A Wild Island with Wild Stories

 Islands across the world have more than one thing in common. They share a frontier bound by water and a history and culture of ingenuity, borne out of their inherent isolation. 

 Kangaroo Island's history is no different; it is full of interesting and compelling stories. Be sure to travel through time at one of the many museums and history - inspired attractions dotted across the Island.



Reeves Point

Prospect Hill

Frenchman's Rock

Old Wisanger School



Reeves Point

Location: Governor Wallen Scenic Drive, Kingscote. 

Opening Hours: Open access. 

Reeves Point is the site of the first official European settlement in South Australia. The historic site features walking paths and interpretive signs that explain the significance of features such as the old mulberry tree, the first well, the old jetty and quarry sites, the German row, the landing site, the bullock track and the old post office. 

The Reeves Point area has been carefully revegetated with local species and the Pioneer Cemetery under the graceful Casuarina trees is especially evocative. Flagstaff Hill offers spectacular views of Bay of Shoals and beyond. The flagpole features a crows nest and flag bearing mast, rising from handcrafted stonemasonry representing the first settlers' ships. Kingscote school children made the engraved pavers around the site. Up to 50 species of birds can be viewed from the bird hide including several Cormorants, Australian Pelicans, Sacred Ibis, Black Swans, White-faced Herons, Musk Ducks, Chestnut Teal, Oyster Catches and several species of migratory waders over summer. 

Reeves Point is an ideal place for a picnic with shelter sheds, gas barbecue, tables, seats, playground and toilets in a secluded setting.

Hope Cottage Folk Museum 

Location: Centenary Street, Kingscote 

Opening Hours: 1pm-4pm daily September-July (extended in January 10am-4pm) 

Telephone:(08) 8553 3017 or (08) 8553 2667 or (08) 8553 3141 

Established and operated by the National Trust, this is one of the Island's most historic homes. The pioneering Calnan brothers built it in the 1850s with the proceeds from a gold-mining expedition to Victoria. Buildings surround the museum, with exhibits depicting the pioneering history of Kangaroo Island. Some of these are just as they have been rescued; others have been fully restored. 

The exhibition is very generous with many interesting articles on display. A feature of the working exhibits is the reconstructed light from the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, and a re-created Masonic Lodge room. For a trip down memory lane view the 1950's-style garage and office. 

Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery 

During the 1930s there were 48 eucalyptus stills in operation employing over 600 people on Kangaroo Island. Today, Emu Ridge is the only commercial eucalyptus oil distillery in operation in South Australia. The technology of this operation may surprise you! The rustic outlook hides some clever bush technology and processes which are simple yet effective. Emu Ridge is self-sufficient with solar and wind power. An extensive range of local art and crafts are also available from the gift shop and Rookery Wines have their cellar door on site with tastings available. Free entry, tour fee applies. 


Frenchman's Rock 

Location: At the east end of Penneshaw Beach. 

Opening Hours: Open access. 

In 1803 Captain Nicolas Baudin, the French explorer, anchored in Hog Bay and sent a party ashore to find fresh meat and water. While waiting for the water casks to fill, one of the sailors carved on a nearby rock, 'Expedition de decouverte par le commandant Baudin sur le Geographe 1803'. Translated it reads, 'Expedition of discovery by Captain Baudin in the Geographe 1803'. To protect it from erosion, the original stone is now housed at the Gateway Visitor Information Centre on Howard Drive, Penneshaw. 

Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum 

The museum tells the stories of the early years of Soldier Settlement on Kangaroo Island. This fascinating collection gives an insight into the early 1950's and the challenges and triumphs of turning thick native scrub into productive farming land. Be transported to a time before electricity when logging, chaining and dozing were part of everyday life. Enjoy tall tales, anecdotes and recollections from the settlers and learn how having a sense of humour was an essential part of survival during this tough but important period in KI history. The museum features a great collection of the machinery used in the 50's and 60's as well of extensive photo albums and historical records to research family connections. 

Penneshaw Maritime and Folk Museum 

Formerly the Penneshaw (Hog Bay) School, the museum is opposite the current Penneshaw School. In addition to a fine collection of items relating to the history of the Dudley district, a special nautical section highlights the shipping history of the Island. Fee applies 

Old Wisanger School 

Location: North Coast Road, Wisanger 

Opening hours: Open access 

Telephone: (08) 8553 5215 Enter a different era of education. Inspect the books and facilities of another century. Established as a school, community-meeting place and church in the 1880's, the school closed in 1945 but has been restored. The rules for use of the building and conduct of teachers make fascinating reading. Donation appreciated.


Early History

The first European explorers found the Island to be uninhabited, as evidenced by the lack of campfires and tameness of the wildlife.

Since the 1930s, Aboriginal campsites have been discovered in a number of areas around the Island,
including one near the sea lion colonies of Cape du Couedic.

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Modern Exploration & Settlement

In 1800 the British Government commissioned Captain Matthew Flinders to explore and map the southern coastline of Terra Australis in HMS Investigator. Flinders made the first recorded European sighting of the Island in March 1802.
He came ashore on the north coast, and named Kangaroo Island.

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Agricultural History

From Wool to Wallaby Skins.
In the early days, as farmers battled to clear the land, their livelihood was principally derived from the bush. They felled and sold timber, snared possums, kangaroos and wallabies for their skins, collected yacca gum and distilled eucalyptus oil.

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Since the first recorded shipwreck in 1847, over 50 ships have been lost around the coast of Kangaroo Island,
many with loss of life.

The largest vessel to be wrecked off the coast was the 5,800 tonne Portland Maru in 1935, which began taking water near Cape du Couedic before sinking close to Cape Torrens. One of the more notable, tragic events occurred to the Loch Vennachar,
which sailed into cliffs on the west coast in 1905 with the loss of all 27 crew. Only one body was found and buried, unidentified, in the sandhills of West Bay. For more information on Kangaroo Island Ship Wrecks, view the PDF below.


Kangaroo Island, South Australia

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While all Kangaroo Island accommodation is suitable for exploring the Island, particular regions of the Island afford different advantages. Whether you are arriving in the evening and need accommodation close to the ferry port, you prefer to be close to shops and restaurants or if you really want to get away from it all and stay in a more secluded area, there is a region on Kangaroo Island to suit everyone. Need some help with your bookings ... then call us now on ...

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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