Kangaroo Island is naturally superb, writes Leah McLennan.

Cheeky sea lions, 267 species of birds and a type of bee found nowhere else on the planet.

A boutique vineyard, an oyster farm, "the best fish shop in the world" and an artisan cheese maker.

Soaring cliffs, a mini Sahara desert, dense forest and massive arcs of bone-white sand.

This is Kangaroo Island, one of the most scenic and peaceful places to holiday in Australia. And it's only about two hours from Adelaide.


It's my first visit here and I hope not my last; just driving off the ferry and seeing a colony of fairy penguins on Penneshaw's main beach is enough to put one in holiday mode.

Unfortunately, I have only two nights and one full day on KI, as the locals call it, so for tomorrow I need to carefully choose what to do on this sprawling island. Out of dozens of must-dos I pick just one: sea lions.

Once I'm installed at Thorn Park on the Island, a modern beach house on a hill overlooking Penneshaw and the sea, walkabout is the formula for the remainder of the day.

I wander from the house past munching tammar wallabies and traffic signs warning of penguins on the road to the main beach. The water is comfortingly warm and, close by, a family with small children are playing in the gentle waves.

After outputting energy it's time to input fuel. I pick up a takeaway dinner from Fish, a beach-front shop created by Susan Pearson, a former Sydney-based chef. The Australian newspaper once called Fish "the best fish shop in the world".

Armed with local whiting and a bundle of chips wrapped in paper, I hot-foot it back to the verandah of my beach house. I barely have time to smother the deep-fried delights in tomato sauce before they vanish.

Yum. I won't be needing Thorn Park's superbly equipped full-sized kitchen during my stay.

The next morning I potter in the hire car along some of KI's 480km of coastline and then head inland through thick, red-earthed bush to Seal Bay Conservation Park.

When I arrive a sea lion is shooting the waves like a surfer and on the creamy white beach a courtship dance is in full swing.

"Ow, ow," one of the bulls says.

"Ow, ow, ow," the cow replies.

Close by a tiger snake dozes on a rock below like a pastry scroll baking in the oven, in the distance an echidna, sporting an edgy punk hairstyle, is foraging for ants with its sticky tongue and, just when it couldn't get any more David Attenborough-ey, a couple of tourists appear wearing khaki safari-style gear.

This secluded bay, an hour from Penneshaw, is home to about 1000 sea lions or about 5 per cent of the world's population.

Plenty more of these creatures, which are among the rarest marine mammals, would call KI home if the species hadn't nearly been hunted to extinction in the 19th century.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is trying to protect the furry beanbag-looking animals by restricting visitor access to protect their breeding sites.

But there's one insufferably cute pup that seems upset that the boardwalk platform I'm on is separating man from beast.

The sweet creature looks up at me with bulging chocolate eyes and emits a lamb-like bleat. As I raise my camera he lets out a high-pitched squeal. Did he just say "cheese" in sea lion parlance?

Possibly the pup is hungry or maybe lonely as adult females travel to sea for three days at a time, returning to feed their pups and rest between trips.

My full day on KI, an island the size of Manhattan, passes too quickly.

This isle is deserving of a three-day visit at the very least. The longer that you can linger on this time-stalled landmass, the better.

I still need to visit the Ligurian bees, unique in the world, the Remarkable Rocks, one of KI's best-known icons, and eat my way through the entire menu at Fish.

"Whiting and chips again tonight?" Susan asks when I return on my second night.
"We deliver, you know," she adds.

I wonder if she could deliver to my home in Sydney, I think to myself.


Getting there:

Air New Zealand

flies direct from Auckland to Adelaide four to seven times a week. Kangaroo Island is 18km off the coast of South Australia, south of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Get there

via car ferry

from Cape Jervis (two hours' drive from Adelaide) to Penneshaw or with

Rex Airlines

from Adelaide to Kingscote.

Staying there: Thorn Park on the island.

Further information: See southaustralia.com.