Kangaroo Island, Australia's new foodie paradise
This is Kangaroo Island in South Australia and we’re travelling along a dirt road called Harriet in search of some rumored fine drinking and dining and wondering whether we’ve taken the right turn until we see what looks like ... an old shed.
But behind the humble appearance lies Two Wheeler Creek Wines, the island’s most westerly vineyard, featuring some excellent sauvignon blanc and the Andermel Marron café.
While it’s all good eating, we’re going to stick our necks out and suggest not ordering the steak or chicken. One absolutely must have the marron. The what?
Marron is a freshwater crayfish, brought from Western Australia 40 years ago and now farmed commercially on Kangaroo Island.
Visitors can see the creatures in holding tanks -- if they don’t mind seeing what they’ll be eating.
When cooked with bush-tucker-inspired sauces, the Andermel-prepared marron is a foodie’s dream come true.
So how did we find the place when we visited? With lots of research and a driver whose patience was tested every time we missed a turn.
But future explorers won’t be so frustrated, now that Tourism Kangaroo Island has launched its “Farm Gate and Cellar Door Trail,” with three alternative itineraries covering different parts of the island.
Bees make honey, makes ice-cream
Also on the Central and South Coast itinerary (along with Andermel) is Clifford’s Honey Farm.
A turn into Elsegood Road brings us to this spot in the middle of nowhere, which is apparently a location bees just love.
Kangaroo Island has the world’s only pure population of Ligurian Bee, imported from Italy in 1884, and is quarantine-protected.
There’s a video about beekeeping and a choice of excellent honeys like Sugar Gum, Mallee and Bottle Brush, fresh honeycomb and, for children and adults alike, honey ice-cream.
Also near here, wines, ciders and eucalyptus products are available at Emu Ridge Eucalyptus.
The Dudley Peninsula and American River itinerary features wineries showcasing a variety of grape styles.
Dudley Cellar Door has a fabulous cliff-top view and Chapman River Wines is in a converted aircraft hangar.
Then there’s Sunset Winery, where the cellar door has views over the sea and a relaxed vibe.
My favorite drop is their sparkling Shiraz, but they’ve won a gold medal with the Sunset Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and a silver with their Shadow Shiraz at the Small Winemakers’ Show in Brisbane. All fruit is from Kangaroo Island vineyards.
“I’m very excited about the Farm Gate and Cellar Door Trail,” says Athalie Martin, manager at Sunset Winery.
“The island is well known for its wildlife, but there’s much more for visitors to enjoy -- our food and wine produce is unique and the Trail is a great way to experience all that Kangaroo Island has to offer.”
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The longest itinerary, taking two days compared to one for the others, covers Kingscote and Surrounds.
On Gum Creek Road lies a real gem built upon the endeavors of happy sheep.
The Island Pure Sheep Dairy has 1,100 milking ewes, whose annual 160,000 liters of milk provide the makings for Mediterranean-style yoghurts and cheeses.
A half-hour tour shows how it works, before we hit the tasting room.
My favorite’s the halloumi, in original Cypriot style. Kefalotiri, a salty yellow cheese, also makes an interesting tasting.
On the Playford Highway, from Wednesday to Sunday, travelers (other than the driver) can have their spirits lifted at the boutique distillery Kangaroo Island Spirits.
Jon and Sarah Lark began in 2006 with their Lime Liqueur and now have wild gin made with native juniper, while their anisette and zenzerino liqueurs won silver medals in San Francisco.
Sarah Lark appreciates the value of taking a little extra time to see the island.
“The new trail allows visitors to recognize that our island needs more than a day to discover its treasures,” she says.
In this area too is Bay of Shoals winery, whose 15 styles of wine are grown on Reeves Farm, part of the first land subdivision in South Australia. They won a gold medal for their 2010 Shiraz at the Queensland wine show.
Also notable is Islander Estate Vineyards, founded by Frenchman Jacques Lurton, who in 1997 honeymooned on Kangaroo Island with his wife Francoise and, being from a dynasty of vignerons back home, recognized potential wine country.
Wines from their new Islander Series can be sampled in a cozy tasting in the barrel shed.
Near Kingscote lies Emu Bay Lavender in a picture-perfect rural setting, with farming equipment from yesteryear.
The lavender farm sprang from Tony Bell and Maria Patterson’s decision to diversify from traditional activities and their once-much-smaller garden of lavender varieties.
Apart from oils and fragrant things, there are also edible offerings, like lavender shortbread and lavender ice-cream.
It may not be the KI we’ve known in the past, but Kangaroo Island’s new face cries out for a second look. Just remember to come hungry ... and thirsty.
Getting there and around
Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Qantas fly from Sydney to Adelaide. Regional Express flies from Adelaide to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island.
Most companies do not provide insurance cover for driving at night. Also, be sure to check about insurance coverage for driving on unpaved roads and, with hire cars from the mainland, inquire about coverage on Kangaroo Island.
If bringing a car from the mainland, the Sealink ferry crosses from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw in 45 minutes -- prices vary and booking is essential.
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