Kangaroo Island Feastival: A tasty visual and culinary treat

Hopping over to Kangaroo Island, Sarah Whyte samples fresh local produce and is captivated by the island's unspoilt charm.

Not so long ago the locals of South Australia's Kangaroo Island woke to shocking news. A sign pointing to a fast-food McDonald's restaurant had mysteriously appeared on the corner of one of their busiest thoroughfares during the night.

Furious discussions began at dawn. Who was responsible?  Who had been consulted? When would this restaurant be built? A rare island meeting was even suggested.

But it was a joke. The sign had been planted by the island's former marketing manager as his departing gift to the island.

Only locals of Australia's third-largest island could truly appreciate the prank that had been played on them. Not one fast-food chain occupies the island. And while the supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths dominate the rest of the country, the duopoly have yet to infiltrate the virtually untouched landmass.

As the small plane makes a bumpy descent onto Kangaroo Island, the first thing I notice is the size. It is huge. The second thing I notice is how unspoiled the land is.

 As we flew over the crystal turquoise water, rugged coastline and bushland scrub, I felt like I was being let in on a national secret. I imagine myself as the intrepid explorer Matthew Flinders, who first came across Kangaroo Island in 1802. Look at what I have discovered!

There are 4500 people  living on the island, which is roughly the size of Bali, or seven Singapores.

It makes sense for such an untouched land to be in tune with food production – from its beginnings on the land to where it ends on your plate. And this is something the locals want to share with others during the island's annual Feastival festival. It's designed for food lovers, but the events would easily cater for hungry travellers keen to explore the island famous for its seal colonies and good surfing breaks.

Kangaroo Island is only 15 kilometres  off the South Australian mainland. I don't think I've visited a more undisturbed island in Australia.

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For five days in May Feastival guests will be able to roam around the idyllic island, where 30 events are put on by locals to show their produce, wine or cooking skills.

Feastival curator Nick Hannaford was born on the island, and   remembers when the "airport" was a sheep paddock, and before the plane landed the sheep would have to be herded off the paddock. Looking at the small, one-lane landing strip today, not much seems to have changed.

 We are woken at an ungodly hour to have "breakfast with the birds", to watch as the sun rises slowlyover the island, and the   rays hit the surrounding hills and ocean.  Here we are also given the chance to  meditate. As soon as I was told this my mind starts whirring to life. "Be quiet!" I think as I pull the blankets over me. But soon my mind settles as it grows accustomed to the waves crashing below us, the chirping birds and the soft, cool breeze blowing against my face. To just be with nature is such a simple but rare pleasure.

Afterwards, we make our way down to have a hot breakfast with Craig Wickham, a former chef from Exceptional Kangaroo Island. We drink hot coffee, eat local yoghurt and tuck into a delicious breakfast wrap made  from locally sourced ingredients.

One of the great things about the Feastival is getting the chance to engage and talk with the producers as you eat their food. It's like chatting to an author as you read their book.

Justin Harman, the owner of South Australia's first sheep dairy, Island Pure, says he's often amazed at the number of people who are disconnected, or perhaps blissfully ignorant about where their food comes from.

It was for this reason that he started offering a picnic event to experience food straight from his paddock to the plate. It would also allow him to showcase what his farm produces.

"Feastival to me is an event that gets the consumers and our customers from all over Australia sitting down and eating, having the oyster shucked in front of them, having the cheese made in front of them, so they can all experience where that food is coming from and continue to tell that story," Justin tells us as he hands out a second round of oysters later in the day.

The dairy offers sheep's milk, cheese, yoghurt,  labna, and even ice-cream. The sheep are milked twice a day.

Another event highlight of the Feastival is "table surfing" where locals open their homes to guests for a day or night of eating, drinking and socialising.

We are taken to one of the most popular table-surfing spots – "Dine on the Blue Line Beachfront", where we meet Adelaidecouple Coreena and Hugh Rischbieth, who together with Adele Fragnito and winemaker Andrew Jackman offer their spacious holiday house up to host a four-course party.

One of the chefs, Fragnito, was a  contestant in MasterChef a few years ago and she and her fellow chefs put on quite a production. 

We eat whiting escabeche that one of the husbands caught that morning in his small tinny, moored just outside the glass-window house.  Local lamb cutlets are served with fresh greens and polenta. The wine, Hazy Blur, made by fellow host Jackman, is flowing and by the end of the night we feel like we've known each other for years.

Stumbling out into the wilderness we are whisked back to our accommodation, the luxuriously decadent Life Time Retreats, where we share tales of who we sat next to and what we spoke about.

The next day, we are invited  to an exclusive 007-themed party to showcase the island's fantastic gin products at one of LifeTime's incredible cliff-top houses overlooking  SnellingBeach.

As we gather on the beach  below the cliff house, a suited James Bond figure emerges from the ocean carrying a martini on a silver tray, to the deliciously loud James Bond theme song. The women are offered fur stoles, while the men make for the martini stand, situated next to the rocks.  After a delicious martini, we are invited to climb the stairs to the Bond-esque house.

As night falls, the stars shine brightly, accompanied by the soundtrack of the lapping ocean.

It's easy to see why McDonald's didn't make the cut on this strangely beautiful island. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION 

tourkangarooisland.com.au/

GETTING THERE

From Adelaide, it's a 15 to 20-minute flight with Rex Airlines to Kangaroo Island. See rex.com.au. Sealink runs a ferry service. See sealink.com.au

WHILE YOU'RE THERE 

SeaLink Kangaroo Island FEASTival is on May 18.  All tickets must be purchased before the event. Tickets, accommodation, travel and event packages can be bought through SeaLink. Phone 13 13 01; see sealink.com.au/ki-feastival or Virgin Australia Holidays 13 15 16 or virginaustralia.com/holidays 

STAYING THERE

LifeTime Private Retreats offers houses for couples and families. They start at $410 a night low season for two guests (at the Settlers Homestead), and $950 a night low season for six guests (Cliff House), minimum two-night stays. See life-time.com.au.

SEE + DO

Kangaroo Island Shellfish has a retail shop at American River Wharf, phone (08) 8553 1557.

Dudley Wines cellar door is in Penneshaw, phone (08) 8553 1333; see dudleywines.com.au.

Kangaroo Island Source, phone 0412 194 840; see kangarooislandsource.com.au.

Hannaford and Sachs catering, phone (08) 8559 2236; see hannafordandsachs.com.au.

Kangaroo Island Culinary Adventures, phone 0428 829 262; see kangarooislandculinaryadventures.com.au.

FIVE TOP FOOD EVENTS 

A View to Kill

Feel like a celebrity at the casino-inspired afternoon event as you sip on locally sourced martinis and indulge in retro inspired canapes, including a flaming bombe alaska. The view over Snelling Beach alone is spectacular. 

Breakfast with the Birds

Early risers, this event is for you. With a 6.30am start, guests are encouraged to meditate as the sun rises before tucking into a delicious, locally sourced, breakfast of yoghurt and free-range eggs. 

French Toast Masterclass

If you're sick of only eating, why not join a masterclass in Penneshaw with chef Kate Sumner and renowned French winemaker Jacques Lurton for a French-inspired masterclass? Guests can cook as they can gaze out at sweeping views where you can see the South Australian mainland. 

Island Pure - Picnic of  'biblical' proportions

Enjoy a picnic lunch fit for a king. Located on the banks of the Cygnet River, the lunch will feature woodfired-oven and campfire-cooked seafood, free-range pork, local lamb and Kangaroo Island  geese. 

Table Surfing - 'Dine on the Blue Line'

You might have to walk home after this table-surfing event that includes a four-course lunch and wine in an exclusive beachfront home. There are seven table-surfing events during the Feastival. Early bookings are essential.

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