Kangaroo Island Day Trip: a practical road trip itinerary

Kangaroo Island is the third largest island in Australia and is best known for its nature and wildlife. Being only 45 minutes away by ferry from Cape Jervis, Kangaroo Island makes a great weekend getaway.

There is a range of attractions to visit on Kangaroo Island, which you can easily spend days exploring. However, not everyone has the time and resources to spend several days on this island.

Although compact, you can certainly visit Kangaroo Island’s main attractions in only one day. However, advanced planning is required. If time and budget allow, I suggest spending at least 2-day visiting Kangaroo Island for the best experience.

To see what you can achieve during a 2-day road trip to Kangaroo Island, feel free to check out this ‘Kangaroo Island 2 Day Road Trip Itinerary and Useful Tips‘.

If one day is all you can spare for visiting Kangaroo Island, you can still manage to have a great time on the Island.

To help you navigate, I have listed a detailed 1-Day Kangaroo Island Road Trip Itinerary here. Hope you can find it useful.

06:30 ~ 07:00 – Departure Adelaide

Although the navigators usually only suggest a 90-100 minute drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis SeaLink Terminal, I recommend planning at least 2 hours for this drive. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the road.

In addition, the official guide from the SeaLink website Opens in a new tab.suggests checking in at least 30 minutes before your scheduled ferry departure time.

From my personal experience, I found it is not practical to arrive at the terminal 30 minutes before ferry departures. However, you do need to plan at least 10-15 minutes for the check-in and boarding process.

09:00 – Ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw

The ferry between Cape Jervis and Penneshaw takes about 45 minutes each way.

While on board the ferry, you are free to exit your car to enjoy the beautiful ocean views and use the facilities.

On the ferry, there is a small cafe where you can purchase some bakery items and a coffee to enjoy. Toilets are also available on the ferry.

09:45: Driving from Penneshaw to Seal Bay Conservation Park

Once you have arrived at Penneshaw, you will be driving directly towards the other side of the island to visit Seal Bay and the Flinders Chase National Park first.

The drive from Penneshaw to Seal Bay takes about 70-80 minutes, so you should be able to arrive at Seal Bay Conservation Park by around 11:00.

11:00 – Seal Bay Conservation Park

Seal Bay Conservation Park is a sanctuary for Australian Sea Lions.

In Seal Bay Conservation Park, you can join a 45-minute guided tour to get up close with the Australian Sea Lions. However, bookings are highly recommended for this guided tour, and fitting this guided tour into your already compact day trip can also be tricky. Hence, to get the most out of this day trip, I suggest joining a self-guided tour along the boardwalk instead.

During the self-guided tour, you will be guided by the boardwalk to the lookout platforms at the seafront. Although at a distance, you can still get a good view of these cute sea lions from the lookout platforms. In the winter months, these sea lions may even come up right next to the boardwalk.

In addition, the coastal views from the lookout platforms are impressive and should not be missed.

12:00 – Driving from Seal Bay Conservation Park to Vivonne Bay General Store for Lunch

There is a small gift shop in Seal Bay Conservation Park, where you can purchase some snacks and cold beverages. However, you won’t be able to get a meal out of it.

For lunch, I suggest visiting Vivonne Bay General StoreOpens in a new tab.. It is conveniently located along your drive from Seal Bay to Flinders Chase National Park.

Although it is named a general store, don’t be fooled by its name or what it looks like from the outside. This little place serves some decent burgers and chips. You can also grab some gifts and basic supplies from the shop if interested.

13:00 – Driving towards Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse

After lunch, you will be driving into the Flinders Chase National Park to visit a couple of well-known attractions.

Just 45 minutes down the road from Vivonne Bay, you will be greeted by the stunning Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse. Feel free to stop by for some photos before visiting the Admirals Arch.

From Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse, you can either drive a couple of minutes to the Admirals Arch car park or take a 10 minutes coastal walk to the start of the Admirals Arch Walk to visit Admirals Arch.

14:00 – Admirals Arch

The Admirals Arch is an impressive rock arch carved by millions of years of natural erosion. It is a must-visit on Kangaroo Island.

There is a boardwalk to take you from the carpark to the Admirals Arch. The boardwalk itself is relatively short, but you are likely spending lots of time along the boardwalk admiring and taking photos of this magnificent coastline. For this reason, be sure to plan out at least 1 hour for visiting this attraction.

15:00 – Driving from Admirals Arch to the Remarkable Rocks

After Admirals Arch, you will be visiting another must-visit attraction on Kangaroo Island, the Remarkable Rocks.

15:10 – The Remarkable Rocks

No pun intended, but the Remarkable Rocks are truly remarkable.

No words or photos can describe how spectacular and grand these orange lichen-covered granite rocks look. You really need to see it to believe.

16:00 – Driving from the Remarkable Rocks to Prospect Hill

After visiting the Remarkable Rocks, you will need to gradually drive back towards Penneshaw for the ferry back to Cape Jervis.

There are a couple more attractions to visit along this drive, which are Prospect Hill and Pennington Bay.

17:10 – Prospect Hill / Mt Thisby Lookout

Prospect Hill, also known as Mt Thisby Lookout, is the highest point on Kangaroo Island and provides an incredible bird’s eye view of Kangaroo Island.

There are 500 steps to get to the top of Prospect Hill, which took me about 20 minutes for a return trip from the car park. Hence, I suggest planning about 30 minutes for visiting the lookout and back (depending on individual fitness level as well).

18:10 – Pennington Bay for Sunset

Pennington Bay is a 5-minute drive down the road from Prospect Hill.

With its white sand and turquoise water, Pennington Bay offers a breathtaking coastal view. Depending on the month you are visiting in, you may also catch a striking sunset view from here.

18:30 – Heading Back to Penneshaw

Penneshaw is just under 30 minutes drive from Pennington Bay.

Once you have arrived at Pennenshaw, you should have some time to grab a quick bite on the go before boarding the last ferry back to Cape Jervis.

However, if there isn’t enough time to get dinner, you can still get something to eat on the ferry. The bottom line is: don’t be late for the ferry.

On most days, the 19:30 ferry is usually the last ferry from Kangaroos Island to Cape Jervis. (timetable at the time of publishing this article, please make sure you have checked on the SeaLink website for up to date timetables).

If you miss out on the last ferry to Cape Jervis, you will need to stay the night on Kangaroo Island and catch a ferry the next day instead.

19:30 – Ferry from Penneshaw to Cape Jervis

Relaxing or enjoying a light meal while onboard the ferry.

Depending on the time of the year, you may be able to enjoy an amazing sunset view during the ferry back to Cape Jervis.

20:15 – Driving back to Adelaide

During your drive back to Adelaide, you are most likely going to be exhausted from this packed itinerary. Please make sure you are taking sufficient breaks and drive carefully.

In addition, on country roads, wildlife, such as kangaroos, is commonly seen at nighttime. Please make sure you are watching out for these road users as well.

If time and budget allow, you may want to stay near Cape Jervis or Normanville tonight. In this way, you won’t get too exhausted today and can continue to explore the beauty of Fleurieu Peninsula the following day.

The Best Time to Visit Kangaroo Island

The weather on Kangaroo Island is relatively mild in comparison to the mainland. Therefore, you can visit Kangaroo Island at any time of the year.

The best time to visit Kangaroo Island depends on your individual preference.

However, for this one-day itinerary to visit Kangaroo Island, you are better off visiting the island during the daylight saving months (October to March). Otherwise, it may already be too dark to enjoy anything by the time you arrive at Prospect Hill and Pennington Bay.

Driving on Kangaroo Island

As long as you are familiar with driving in Australia, driving on Kangaroo Island should be a relatively easy task. However, there are some dirt roads on Kangaroo Island. Although these dirt roads are well maintained, some people may still find them difficult to drive on.

On this one-day road trip to Kangaroo Island, there are only small sections of dirt roads involved. Hence, it shouldn’t affect your travel experiences in general.

Watch the amazing views from Kangaroo Island on YouTube

How Much does it Cost to Visit Kangaroo Island on a Day Trip?

Providing you are strictly following this One Day Kangaroo Island Road Trip Itinerary, this will be your cost breakdown (at the time of publishing this article – April 2022):

ItemCosts in AUD
(Solo Traveller Visiting on a Day Trip with a Car)
Return Ferry with a Car294
Seal Bay Boardwalk Self-Guided Tour17
(vary significantly depending on personal choices)
Costs for a One Day Kangaroo Island Road Trip for a Solo Traveller with a Car

In total, it costs a solo traveller AUD410-450 to road trip Kangaroo Island in 1 day from Adelaide (on average). However, if you have a travel companion (or more), the cost per person for this road trip can easily be reduced by splitting the transport expenses.

Another way to reduce your daily cost per person and to get the most out of your Kangaroo Island visit is to stay on the island for at least a night.

There is so much to see on Kangaroo Island, and a day trip is just not enough to visit all the must-visits on the island. I suggest staying for at least a night on Kangaroo Island, so you can also visit the beautiful Weirs Cove, Stokes Bay, Emu Bay, American River, and Pelican Lagoon.

Feel free to check out my ‘Kangaroo Island 2 Day Road Trip Itinerary and Useful Tips’ to see what you can visit by staying on Kangaroo Island for a night. There is also a range of information and tips from this article, which you may find useful.

Visit Kangaroo Island on a Guided Day Tour

Guided Day Tours are available to visit Kangaroo Island.

There is a range of tours available to visit Kangaroo Island without the stress of driving and organising the trip by yourself. These tours may also work out cheaper if you are a solo traveller or even a couple.

You can check out these tours online via either ViatorOpens in a new tab. or SeaLinkOpens in a new tab. to see if they suit your needs.

Bec's Travel Itinerary

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