Modern Exploration & Settlement

In 1800, Captain Mathew Flinders was commissioned by the British Government in to explore and map the southern coastline of ‘Terra Australis in the HMS Investigator. The group led by Matthew Flinders looking for water and fresh meat (which they had been without for four months) hunted the small kangaroos (near present day Penneshaw) and gave the island its name.

Flinders originally landed on the north coast of the Dudley Peninsular and was closely followed by the French Explorer Commander Nicolas Baudin, the first European to map and circumnavigate the Island (which is why so many places have French names). Despite the British and French being at war at the time, the men had peaceful engagements and both used the fresh water spring now known as Frenchman’s Rock on Hog Bay.

Since 1802 until the time of South Australia’s colonisation in 1836, a community of sealers lived on Kangaroo Island. These sealers were known as hard men who had kidnapped several Aboriginal women from Tasmania and mainland South Australia. These women were held as prisoners, wives and essentially slaves. According to historical documents, three Aboriginal women tried to escape and swim back to the mainland; one woman is said to have survived the journey.

In 1803, the schooner Independence was built buy sealers (from the American Brig Union) at American River and was the first ship constructed in South Australia.

In 1836, when the first ship the Duke of York, commanded by Captain Robert Clark brought the first colonial settlers to Reeves Point (located in Kingscote). It was soon found however that the island would not have sufficient resources to be a capital or support a large community, so the settlement of Adelaide was chosen.

Visitors to Kangaroo Island can visit Reeves Point, Kingscote Museum, Hope Cottage, Old Mulberry Tree and First Settlers Monument.

History of Frenchman's Rock

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Kangaroo Island Gateway
Visitor Information Centre 

Visit with our friendly staff at Kangaroo Island's only Accredited Visitor Information Centre and let us help you customise an itinerary as unique as you are to get the most from your time on Kangaroo Island. 

Kangaroo Island Gateway Visitor Information Centre - Howard Drive, PENNESHAW SA 5222 
Open: Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm, Weekends & Public Holidays 10am - 4pm, Closed Christmas Day.

TOLL FREE: 1800 811 080