed. American River to Pennington Bay is a 15 minute drive and you are basically going from one side of the island to the other as you traverse the narrowest part of the island! Ride the plank or simply marvel at the shifting forces of nature as the swell rolls in and out. Why not make an outing of it and take a picnic. If you’re staying nearby at the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge, they’ll even pack you a picnic and provide a beach umbrella!

Pelican Feeding

Every second morning (so as not to encourage daily binge fish eating by the birds), the pelicans are fed by the staff from the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge. Come and get some eyeball contact with ‘Bump’, ‘Grind’, ‘Shimmy’ and ‘Biggles’ and the rest of the balmy air force. It happens around 9.00am…. and it’s free!

Beach, Birds and Bush trail walk

This is a coastal walk of approx. 8 kms, east from the Lodge along the water’s edge and through a little scrub to the old Cannery Works at Ballast Head. This was once the primary shipping port of Kangaroo Island. It’s not unusual to see kangaroos, wallabies and koalas on the land and then cast your eyes out to sea and see a pod of dolphins, and even the occasional whale!

Rebuild For Independence Group (RIG) Boathouse

The Rebuild for Independence Project is located at the RIG boathouse at American River and is run soley by volunteers. Stop by to see the original Schooner vessel being rebuilt and learn about the “Union” and “Independence”. You can find the boathouse at The Wharf, Tangara Drive and it’s open most days around 10:30am to 3pm.

Local Eats

The Deck Cafe

Nestled alongside the Rebuild Independence Group (RIG) Boathouse, overlooking the beautiful American River bay and wharf, the Deck Café offers visitors to American River and locals alike a spot to sit and relax absorb the serenity of Kangaroo Island’s waterways, bird life and boats. Enjoy some locally caught King George Whiting, fresh coffee, beer and wine at this licensed venue after visiting the RIG Boathouse.


The Oyster Farm Shop

Visit The Oyster Farm Shop (Mon-Fri) - Showcasing Island Aquaculture and Sustainable Seafood. When in season you can taste the freshest oysters on the island (fresh from their farm across the road), Green Lip Abalone, King George Whiting, Marron, Sheoak Smoked Oysters and Smoked oyster dip from the Chill and Grill lunch menu. Oyster season on Kangaroo Island runs from April to January, just excluding February and March.


Reflections Restaurant, Mercure KI Lodge

Offering an unforgettable dining experience, the award-winning Reflections Restaurant is a must-visit when staying in American River. Enjoy the best of the region’s finest meats, produce and wines, with impeccably presented dining. Sit on their alfresco patio or warm up with a drink inside by the fireplace.


Beach Barista Coffee Van, Pennington Bay

Grab a coffee and some homemade cake from the Beach Barista coffee van that is often located at Pennington Bay. You’ll also find milkshakes, toasties, ice creams and ask owners Kylie and Rob about their mysterious drink called “coffonic”.


Other Nearby Places To Visit

A short drive of 20 minutes or less will take you to Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, Clifford’s Honey Farm, Kangaroo Island Spirits, Kangaroo Island Brewery and many of the local wineries and cellar doors such as Bay of Shoals Wines, Dudley Wines, The Islander Estate Tasting Room, Amadio Wines and Springs Road Wines. 


Where To Stay

Situated in American River, the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge is set across from the coast, offering exceptional water views. It’s a bird lovers paradise, surrounded in seven acres of natural bushland. Join the morning pelican feeding spectacle and walk around the property to spot the endangered Red Tailed Glossy Black Cocktoo.

During summer months enjoy the large hotel swimming pool, tennis court, the sauna rooms and the many interpretive walking trails. With comfortable rooms, the Reflections Restaurant onsite, it’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the serenity of the island.

Find out more about the Mercure KI Lodge hereand getting to Kangaroo Island with the SeaLink ferry.

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