Towns and regions impacted by the summer bushfires have plenty to entice families, writes ANGELA SAURINE
Each summer, Aussie families flock to the coast – and increasingly the mountains – to bask in the sunshine and spend quality time together as they enjoy a vast range of leisure activities during their annual break. But this year was different, with many trips interrupted and plans thwarted by unprecedented bushfires that ravaged some of our favourite holiday playgrounds. A few months on, these destinations are continuing to recover, with bushland regenerating and wildlife returning.
Kangaroo Island was severely impacted by bushfires, mostly started by lightning strikes, over summer. The western end of the island, which is home to the Flinders Chase National Park, the adjoining Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection area and Kelly Hill Conservation Park were the hardest hit areas. The Rocky River visitor precinct, including the visitor centre, was destroyed, along with the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail.Although the iconic Flinders Chase National Park was severely affected, the park’s Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and Lighthouse Keepers Cottages were saved. Admiral’s Arch, a famous home to a colony of long-nosed fur seals, was also unaffected. Heritage cottages and buildings at Cape Borda Lightstation were saved, and while key attraction Remarkable Rocks was not damaged, the nearby boardwalk and visitor facilities were destroyed. Although the affected areas will take some time to recover, more than half the island remains untouched.
Kangaroo Island is often referred to as a ‘zoo without fences’, and this is still the case. Take a guided beach walk amongst a colony of endangered Australian sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park, swim with dolphins with KI Marine Adventures and see the birds of prey free-flight show at Raptor Domain. View a colony of the world’s smallest penguins at Penneshaw Penguin Centre, hold a koala and hand feed kangaroos at KI Wildlife Park and go sandboarding or tobogganing on a 2km-long stretch of sand dunes with Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action. Walk through a rock passageway to find one of Kangaroo Island’s best kept secrets, the hidden beach of Stokes Bay, which has a kid-friendly natural rock pool area and see working dogs in action at Rob’s Shearing and Sheepdogs. Even if you have visited before, there are plenty of new reasons to entice you back – from a beekeeping experience at Kangaroo Island Living Honey to new sculptures on the 1.5km-long Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trailin Penneshaw.
Kangaroo Island accommodation has dramatically changed over the past decade. Today, you will find a range of choices. Each region and town is unique, with options including holiday houses, self-contained units, cabins, hotels, motels, B&Bs and holiday parks.