An island down under

Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
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A short ferry ride from Adelaide, Richard Sutcliffe finds a natural oasis on Kangaroo Island, a world away from the city’s bustle.

AS Joe Root digs in to show some true Yorkshire grit in the face of intimidatory bowling from one-time county team mate Mitchell Stark amid the heat of an Ashes battle come early December, the chances of finding peace and tranquillity anywhere near the Adelaide Oval will seem slim.

Just 50 or so miles away, however, will lie a hidden gem that offers all the relaxation and natural beauty to keep happy any visitor wanting a taste of the quiet life to go with the fierce cricketing battle that will be fought across Australia this winter.

Kangaroo Island, off Australia’s southern coast, is somewhere that, thanks to Adelaide being just a short ferry ride or 20-minute flight, can not be considered remote. But it feels like another world.

Whether it is the abundance of wildlife, the beautiful clear blue waters or the spectacular natural beauty, a visit to the island feels like a real getaway from the rigours and stress of modern life. And, for that matter, the serious business that will be next winter’s Ashes.

This much became clear during a two-night trip at my own walking rhythm, invariably done at breakneck speed when at home or in a major city. But not on KI – as the locals call it – when, by the end of my first day, I’d slowed to barely a crawl, while taking in the attractions during a tour with Kangaroo Island Odysseys.

Any idea of rushing was forgotten as I drank in the many delights that Flinders Chase National Park has to offer and I’ll admit I couldn’t have been happier.

Back home in England, the weather was miserable and much of Yorkshire shivering in the unseasonal Arctic weather. Yet, here I was enjoying some of the most beautiful natural sights known to man.

Admiral’s Arch, for instance, on the south west tip of KI has been sculpted over many thousands of years by a combination of the weather and sea erosion. It can be enjoyed from a viewing platform, as can Seal Bay – home to hundreds of Australian sea lions – just along the coast.

Due to there being nothing between the Bay and the Antarctic to the south or South America to the east, the sea here has to be seen to be believed.

Certainly, I’ve never seen water as blue or clear as it is on the southern coast of Kangaroo Island – so named by British explorer Matthew Flinders, who on discovering the landmass just off South Australia in 1802 was struck by how dominant kangaroos were.

With Terry as my chaperone – visitors not part of a guided tour can stray no further than the viewing platform and walkway – I ventured down on to the beach and was able to stroll among the resting sea lions, who after a 72-hour fishing expedition to feed their young had flopped down for a sleep the moment they had returned to land.

The only rule was not to get too close or walk between the sleeping sea lions and the ocean (to avoid giving any who woke suddenly the impression that their escape route has been cut off). The next half-hour was a joy, as I wandered among mothers feeding their pups as the fathers either rested or looked on warily at the interloper.

Standing there feeling the light breeze on my face, it was a fitting end to a hugely enjoyable couple of days with Terry and his four-wheel drive that had escorted me round what might be the third largest island in Australia but also something of a secret. Almost as if the good folk of South Australia want to keep KI for themselves. I can understand why.

Once back on the mainland, my usual walking pace soon resumed. And it wasn’t just the thought of what lies ahead come December when one of the greatest sporting rivalries on earth will resume Down Under.

Adelaide will stage the second Test and the city cannot wait. That much was evident during my all-too brief visit whenever conversation turned to why this particular “pommy journo” was visiting Adelaide.

“Captain Cook and his boys are in for a real hiding, mate,” was the gist of the message that my new friends wanted me to relay to the readers of the Yorkshire Post.

Australia may be a shadow of their cricketing selves and in such a mess that even the vice captain was disciplined recently for not doing his homework. But the prospect of taking on the old enemy in the rebuilt Adelaide Oval has already got the natives licking their lips at the prospect of humbling the Poms.

Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen. But, certainly, the thousands of Barmy Army members expected to head to Adelaide from these shores next winter will find a city on the up.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the home of South Australia cricket. The Oval, located within a short walk of my base at the luxurious Oaks Embassy on North Terrace, is undergoing a £500m redevelopment that will increase capacity by more than a third to 53,500.

Long regarded as one of the most picturesque grounds in the world, the Oval will be transformed into one of the most state-of-the-art venues – complete with the iconic scoreboard that has stood at The Hill end for more than a century.

This fusion of the modern and historic is a fitting symbol for Adelaide, a city 
that has long since been regarded as 
one of the best to live in Australia. Let’s just hope England’s cricketers find it to their liking come December.

Getting there

Richard travelled to Australia with Qantas, who fly daily to Adelaide from London Heathrow. Economy fares start from £1,305.49 for travel dates between December 1 and 13. Subject to availability. Visit Qantas.com for the latest travel deals.

He stayed at the Oaks Embassy on North Terrace, Adelaide. Rates for a bedroom deluxe apartment begin at approximately £85 per night. www.oakshotelsresorts.com/oaks-embassy

On Kangaroo Island, Richard stayed in the Seaside Inn, Kingscote. Rates start at £120 per night. www.kiseasideinn.com.au

Kangaroo Island Odysseys provide personalised, four-wheel drive wildlife and nature discovery touring. For rates and available tours, visit www.kiodysseys.com.au

All other information on Australia/Kangaoo Island can be found at www.australia.com