What I did in my holidays: Kangaroo Island edition

Kangaroo Island was full of wallabies. Hence the name.

It was an excellent place for a week away from most of it. We could get mobile coverage, and the internet, if we tried, but we were on holiday, so we didn’t try all that much. Especially because Mr Strange Land had not brought the charger for his fancy phone, so we were required to limit our usage to the necessary.

We stayed in Penneshaw, where the ferry docks. A beautiful beach – gently sloping sand, not a rip in sight, tiddler waves that on a windy day were just enough to get the strangelings chortling with glee. Rocky headlands, and excellent rock pools, which the girls and I visited a couple of times. When I was a girl, I loved poking about rock pools, peering into corners, and picking up and inspecting shell fish, and putting them back, below the water line.

The pools were little jewels of water in striated rock.

There were beautiful lines of quartz (I think) running through the rock: this line was about 3cm thick.

There were some sandy pools, where we found tiny fish darting about. I showed the girls how the fish would be frightened by sudden shadows, a survival mechanism against looming bigger fish. I still love poking about rock pools, and I was so pleased to be able to share that love with my girls.

We climbed Prospect Hill, where Matthew Flinders climbed to see what he could see, and regretted it for a day or two afterwards. My calves were not accustomed to climbing stair after stair after stair (512 steps!). The view was fantastic: to the east, we could see the narrow neck of the island (about 2km wide), and to the west, the greater part spreading into promise.

We visited Seal Bay, which is populated by sea lions, and the Kelly Hill Caves, which were fascinating. The caves were full of tites and mites; we watched entranced as a drop of water fell from one to the other. But for the younger Miss Eight and me, the best part was the tiny brown frog she spotted when we were walking up the longer bush path to the cave entrance (look very carefully – it’s there).

I was happy to pay entrance fees for Seal Bay and the Kelly Hill caves, where considerable walkways had been constructed to enable people to see these natural wonders. The Seal Bay walkways were excellent: they were fully accessible to people using mobility devices. The ‘seals’ were a little distant on the beach, save for one, which was sheltering under the walkway itself. The younger strangelings got a good view of it.

Once we were down the entrance stairs, Kelly Hill caves had good walking slopes, and a few sets of steps that could be negotiated by someone using a walking stick. But the entrance steps were very steep indeed, so much so that the caves are really only accessible to people with full, or effectively full, mobility.

I could not get accustomed to paying an entrance fee to merely walk along bush walks. I grew up under the slopes of Mt Taranaki, and walking in Egmont National Park which surrounds it is free. Hikers pay hut fees if they stay overnight in huts, but other than that, you don’t need to pay to use the park. My parents took my brothers and me up there often, and we did day-long hikes, at no cost. So I am always slightly shocked when I find a charge in some Australian national parks, however lightly it is enforced. I’m very aware that this is just a matter of different systems in different countries: it is not clear that one is right, and the other wrong. But it still jolted to find user-pays in areas that are regarded as national treasures. All the more so when we found that when the national parks were closed on catastrophic fire danger days, the park rangers did not get paid. Our guide at Kelly Hill was distressed about losing a much-needed day’s wages, because when the park was closed, as it had been the previous day, there were no users. I understand why the parks must be closed, but I was sorry to find that it was waged staff who bore the financial cost.

My 44th birthday came while we were away. It was highly satisfactory. Coffee in bed, a lovely card made by my darlings, lunch at a cellar door cafe, excellent fish and chips for dinner …

… and this excellent haul. A book I had been coveting, some luscious soap, a snooty but entertaining mag, a Star Trek DVD (yes, I love Star Trek), a lovely bag, a block of honey chocolate, which does not feature in this shot, because I ate it. All by myself.

The cottage we stayed in was also highly satisfactory. Not too grand, not too make-do. Space for all of us, a verandah to sit on and watch the ferries come in and out by day. In the evening, we sat there to see the procession of wallabies hopping down from the bush and through the township to nibble on gardens and verges. Some big, some small, all lolloping along in that ridiculous macropod way. I persist in wanting to tell them to give it up for goodness sake, and walk properly.

The only thing the cottage lacked was a collection of somewhat dubious paperbacks, by people like Nicholas Monsarrat and Winston Graham (preferably an incomplete set of the Poldark novels, for that extra frisson of frustration) and Georgette Heyer. You may have other suggestions with respect to suitable holiday house reading. It ought also to have had a couple of 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, with only a few pieces missing. On the other hand, it did have cards and a Monopoly set, which enabled the Misses Strange Land to refine their capitalist skills.

It was a very enjoyable week. I would like to go back to Kangaroo Island sometime, for another lazy week, to Penneshaw, or to some other beautiful beach. Adelaide readers, and others, should feel free to offer helpful suggestions.

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10 comments on “What I did in my holidays: Kangaroo Island edition

  1. ThirdCat says:

    You know, back in the day, you could just walk down on to the Seal Bay beach and walk around wherever you wanted. Srsly. I’ve got photos of myself just a few metres from seals.

  2. donnasoowho says:

    Deborah sounds like you had a lovely relaxing holiday! And Happy (belated) Birthday also.

  3. rayinnz says:

    It all sounds very relaxing
    Certainly better than painting a son’s house

    BUT Kangaroo Island covered in Wallabies
    Seal Bay covered in Sea Lions
    What were they thinking when they misnamed these

  4. Carol says:

    A very nice illustrated account, Deborah, thank you (and happy birthday!).
    Interesting point you make about user charges in national parks. In the US, unsurprisingly, there are substantial entry charges to the national parks ($20USD per person, when I was there over 10 years ago), but once you’re in there, the walks tend to be free.
    Interestingly, not many countries have as well-developed a network of back country tracks and huts as NZ, and the charges are really pretty minimal – we have DOC hut passes which cost $90 for 12 months and allow you to stay in all huts other than the Great Walks huts without charge. I think it’s a wonderful system.

  5. M-H says:

    I’m with you, Deborah. I find it hard to justify charging for national Parks. We have been half-pie watching a series about the history of the US National Parks on the ABC, and the way they are framing them as a public good that has to be paid for by users has really grated on me.

  6. mimbles says:

    I’d have been excited about the frog too 🙂

    It sounds like you had a lovely holiday, might have to add Kangaroo Island to our list of places to go to some day.

  7. Daleaway says:

    Sounds like the sort of nature holiday my dad used to take me on as a girl.
    Which ensured that when I grew up and responsible for my own holidays, they were all spent within walking distance of museums, art galleries, shops, historic sites and stately homes!
    But there’s time enough for that with the Strangelings…

  8. Stef says:

    Awesome holiday! I must admit that the Strangelings doing what initially looked like a bow had me worried for a minute…

  9. Flo says:

    I think you should get an A for your “What I did on My Holidays” summer break assignment (better than Barack Obama’s self-graded B+).

    BTW, I travel with my own Nicholas Monsarrat. I’ve been trying to finish The Kappillan of Malta for about 20 years now.

  10. Helen says:

    I have great memories of going to Kangaroo Island as a child. Will go back there some day, I hope.

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