"Now and then you see someone on the beach or out to sea in a boat," Cruising Kangaroo Island owner Scott Morgan says as we paddle past an empty coastline of red ochre cliffs, framing a white sandy beach. "And it completely spoils your day."
On Kangaroo Island's deserted northern coastline, nothing much is moving save for the King George whiting in the sea grass beneath my kayak. Then a metre-wide stingray jumps clean out of the water not more than two metres away. Dolphins arrive to surf the ripples beside us and a big white-bellied sea eagle puts on a show in the thermals above as we follow the afternoon sun up another deserted beach and stop to swim in the warm sea.
It's impossible to reach except by boat, or kayak, so Morgan's the only tourism operator you'll see, although you may have to share the space with some cocky wildlife. "I was just there the other day," Morgan says, pointing at a spot on the sand. "And there was a seal sunbaking with his arms folded. We all walked right past him and he just opened his eyes, gave us a wink and went right on sleeping."
Kayaking itineraries with Cruising Kangaroo Island change with wind conditions. Smith can choose between the southern coastline at Hanson Bay, perfect in a northerly, or take a historical kayak trip up American River past the spot where American whalers stopped 200 years ago to build a 30-tonne schooner.
Cruising Kangaroo Island runs two-hour kayak tours for $65; phone (08) 8559 4296 or see cruisingkangarooisland.com.
Head to the southern side of the island to up the tempo. At Vivonne Bay climb aboard a quad bike, full-face helmet and all, for a heart-in-the-mouth dash through rugged bushland. There's barely time to look around while we get used to our vehicles, but once we're set we can appreciate how thick and unforgiving nature is as we journey along bushland trails. The terrain changes quickly: one moment we're sliding at right angles on slippery sand near the beach and the next we're roaring across pasture land, past kangaroos and wallabies, goannas and prickly Kangaroo Island conesticks the locals call yaccas, beside grasslands where wildflowers bloom in the sunshine. We climb to the top of a rise and can see the six kilometres of Vivonne Bay with its milky jade seas, white silica sands and small fleet of cray boats bobbing on their moorings.
Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action runs 90-minute daytime nature quad bike tours for $79, 90-minute dusk kangaroo tours for $98 and extreme quad adventures for 2 1/2 hours for $229. Phone (08) 8559 4296 or see kioutdooraction.com.au.
Wet and wild
With more than 270 fish species, sea-lions, dolphins, seals and at least 50 shipwrecks, the island has some of the best temperate diving in the world.
Kangaroo Island Diving Safaris runs day tours for $320 or snorkelling for $200. Phone (08) 8553 3196 or see kidivingsafaris.com.
There's great surfing for beginners through to advanced surfers, but the easiest waves to reach on sealed roads are at Pennington and Vivonne Bay.
Catch King George whiting, snapper, salmon, kingfish and more on tours starting from half a day.
Contact Kangaroo Island Fishing Charters. Phone (08) 8552 7000 or see kifishchart.com.au.
Swim with dolphins, get up close with sea-lions and seals at remote colonies or take a speedboat ride. There are five tours to choose from.
Contact Kangaroo Island Marine Tours. Phone 0427 315 286 or see kimarinetours.com.