Kangaroo Island: Land-Based & Kayak

South East SA

Kangaroo Island is a favourite destination for Starlo and Jo. In this guide they look at some of the land-based and kayak-fishing opportunities available on the island.

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s fourth largest island, after the mainland, Tasmania and Melville Island. First time visitors to “KI”, as it’s commonly known, are typically astounded by the sheer size and diverse nature of the place, not to mention the fact that you can drive its extensive network of sealed and dirt roads from dawn until dusk without ever back-tracking or re-visiting the same locations… Yep, KI is big!

Once you come to grips with the impressive physical dimensions of KI (the island is around 155 kilometres long and 55 kilometres wide, with a total land mass of 4,416 square kilometres), it’s a little easier to accept that you can’t possibly hope to see and do everything on a single visit, and that you’ll need to be strategic (and realistic) in planning your itinerary.

These were the thoughts uppermost in our minds as my wife Jo and I prepared for this particular foray to KI.

Success! A King George whiting from the rocks!

“First time visitors to ‘KI’, as it’s commonly known, are typically astounded by the sheer size and diverse nature of the place.”

A typical Kangaroo Island black bream. What they may lack in size they make up for in numbers and willingness!
Juvenile salmon or "salmon trout" are abundant in the island's tiny estuaries.
Jo with a lovely salmon from the rocks near King George Bay..
Starlo's best whiting from the rocks at aptly-named King George Bay.

Jo knows the island well, having spent many happy childhood vacations exploring its bush and rugged coastlines, and she still has an extensive network of family and friends living there. On the other hand, I was still coming to grips with the place, and I remembered being slightly disappointed on an earlier visit at having to limit my explorations to relatively small slices of this wonderful destination. I’d promised myself to plan my trip better this time, and to tick a few more spots off the “must see” list.

Naturally, fishing was at the top of our list of on-island activities, as it is on most trips we undertake. To that end, we had a pair of Native Watercraft pedal kayaks strapped to the top of the HiLux and enough fishing gear crammed in the back of the ute to re-stock a small tackle shop.

On the fishing front, I wanted to concentrate this time on a mix of land-based and kayak forays. In particular, I was very keen to have a crack at catching the delectable and highly-prized King George whiting from the island’s rock ledges, as well as exploring a couple of KI’s secretive little estuaries in the hope of unlocking a few more of its bream fishing secrets. I’m pleased to report that both missions were an outstanding success!

My first land-based King George whiting was a lovely 39 cm specimen pulled from a rock ledge near the aptly named King George Beach, on the island’s north coast. It was followed by two more slightly larger examples, the best of them measuring 42 cm. All three whiting fell to baits of cockle or pipi flesh presented on a paternoster or dropper rig. At the same location, Jo and I also landed leatherjackets, silver trevally, tommy rough, Australian salmon, sea sweep and blue-throated wrasse, making it a memorable session of rock fishing… Not to mention a memorable meal of fresh seafood that night!

Our kayak forays on the island’s beautiful little estuaries were equally successful, and we lost count of how many black bream, baby salmon and yellow-eyed mullet we landed on our small soft plastic and hard-bodied lures.

The most productive systems for us were the Chapman River, on the north eastern end of the island, and Middle River, to the west, but there are several others worth checking out.

While the vast majority of the bream we caught were modest specimens in the 20 to 25 cm length range, we also encountered a handful of slightly better fish and saw several absolute whoppers. Those big, blue-nosed bream proved too smart for us this time around, but the knowledge that they are there will certainly add spice to our next visit.

In my book, Kangaroo Island is a genuine fisherman’s paradise. The range of species on offer — even to shore-bound anglers — is extremely extensive, and no matter what time of year you choose to visit, there’s almost always something on the chew along the beaches, rock ledges, jetties, breakwalls and estuaries.

Common targets include calamari squid, whiting, salmon, tommy rough, snook, sweep, silver trevally, mullet and garfish. Large snapper, blue morwong and several varieties of sharks are also on the cards for those willing to seek out deeper water and employ heavier tackle coupled with larger baits.

The best way to get to Kangaroo Island is to load your vehicle (along with your caravan, trailer or boat, if you wish) onto one of the regular SeaLink Ferry services that ply the waters of Backstairs Passage, taking around 45 or 50 minutes to travel between KI and the South Australian mainland.

At busy times of year, up to a dozen ferry services a day track back and forth between Cape Jervis, on Fleurieu Peninsula, and the port town of Penneshaw at Kangaroo Island’s eastern end. Even during the mid-winter “off season”, there are several services per day.

To find out more, obtain  fare prices or make a booking, check out SeaLink’s website at www.sealink.com.au or give them a call on 131301 during business hours.

If you’re one of those many Australians who are yet to visit Kangaroo Island, make yourself a promise to do so in the coming year… And if you’re a keen angler, be sure to take your fishing gear along with you!

The amazing colours of a horseshoe leatherjacket.
Middle River, on KI's north coast.
Jo chases bream from her 'yak on Middle River, KI.
Colour in the dunes.
A striking avenue of trees leading into the township of Penneshaw.
Divots left in the sandflats by feeding bream.
Putting back a chunky KI bream.
Another feisty bream from the Chapman River. They love small, hard-bodied lures.
Jo fights a salmon from the rocks.
It's sometimes necessary to get out and drag your kayak in the island's shallow estuaries.
A typical KI vista.
Some local "fishermen" resting between outings.
Working the structure.
Jo battles a black bream in Middle River.
Yellow-eye mullet are a surprisingly common catch on small lures.
Middle River on KI is small, dark and secretive.
Rock fishing near King George Bay.
Sunset on the rocks near Penneshaw.


Kangaroo Island lies off the coast of south eastern South Australia and is separated from the mainland by the waters of Backstairs Passage.

The island can be reached by driving down the scenic Fleurieu Peninsula in your own vehicle, or taking SeaLink’s coach (bus) connection from Adelaide. The drive  from Adelaide takes around two hours, depending on traffic.

Once in Cape Jervis, board the SeaLink ferry for a 45 minute cruise to the town of Penneshaw, near the eastern end of Kangaroo Island .

Regular 30 minute flights from Adelaide land at the island’s airport, near the larger town of Kingscote. Once on KI, there are many accommodation options.


Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island, Australia

Got A Question Or A Comment?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *