Kangaroo Island facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Kangaroo Island
Location Great Australian Bight
Area 4,405 km2 (1,701 sq mi)
Length 145 km (90.1 mi)
Width 90 km (56 mi) – 57 km (35 mi)
Coastline 540 km (336 mi)
Highest elevation 299 m (981 ft)
Highest point Mount MacDonnell
State South Australia
LGA Kangaroo Island Council
Largest settlement Kingscote (pop. 2,034)
Population 4,702 (2016)
Pop. density 1.07 /km2 (2.77 /sq mi)

Kangaroo Island is Australia's third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. It lies in the state of South Australia 112 km (70 mi) southwest of Adelaide. Its closest point to the mainland is Snapper Point in Backstairs Passage which is 13.5 km (8.4 mi) from the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Once occupied by Aboriginal Australians, the native population disappeared from the archaeological record when the land became an island following rising sea levels several thousand years ago. It was subsequently settled intermittently by sealers and whalers in the early 19th century, and from 1836 on a permanent basis during the establishment of the colony of South Australia.

Since then the island's economy has been principally agricultural, with a southern rock lobster fishery and with tourism growing in importance. The island has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals, with the largest and best-known being Flinders Chase National Park at the western end.

The first lighthouse built was erected at Cape Willoughby in 1852; this was also the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia. This was followed by the Cape Borda Lightstation in 1858, the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse in 1906 and Cape St Albans Lighthouse in 1908. All lighthouses continue to be operational.

The biggest town on Kangaroo Island is Kingscote. Originally established at Reeves Point on 27 July 1836, it is South Australia's first colonial settlement. It was later suggested that Kingscote could serve as the capital of South Australia, but the island's resources were insufficient to support such a large community, so the settlement of Adelaide was chosen.

Wildlife and its protection

Sea lion and pup in Seal Bay - Kangaroo Island
Seal Bay's Australian Sea Lions
Australia kangaroo island echidna
Australia kangaroo island echidna
Kangaroo Island (2052420840)
Kangaroo Island

More than half of the island has never been cleared of vegetation, and a quarter of it is conserved in National Parks, Conservation Parks, and five Wilderness Protection Areas. The main protected areas are:

  • Flinders Chase National Park
  • Seal Bay Conservation Park
  • Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park
  • Cape Bouguer Wilderness Protection Area
  • Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area

Because of its isolation from mainland Australia, foxes and rabbits are absent from and prohibited from entering the island. Registration and microchipping of cats is mandatory.

The Kangaroo Island Kangaroo, Rosenberg's Sand Goanna, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Tammar Wallaby, Common Brushtail Possum, Short-beaked Echidna and New Zealand Fur Seal are native to the island, as well as six bat and frog species. The sole endemic (found nowhere else) vertebrate species is a small marsupial carnivore called the Kangaroo Island Dunnart. The Koala, Common Ringtail Possum and Platypus have been introduced and still survive there.

Kangaroo Island had a native species of Emu, the Kangaroo Island Emu; however, it became extinct between 1802 and official European settlement in 1836, perhaps owing to bushfires or from hunting by sealers or whalers.

Kangaroo Island is noted for its honey and its Ligurian honey bees. The island has the world's only pure-bred and disease-free population of this type of bee. The exporting of pure-bred queen bees is a notable industry for the island. For this reason there are significant quarantine restrictions on bringing bee products and bee-handling equipment onto the island.


Kangaroo Island grass tree 01
Kangaroo Island grass tree

The economy is mostly agricultural (grapes, honey, wool, meat and grain). Traditionally, sheep grazing has been the key element in agriculture on the Island, however in recent times, more diverse crops, such as potatoes and canola have been introduced. Cattle farming has grown as well, with good quality beef cattle being grown in the higher rainfall areas.

Tourism and fishing also play significant roles, with the island experiencing over 186,000 visitors per annum, and some of the best southern rock lobster being sourced from the island's rugged south coast. Kangaroo Island has South Australia's only eucalyptus oil distillery with oil distilled from the endemic Kangaroo Island narrow leaf mallee.


Remarkable Rocks 01
Remarkable Rocks
Admiral's Arch
Admiral's Arch
Little Sahara, Kangaroo Island
Little Sahara
The view from Kangaroo Beach Lodges - panoramio
View at Kangaroo island

Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia's most popular tourist attractions, attracting over 140,000 visitors each year, with international visitors, primarily from Europe, accounting for more than 25% of these visits. Some of the most popular tourist spots are:

  • Seal Bay Conservation Park with ranger guided walks among basking Australian sea lions
  • Flinders Chase National Park which includes Remarkable Rocks, Admiral's Arch, lighthouses at Cape Borda and Cape du Couedic, and multiple walking trails and camping areas
  • Cape Willoughby
  • Kelly Hill Caves
  • Little Sahara, huge sand dunes on the south coast
  • The lookout Mount Thisby (officially designated Prospect Hill in 2002 to honour Matthew Flinders' original naming) with a 360 degree view around the island.
  • Murray Lagoon with its abundant aquatic bird life
  • Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park
  • Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre (formerly Kangaroo Island Marine Centre) at Kingscote is now closed but a local tour operator, Kangaroo Island Hire a Guide, is still organising nocturnal tours from Kingscote
  • Raptor Domain (In-flight bird of prey presentation and reptile show)
  • The Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary koala walk and Nocturnal tour offer visitors a chance to see the local wildlife
  • A number of farms that sell honey from the Ligurian bees
  • The Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery which manufacturers eucalyptus oil using a very old furnace

Safe swimming is possible on the northern beaches, such as Emu Bay, Stokes Bay or Snellings Beach, and at Island Beach on the Dudley Peninsula. The south coast has dangerous undertows and is more suitable for stronger and experienced swimmers only. An ocean pool with easy shore and pontoon access exists at Kingscote and is free to use.



Kangaroo Island with burn scars, Dec 2007
Burn scars from 2007 show red in this false-colour satellite image

Lightning strikes on Thursday 6 December 2007 caused several fires on the Island. Before being contained on 16 December 2007 over 20% of the Island had been burnt totaling 900 square kilometres (220,000 acres), principally within National Park and Conservation Reserves.

The most serious outbreak occurred in Flinders Chase National Park, with 630 square kilometres (or 85% of the total park area) having been burnt.


In January 2020 the Island was one of many places nationwide affected by bushfire as part of the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season.

Across Kangaroo Island, several fires burnt in excess of 1,500 square kilometres (370,000 acres). A bushfire emergency warning was issued on 3 January 2020 as the fire advanced towards Vivonne Bay and the town of Parndana was evacuated.

Two people died on Kangaroo Island due to the fires.

Images for kids

Kangaroo Island Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.