Ella and her partner spent seven days exploring Kangaroo Island. In a hatchback. With two water-boarded phones. In the middle of summer. Here’s how it went.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

From Canberra to Adelaide

In January 2022, my partner and I decided to take our exploring off of mainland Australia and head to Kangaroo Island.

We’d already completed an 1100km drive from our homes in Canberra to Adelaide where we were staying with family friends. It was coming to the end of the summer holidays and we had to go back to work within the next couple of weeks.

For me, visiting Kangaroo Island after the 2020 fires that wiped out half the island and a large portion of native wildlife and fauna, was a personal journey for me.



During that fire season, I was suffering from many losses in my personal life, compounded by the loss from the Black Summer Fires in the south east of Australia. The Black Summer Fires wiped out most of the bushland that I once called home. So going to Kangaroo Island, a fire-struck area, was a meaningful adventure.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Adelaide to Cape Jervis

We loaded our car with everything we’d dragged with us from our Canberra to Adelaide, including a tent, a couple of sleeping mats, and a sleeping bag. We drove the 100 kilometres south to Cape Jervis, the most southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, to get on a ferry to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island.

Despite the distance from Canberra, and the extent of drive, there really wasn’t much planning that was undertaken in the days leading up to the trip. In fact, our ferry tickets were purchased literally the night before we left.


One Working Phone for Seven Long Days

On top of the lack of planning, both our phones were submerged in salt water following some kayaking adventures we’d had the day before we left, and were left unresponsive.

As we had different telephone providers, my SIM had appropriate coverage around Kangaroo Island, but my partner’s SIM was almost useless.

After purchasing a working second-hand phone and installing my SIM, we had one fully-working phone which would provide us just enough coverage and internet connection to navigate the island for, hopefully, seven days.

Did we bite more off than we could chew?

When we arrived at Kangaroo Island, it was the middle of summer, so the sun was blistering hot. We were both exhausted from the heat, but also from the stress of packing last minute, a late last night in Adelaide (we seriously only decided two days before that we were going to embark on this journey).

One of the first things we noticed when arriving at Kangaroo Island was the roads; a large portion of the roads were dirt, and the few roads that weren’t dirt, weren’t in the best condition.



This was a slight problem as the drive from Canberra to Adelaide, and Adelaide to Kangaroo Island was taken in a Holden Barina, a small hatchback four cylinder, 1.6 L petrol car.

Although small, it served us well these past couple of years; super fuel efficient, relatively cheap to service, and pretty hardy for a hatchback.

But taking it to Kangaroo Island and camping out of it for a week was a step up from our regular car use. We thought we may have been out of our depth with our car’s capability, since most of the people camping had 4WDs loaded with rooftop tents and other camping luxuries we learnt very quickly we wouldn’t have access to.

Read more: How To 4WD For Beginners


Camping and Exploring on Kangaroo Island

On our first night we stayed at Antechamber Bay campgrounds, somewhere on the north east of Kangaroo Island. To our delight, this campground had running water, electric BBQs, and flushable toilets – yes, I repeat, flushable toilets.

I thought, ‘This trip will be a piece of cake’, and I laughed at all the 4WDs that we saw that had solar panels and rooftop tents, thinking that they’d over-provisioned and were lugging around way more than they needed. I may have been slightly overzealous.



It wasn’t very difficult to find campgrounds on the island, but what we weren’t used to was having to book and pay for the campsites online. Our four person Kmart tent was well-past its expiry date, but still served us well for the week on the island.



During our days, we wanted to see what Kangaroo Island was known for. We attended honey farms, wineries, gin distilleries, and wildlife parks, as well as the natural attractions of beaches and coastal landmarks, keeping an eye out for penguins, seals, dolphins, and sharks.

Our hatchback quickly became dirty, both inside and out, after thrashing the car around the island, with traction control kicking in if we weren’t being super careful. Egos were at an all-time low after the number of times we had to pull over so a bigger, more capable car could pass.

Hitting Our Limit

On day six, we hit our mental and physical limit after walking around a wildlife park in the morning, and sandboarding in the sand dunes for two hours in the afternoon.



We didn’t realise it at the time, but we’d had our fair share of sun and were running on a calorie deficit. The small amount of food we provisioned was quickly running out – we only had one packet of crackers, a couple pieces of fruit, a tin of tuna and a tin of lentils left. To top it off, we were running low on water, and fuel…and it was nearing sunset.

The thought of dragging ourselves to another campground with little food, water, and fuel nauseated us, not to mention the sand that stuck to the sunscreen on our skin and was all through our hair and clothes.

We sat under a tree in the sand dunes eating a flavourless tin of lentils as if it was God’s gift to the Earth while pondering our next moves. At this point, we weren’t thinking very clearly.



‘Wouldn’t it be incredible to sleep in a bed tonight?,’ I mused to my partner as I continued with this fantasy.

‘With running clean water, and food?’

His eyes lit up with the look he gets when he won’t back off an idea.

‘Let’s see if there’s a hotel room available nearby,’ he proposed.

The whole concept of a hotel room is barbaric to me, mainly to my pride; I’ve spent my whole life avoiding the glamourous idea of a hotel room, associated with the rich and privileged.

‘It’d be over a hundred dollars,’ I countered. ‘We could spend that on food.’

But at this point, I couldn’t even convince myself against the idea of a comfy bed.

After estimating the approximate range we had left in the car, we calculated we could make it back to Kingscote, the main town on the island, where we found a room on special, only $30 more than we would’ve paid for a campsite.

Sunburnt, starving, parched, but giddy with excitement, we dragged our sandy, sweaty bodies up to a beautiful room with a gorgeous ocean view and mainland Australia faintly visible. I’ve never felt so unbelievably happy to have warm, running water on my skin.



The next day was our last day on Kangaroo Island. We filled our jerry can with clean shower water and decided we were going to splurge and take a boat charter to spot and swim with dolphins, an awesome and adrenaline-filled way to end the trip.

That’s a Wrap

Overall, I’d say that you don’t need a 4WD or big van to camp at Kangaroo Island. Lots of the comforts we saw other camp set ups had, seemed to take away from some of the things we most appreciated about camping; the quiet, incredibly early nights (sleeping at 8pm at the absolute latest), the challenge of making food with limited capabilities, and the simplicity of it all.



At the end of the day, I was happy we took on this challenge and explored Kangaroo Island. The trip had its slight mishaps, potentially facilitated by the spontaneity of this adventure. Although hindsight is a beautiful thing, it’s adventures like these that stay with us forever.