South Australia

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia.  1.25 million people live there, out of 1.68 million in South Australia.  Its settlement is not as old as the east coast Australian cities, but it does not have a convict past (which they are quite proud of).  However, the city is old enough (late 19th century) to have some nice architecture, especially in their government buildings.

Ayers House

This house belonged to the namesake of Ayers Rock (Uluru), Sir Henry Ayers.  He lived there from 1855-1897 during his career as a mine owner/operator, government representative, premier of South Australia, and President of the South Australian Legislative Council.

The most interesting thing in this house (to us) was the summer sitting room, which was located in the basement.  If a wealthy family with a large house has to resort to going to the usually-only-for-servants basement, circumstances must be extreme.  Which they are.  South Australia gets much hotter in the summer than Victoria (up to 50 C sometimes).  And it really was noticeably cooler down there.

Haigh’s Chocolates

We had actually had Haigh’s Chocolates in Melbourne (in the Block Arcade) and thought it was pretty good chocolate.  When we found out they were based in Adelaide, and had factory tours available, we signed up right away (my mom loves factory tours).  Cameras/photography weren’t allowed in the actually factory (sorry!) but believe me when I say it was incredible.  So much of the work is done by hand, including shaping the centres of candies and coating all of the truffles (some up to three times).  There was then a shop (of course!).  The majority of the chocolate was focused on Easter, as it was coming up.  Being a true Australian brand, Haigh’s has joined the “Easter Bilby” movement.  When rabbits were released in Australia, they took over and became an invasive species that hurt a lot of the native wildlife.  Bilbies are marsupials that are roughly the same size and shape as bunnies, but have not had the negative effects that rabbits have.  So, recently, people have campaigned to have the Easter Bilby nationally recognized instead of the Easter bunny.  I, for one, am fully on board!!

Rundle Mall

The main shopping street in Adelaide; it is now pedestrian only and the street has lots of public art displays dispersed along it.  One of the oldest buildings there is the Adelaide Arcade.  It looks similar inside to the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.

Adelaide Royal Botanic Gardens

Another beautiful and expansive botanic gardens in a state capital!!  The picture on the right is at the Australian-American war monument in the gardens, which a guide helpfully pointed us in the direction of after he found out we were American.

South Australian Museum

The best Natural-History-Museum-like museum we’ve been to here in Australia (sorry, Melbourne!).  It had a fantastic indigenous display with tons of artifacts.  And being in South Australia (where Coober Pedy is located) we had to check out the opal/gemstone displays.


Flinders Chase National Park

South Australia

Flinders Chase National Park is one of the major attractions on Kangaroo Island.  It takes up most of the western half of the island and it takes hours to drive from the top of the park to the bottom.  It’s known for wildlife and amazing natural beauty.  Upon pulling into the parking lot, we were greeted by a Cape Barron Goose, so it was off to a good start.  Inside the visitor’s centre, there were all kinds of pelts; my favourite one was the echidna as it gave me the chance to (safely) feel its spines.

First things first, we took a walk on the Heritage Trail, where we were told we were likely to see koalas in the wild.  Lo and behold, there they were!  It was so cool to see them high up in their gum trees sleeping away–in the wild!  The whole time on the trail, I was walking with my neck craned upward looking for more koalas.

This road (and picture) is well-known from Kangaroo Island.  I will say it is a dramatic, remote road.  At an intersection, it was always more surprising to see another car than to not see another car.


Admiral’s Arch, on the southwestern tip of the island, is an iconic Kangaroo Island sight.  It has been formed by water erosion over thousands of years.  It is also unusual in the stalactites that hang from the arch, while the floor is completely smooth.

The two islands just off shore used to be connected to the main island by other arches that finally collapsed.  One day, Admiral’s Arch will collapse and a new island will be formed.

The wild Southern Ocean crashes against these rocks incessantly.  It is fantastic to watch, especially when it causes some of the seals to clamber over each other to avoid the oncoming waves.

A New Zealand fur seals colony live on the rocks surrounding the arch.  At first glance you might see a few (lighter coloured) seals, but upon further inspection, they are everywhere–just really well camouflaged!  Seals back legs are turned backward and so they wriggle on land (as opposed to sea lions).  We went in early fall, just after the summer breeding season, so there were lots of adorable pups playing.

A few light keeping families lived on the island in the early 20th century.  Weir’s Cove was safe and so their supplies would arrive there.  They would then winch them up the steep cliffs (the path they used is shown below in the left picture).  Their storehouses were located right at the top of cliffs here, which was a couple km from their homes.

The scenery here is also simply gorgeous.

From Admiral’s Arch a beautiful coastal road takes you a bit east to the Remarkable Rocks.


The Remarkable Rocks are another iconic Kangaroo Island landmark.  They are situated right on the edge of a steep cliff into the churning water, which makes it even more dramatic.  These granite rocks have been formed over the past 500 millions years on top of a granite dome, which extends beneath the ground.  Water, wind, and lichen have all continued the erosion process even to this day.  Looking at the Remarkable Rocks is like cloud watching… this one looks like a chaise lounge, this one is an egg, this one looks like an eagle….

We also wanted to see platypuses in the wild, so we took a hike on the Platypus Waterholes Walk.  Platypuses are nocturnal and we did do this hike in mid-afternoon, but we think we saw them swimming around underwater.  Those little black bubbles are (I’m declaring!) platypuses underneath the water.  At least we definitely got to see their burrows on the side of the waterhole.

Eleanor River

South Australia

The main reason we went to Kangaroo Island at all is that there is an Eleanor River there.  Once we did some more research, we found out that it has tons of attractions and is a fantastic place to visit, but the river was the catalyst.

When I was little we would often drive over the Elizabeth River in VA.  My sister’s name is Elizabeth and I was upset that she had a river and I didn’t.  My parents promised me that they would one day take me to the Eleanor River.  I looked it up and found ou there were only 2 Eleanor Rivers in the entire world: one on Kangaroo Island and one way up north in Canada.  Little did we know that 10 years later we would be living in Australia and have the opportunity to visit Kangaroo Island and the Eleanor River.

We went for my 18th birthday, which made it even more special.

The river runs from the centre of the island down to Vivonne Bay.  The main south coast road on KI crosses it and that is where I found the signs for it and could access it from the side of the road behind the guardrails.

The other place I had access to the river was on the property of our cabin, the Eleanor River Homestead as it is aptly named.  We bushwalked down an overgrown path to get to the tiny river.  However, at least here there was some water flowing in the river…  further down where I had been before, it was simply a meadow in the riverbed.

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Seal Bay Conservation Park

South Australia

Seal Bay is home to the third largest population of Australian sea lions in Australia.  Yes, it’s called seal bay but is home to sea lions… makes sense I know.

Sea lions were hunted by colonial Europeans and continually up until 1945.  The land became protected in 1954.

Sea lions are different than seals in that their back feet point more forward and they are really walking on all fours, unlike seals who drag themselves along with their front flippers.  The difference is well illustrated by the sea lion skeleton below.

The sea lions travel up onto the dunes when it is too cold down on the beach or to have their babies.  All of the paths of sand seen below were created by sea lions.

The day we were there was quite windy, so quite a few sea lions were up on the dunes, and some were even hiding underneath the boardwalk.

Up in the dune area, there was also the complete skeleton of a humpback whale who had been beached here in 1984.

On our tour, we got to actually go down on the beach with the sea lions.  They were right there!

They make tracks like sea turtles as they go up into the sand dunes.

Sea lions are just as comfortable on land as in the water and have a 3 days hunting out at sea, 3 days resting on land eating pattern.  The colony is not in any way synced and each sea lion goes out to sea on its own schedule.  It was really awesome to see the sea lions lumber down to the edge of the water and then suddenly turn super agile and nimble as they began to swim out to sea.

There was another lookout further down the beach that overlooked the sea lions.  While it wasn’t on the sand with them, it was still as close as can be as they waddled past.

From here we saw a mother coaxing her baby out to sea.  The pups and mums communicate to each other with almost howling cries.

There was also another small pup that was calling out for its mum, but none of the sea lions it wandered up to and called to were taking it in.  It was most likely that its mum was out at sea, but who knew if she would be back in a few hours or three days–kind of heartbreaking.

Another jaw-dropping beach on Kangaroo Island.  Plus sea lions!  What could be better?!


Kangaroo Island

South Australia

Kangaroo Island is the third largest island off of Australia (Tasmania being the largest) and is actually bigger than Long Island (!).  It’s located off the coast of South Australia, about 2 hours south of the South Australian capital Adelaide.

Even though the area is large, the population is not.  Only 4,500 people live on the island with 1,500 living in the largest town, Kingscote.

Apparently, the air on Kangaroo Island is the second purest in the world, after Antartica. I assume that it’s purer than other remote places because a lot of its air comes from Antartica.

The island is only accessible by plane or boat.  We chose the ferry option as we wanted to have a car secured before we got to the island.

The ferry leaves from Cape Jervis and only takes about 45 minutes to cross the Backstairs Passage and reach Penneshaw on the northeastern coast of the island.

The cars are really packed in like sardines and watching it from above was like watching real life Tetris.  Our boat even had a truck full of sheep, over 600 of them, as one of the vehicles.

We stayed at the lovely Eleanor River Homestead, a remote cabin off a maze of unsealed roads.  After being in Melbourne so long, it was a real vacation to live the unhurried, remote lifestyle of Kangaroo Island.  And the red dirt was so quintessentially Australian!

One of my favourite things about the cabin was the wildlife!  We had kangaroos wandering around the property and coming right up to the porch, especially at dusk and dawn.  There were also tons of birds around and in our birdbath.  The property had tons of xantharia, common name yakka, bushes, which had very sharp fronds.

Our cabin’s closest town was Parndana, basically located smack dab in the centre of the island.  It is the island’s fourth largest town with a population of 150.  Being in the dry centre of the island, it remained largely unpopulated until parcels of land there were given to soldiers after WWII to establish a community.  Today, it is the agricultural centre of KI.  The main street, in its entirety, is seen in the two right-hand pictures below.  A post office, grocery store, and a couple shops make up Parndana.  There is also a delicious, and popular hotel, there, which is where we went for my birthday dinner.

The Little Sahara sand dunes were on the south coast of the island.  They reminded us of Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head, NC.  I even went sand boarding and made it down the dune quite a number of times (in one way or another 😉 ).  The wax they gave me to wax my board was Ligurian beeswax.

Speaking of Ligurian bees…. Kangaroo Island has the only remaining pure Ligurian bee population.  The bees are originally form Liguria, Italy, but have remained pure on KI due to its remoteness.  The pure Ligurian honey is world renowned and I must say is really good.  We went to Clifford’s Honey Farm, one of many honey farms on the island, to learn about the process, the bees, buy some honey, and eat some ‘famous’ honey ice-cream (which definitely lived up to the hype).

There were so many gorgeous beaches on the island; it’s hard to keep them all straight!

KI beaches are known for their white sand and blue, blue water.  So stunning!

One of my favourites was Stokes Beach, which is only accessible through a veritable obstacles course of rocks.  But once you make it through, the secluded, cliff-lined beach is absolutely beautiful.  However, we didn’t know it was only easily accessible at low tide, showed up as the tide was coming in, and got quite wet.

Emu Bay, on the calmer North Shore, was pretty but the huge mounds of seaweed lining the shore detracted from the appearance just a bit.

Vivonne Bay was voted as one of Australia’s best beaches by Sydney University’s marine studies centre.  It’s also a popular surf beach as it’s on the wilder south coast in the Southern Ocean.

Kingscote Beach is also on the northern coast and is popular for swimming, especially in the summer when the holiday houses there fill up.


Pennington Bay was one of the most dramatic beaches we saw.  That being said, we did see it on a stormy day when the waves were stronger than normal.  Again, that wild Southern Ocean was churning up a storm.

Cleland Wildlife Park

South Australia

The Cleland Wildlife Park is just outside of Adelaide (there are actually skyline views from the park!) on top of Mount Lofty.  It is a real bush environment and a lot of the animals are free-ranging (all of the kangaroos, emus, birds, etc).  One of the birds was the elusive blue fairy wren, which (barely) stayed still long enough for me to snap its picture.

Swamp Wallabies!  Unlike any wallaby we had ever seen, they were larger, had longer tails, were darker, and had almost fox-like faces.  They had also just been given breakfast and much preferred their oranges to our feed.

Wombats! The Cleland wombat had just gotten her breakfast when we arrived, so she was chomping away on her corn kernels and carrots.  It was cool to see her burrow as well.


Kangaroo Island Kangaroos!  A smaller, darker species that I’ve fed and petted before (at the Unzoo).  Still really cute and fun to feed.


Emus!  I was a little cautious of hand feeding an emu (that beak!) but when I did, I realized the emu actually turns its head and comes at your hand with the side of its beak, much less sharp.  Emus make a weird grumbling/Congo drum sound all without opening their mouths–I had no idea where this sound was coming from at first!

Yellow-Tailed Rock Wallaby!  A very shy animal with a very long, yellow, ringed tail.  They hop the same way kangaroos and other wallabies do, but over rocks!  Their balance is incredible.

Fun fact: The wine brand Yellow Tail is named after this animal!


Potoroos!  An animal I had never heard of before this and they were running freely around the entire park.  They are marsupials and macropods, but they also look like huge rats.  The potoroos came in droves when the food came out.  Being surrounded by them made me feel like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  At one point, we saw a baby potoroo jump out of its mother’s pouch–adorable.

And a bonus wallaby feeding picture thrown in the mix as well.

Dingos!  A lot of zoos don’t have dingos, so it was nice to see them here.  They had a huge enclosure to run and play in, but chose to laze around instead when we were watching them.

Red Kangaroos!  I was somewhat surprised that the largest and most dangerous kangaroos were out in the open like all the others, but there they were.  The joeys were adorable and it was so cute when they held onto my hand to eat–I guess they can’t balance and dig in at the same time.  And I also fed the largest kangaroo ever; if it stood up, it would be at least 2 meters and his arms muscles were insane.  Another Pied Piper moment when kangaroos hopped up to me and formed a semicircle waiting for their feed.

Koalas!  Cleland is known for their koala programs.  They have an amazing circular display that you can walk completely around and see the koalas only feet away!  The koalas seemed pretty active as well.

And, finally, the best part of the day and the whole reason we went to Cleland—holding koalas!!  It’s illegal to do so in Victoria, so when in South Australia….

Anyway, it was incredible!!!!!  The koala my mom and I held was named Nellie (Nellie and Ellie- it was meant to be!) and she was 3 years old (a teenager!).  When transferring from the keeper, you have to stand still (like a tree) and Nellie will climb onto you.  Then you hold her like you would a baby.  She was pretty heavy, around 7 kgs and so soft.  I had no idea, as I had never been that close to a koala, but they have very small, squinty, watery eyes; they mainly rely on their hearing and sense of smell.  Throughout the whole time I was holding her, she was constantly being fed eucalyptus and the jacket they supplied us with was the right color, so I like to think she felt at home.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.