Getting to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide: A Comprehensive Guide

You’ve perused all of the reviews, admired the Instagram photos and have now decided that Kangaroo Island is in your future. The big inquiry is how to travel to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide. Here are all of the options.

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If you’re planning a trip to Kangaroo Island, one of the first things you’ll need to contemplate is how to get there. Fortunately, there are a few different options available to you, depending on your budget and travel preferences. In this post, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about getting from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, including the different modes of transportation available, their pros and cons, and tips for making your journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a experienced traveler, we hope this guide will assist you in planning your trip to Kangaroo Island with ease.

What you Need to Know About Kangaroo Island Before You Go

Kangaroo Island  is the third largest island off the coast of Australia. It is well known for its abundance of Australian wildlife, stunning coastal surroundings and incredible local produce. The total Kangaroo Island population is about 4 500 people, most of them living in either Kingscote or Penneshaw, the two largest towns on the island. Each year over 140 000 people visit to enjoy the unique Kangaroo Island attractions

Fun fact – the Aboriginal name for Kangaroo Island is Karta Pintingga, which means Island of the Dead. Aboriginal people did not inhabit the island once it was separated from the mainland about 10 000 years ago.

Where is Kangaroo Island in Australia?

Kangaroo Island is situated in South Australia, southwest of Adelaide in the mouth of the St Vincent Gulf to the north, and the Great Australian Bight and Southern Ocean to the south. At the nearest point Kangaroo Island is about 13km from the mainland.

Kangaroo Island Map

How Far is Kangaroo Island from Adelaide?

While it is only about 120km from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, to travel from Adelaide to Kingscote by road is almost 185km and takes around three and a half hours, excluding the time taken waiting for the ferry.

If you have the time, a nice addition to the drive down to Cape Jervis is the Route 31 Coastal Drive along the Fleurieu Peninsula.

How Big is Kangaroo Island?

Kangaroo Island is larger than many people imagine. It’s around 150km from end to end and about 50km wide at the widest point. There is over 500km of roads on the island and the Kangaroo Island road conditions often mean slower driving on gravel roads, so it’s important to realize it can take longer to get around than may be assumed.

How Long to Stay on Kangaroo Island?

Whilst it is feasible to embark on a day trip to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide, if you have the available time, I suggest staying overnight at the very least. In order to truly have sufficient time to explore, here are my recommendations:

  • 3 days - during this time, you will get to witness the main attractions.
  • 5 days - with this duration, you will have ample time to thoroughly explore the entire island, and this is the recommended 5-day itinerary.
  • 7 days - within this timeframe, you can explore the whole island and also have some relaxation time at various locations (for instance, spend an afternoon lounging on a beach) or partake in longer hiking trips.

How to Select the Optimal Method of Travel to Kangaroo Island

When deciding which of these options is the most suitable manner in which to journey from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, here are a few factors to take into account:

  • How will you navigate your way around Kangaroo Island? Self-driving is a popular choice as there is limited public transportation available to aid in transportation.
  • Do you need to rent a car? If so, will you rent it in Adelaide or opt to pick it up on Kangaroo Island?
  • Are you considering embarking on a guided tour? If so, where will the tour originate from?
  • What type of accommodation on Kangaroo Island are you seeking? Will you require a caravan or a camper?
  • Will you be accompanied by a pet? (I do not recommend bringing a pet if you have the choice. A significant portion of the island is designated as a national park where pets are not permitted.)
  • What is your budget?
  • How much time do you have at your disposal?
  • How many individuals will be joining you on the journey?

Once you have taken the aforementioned factors into consideration, here are a variety of options for reaching Kangaroo Island:

Drive to Cape Jervis, Car Ferry to Kangaroo Island

This is the most favored option and the one I have utilized during my trips to Kangaroo Island.

The Kangaroo Island Sealink ferry departs from Cape Jervis located at the base of the Fleurieu Peninsula. There are multiple ferry crossings each day, dependent on demand. The number of crossings increases during the summer season and school holidays. The drive to Cape Jervis typically takes approximately 90 minutes, and it is recommended to arrive at least 30 minutes before the ferry departure time, thus making the 6am crossings appear less appealing.

The Kangaroo Island ferry accommodates various types of vehicles, including caravans and RVs. The process is extremely straightforward. Upon arrival, join one of the vehicle queues and proceed to check-in. During boarding, only the driver is permitted to remain in the vehicle, while passengers must board via the gangway. Most vehicles are reversed onto the ferry, but alternative options are available if this presents a difficulty.

Once the vehicle is positioned, the driver can join the passengers on the upper deck, relax, and enjoy the 45-minute journey. The ferry offers a small onboard cafe where snacks and beverages can be purchased. Pets are permitted on this ferry.

Discover your ferry tickets here

Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island Ferry for Pedestrians

While there used to be a separate ferry exclusively for pedestrians, this is no longer available, and the SeaLink ferry mentioned above also functions as a passenger ferry. Simply make a reservation for passengers without a vehicle. If you are traveling to Kangaroo Island for a specific event, keep an eye out for special deals that include ferry tickets.

If you are not bringing a vehicle to Kangaroo Island, the weather is something to consider. Occasionally, ferries are canceled or delayed due to strong winds and rough seas. In such cases, flights may be more reliable, although they are also more expensive and less frequent.

Flights to Kangaroo Island

If you have limited time or are arriving in South Australia on a flight from another state or country, it is possible to fly directly to Kangaroo Island, landing at Kingscote airport. Currently, flights are only offered from Adelaide Airport by Qantaslink, with five or six weekly flights, but more during busy periods.

It is a short 40-minute flight from Adelaide to Kingscote Airport, where you can either rent a car or meet with your tour guide. Take a moment to check out the frequently held art exhibitions at the airport as well.

Discover the best flights using Skyscanner

Embarking on a Tour to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide

There are numerous options for Kangaroo Island tours departing from Adelaide. These range from day trips to multi-day excursions. Here are some suggestions:

  • Kangaroo Island Day Trip from Adelaide – This extensive sixteen-hour day trip includes transportation from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island on a coach via the ferry. You will visit Seal Bay, enjoy lunch, and explore iconic sites in Flinders Chase National Park, such as Remarkable Rocks.
  • Day Trip from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island – Another sixteen-hour tour, this one focuses on wine and dining. It includes transfers from Adelaide, wine and gin tastings, a visit to the Eucalyptus distillery, a Kangaroo Island honey farm, and the Raptor Domain. Lunch is also provided.
  • Two Day Kangaroo Island Trip – This tour combines both of the above options, allowing you to experience both the island's natural beauty and culinary delights. It offers three different accommodation choices.

Coach Transportation to Cape Jervis

I recommend self-driving as it gives you the freedom to explore more attractions and venture off the beaten path. However, if driving is not feasible for you, there are still ways to explore Kangaroo Island without booking a tour from Adelaide.

You have the option to reserve transfers from Adelaide to the Cape Jervis ferry terminal via coach. If you have a larger group, you may also consider booking a driver. The coach service is operated by SeaLink themselves, coordinating with the ferry schedule. It can be booked simultaneously with the ferry tickets.

If you prefer to create your own self-drive itinerary, car hire services are conveniently located near the ferry terminal on Kangaroo Island. Alternatively, you can explore the tours listed below, many of which will also meet you at the ferry terminal.

Tours Commencing on Kangaroo Island

Once you are on Kangaroo Island, you have the option to book local day tours to experience all the top attractions on the island. Here are some recommendations:

Kangaroo Island Car Rental

One of the major considerations is whether to rent a car in Adelaide and use it for the entire trip or to pick up a rental car upon arrival on Kangaroo Island. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Choosing to rent a car in Adelaide will provide transportation to the Cape Jervis ferry terminal.
  • Rental cars can be picked up from both the Kangaroo Island Airport and the Penneshaw Ferry Terminal.
  • Some car rental companies prohibit taking the car over water, so taking it to Kangaroo Island would violate their terms.
  • Some rental companies may waive the requirement of not driving on unsealed roads if the car is rented on Kangaroo Island.
  • Cars rented on Kangaroo Island cannot be taken to the mainland.

With these factors in mind, research your options for car rental on Kangaroo Island to find the best fit for your needs.

Click here to compare prices of multiple car rental companies in one search on

Interested in more Kangaroo Island content? Try theseExploring Seal Bay, Kangaroo IslandTop Kangaroo Island WineriesThe Complete List of Activities on Kangaroo Island

Remember to check out and join the Facebook group for more inspiration about South Australia and to find answers to all your questions. Click here to join now.

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Josie Kelsh is a native South Australian. She has spent almost her entire life in the state, with only a short period away during her teenage years with her family. Her travels around the world have highlighted the immense beauty of South Australia and she uses her passion to showcase it to you from a local's perspective.

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