Simply sweet Kangaroo Island experiences

A little relic from the Roman Empire has made its home on Kangaroo Island.

While Rome is in ruins, the Ligurian honeybee - which was once praised for its “docility and productivity” - lives on, surviving and thriving on this tiny island off the coast of South Australia.

The Ligurian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) was named for its origin in the Ligurian Alps in the days of the Roman Empire and was introduced to Kangaroo Island in 1884 by the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures.

One year later, in 1885, Kangaroo Island was proclaimed a Ligurian Bee sanctuary, and has since been protected by biosecurity laws, meaning no other bees, honey or any other bee products can be taken to the island.

Kangaroo Island is now the only place in the world where the Ligurian Bee can be found.

Unsurprisingly, enterprising locals have taken on the role of “Ligurian protectors”, utilising old farmland, and the Island’s unique flora, to cultivate hives all over the island.

The Clifford family are one such enterprising bunch - showcasing a similar docility and productivity as the Ligurian bees they farm.

Dave Clifford started Clifford’s Honey Farm as a hobby in 1973, but as wool prices dropped in the late 80s, he and his wife Jenny diversified from sheep, expanding their honey business.

Beekeeping on Kangaroo Island, Cliffords Honey Farm
Cliffords Honey Farm

Since opening a farm-gate store in 1993, the Clifford's, along with their daughters Bev and Sharon, have grown Clifford’s Honey Farm into a must-visit destination on Kangaroo Island - with travellers particularly coming from far and wide to taste their famous honey ice-cream.

“Mum taught both of us how to make honey ice-cream, and now I've taken over from Dad, working with the bees,” Sharon says.

“They're called a “docile” bee, so they’re nice to work with, but there's plenty of things that can make them mad… which you find out the hard way. I found out a lot of things that I won't do again.”

Sharon has learnt everything she knows about bee keeping from her Dad, but still checks in with him from time to time.

“I caught a swarm last spring, Dad talked me through it on the phone,” she says.

“He gets called the bee whisperer. He’s our mentor now.”

Their honey ice-cream has had rave reviews from big time city foodies right through to Lonely Planet guides.

A family eating Ice cream at Clifford Honey Farm

“The honey ice-cream started because we had an opening day for the new Farm Gate and Mum wanted to have something special to sell, so she made honey ice-cream and we sold out. It was such a hit everyday since then we've had to make ice-cream,” Sharon says.

“I had someone show me his Lonely Planet guidebook once, and it said, “you’d swim through the Backstairs Passage” to get one of our ice-creams.”

“We’ve got something that's really special in the world,” Bev adds.

Both sisters agree that the beauty of being in a family business is that you’ve always got each other’s back, and with their husbands helping out by coming up with new ways to bring their product offering to life, it’s a true family fiasco.

“Yeah we’re just like one person, but two of us,” Bev smiles. “My kids and Sharon’s kids have grown up here.”

“Living on a farm,” Sharon says.

“Living on honey ice-cream for breakfast,” Bev jokes.

If you have a sweet tooth and love Kangaroo Island honey, here are some of the other sweet experiences you can have on the Island.

Cactus Kangaroo Island: Homemade Granola with Kangaroo Island Honey

Cactus Kangaroo Island is one of the cutest and most delicious cafes on the Island. A fully licensed cafe and restaurant in Kingscote with lots of outdoor seating, art, music, and a funky atmosphere, Cactus serves simple, tasty food, made with local produce, including freshly baked cakes and tarts, great coffee, fresh juices, local wines and beers.

Forget bacon and eggs! Kick start your day with the most mouth-watering homemade granola with Kangaroo Island grown oats, cranberries, almonds and toasted coconut. It’s served with creamy Greek-style yogurt, seasonal fruits and Kangaroo Island Ligurian Honey. Delish!

Kangaroo Island Living Honey: Beekeeping Experience

Kangaroo Island Living Honey is a family owned and operated honey farm and shop run by the “beekeeper” and the “bookkeeper” Shawn and Anthea, and their five children. The business started out as a hobby for Shawn in 1998 and has grown to be home to 250 productive hives which extract up to 26 tonnes of organic honey each year.

A proud protector of the most pure strain of Ligurian Bees left in the world, Shawn takes beekeeping experience tours where you can don a beekeeper's suit and hold thousands of bees in your hands as he introduces you to the world of bees and the protected Ligurian species. So for a taste of honey straight from the hive, Kangaroo Island Living Honey is an experience you should not miss!