Kangaroo Island. I always had a vague idea of its whereabouts. Sort of. If you were to give me a map of Australia, I’d have my index finger firmly planted after one or two left-and-right staggers. OK, yup, there it is.
Italy may have a “boot” of its own in the Northern Hemisphere but our wide brown land has its one as well, here in the south. The Yorke Peninsula. Beneath it is Kangaroo Island. Or KI, as it seems to be referred to. The island that Matthew Flinders named after killing and skinning a good chunk of the kangaroo population for their protein supply in the early 1800’s.
South Australia Tourism brings me to this part of the world, with much thanks. A couple of hours from home and I feel like I’m in an island state. A piece of the country that seems to be cut from 4000+ square kilometres of rural Australia and surrounded by clear water. Wide open fields and pastures, bushland, stunning beaches and rugged coastline.
Our gateway to Ki is Kingscote, a sleepy little town not all that far from the airport. One or two commercial thoroughfares, a pub, a handful of local services, places to eat or grab a coffee and a waterfront that beckons to be explored.
This is the islands capital; bustling with a population of 1800 people, and the states first point of settlement. Historic buildings dot the town, including the colonial old Police Station and its adjacent holding cells and stable not all that far from the main jetty.
Being driven around is all good but when you’ve got the keys to a car and you’re sat behind the steering wheel, things feel a whole lot better. The feel of the bitumen, the gravel roads, dodging pot-holes and native animals that didn’t quite make it across the road.
Our first stop on the KI tour was Clifford’s Honey Farm, one of a handful of places on the island to produce the purest honey from the Ligurian bee. The bees were brought to the island in the 1800’s by farmers that already knew the Ligurian bee from Italy was one of the worlds best. The non-Ligurian bees on mainland Australia just didn’t cut it. As the bees in Liguria, Italy, intermixed and diluted with others from neighbouring regions, things were kept much more pure on Kangaroo Island. Thanks to its relative isolation, the bees are also free from many diseases present on the mainland.
The set-up is nothing more than a converted farm shed that hasn’t changed a great deal since its early 1990’s inception. A retail area at the front and an interactive area at the back; a place to learn and even see a mini hive buzzing with local Ligurian bees. Aside from the locally produced honey, there are many sweets, ice cream, pottery and souvenirs up for grabs.
Suze and I take advantage of the time before dinner to drive to the edge of town and visit Ferguson Australia, one of the islands seafood providores. Something we didn’t expect was to be taken out the back to be shown the live tanks, brimming with southern rock lobsters and king crabs. That’s one big crab! We may not have left with the cooked marron we were hoping to snack on, but some Coffin Bay oysters and cooked prawns sufficed. With a couple of beers, of course.
Later that evening, it was time for our first FEASTival event. This event covers and celebrates not only the island, but its gastronomic treasures. It’s food producers, its lifestyle, its wine and its stories.
The first main event is the launch night down at Kingscote wharf, with chef George Calombaris. Holiday-makers, guests, country folk and media congregate beneath a waterside marquee with free-flowing local vino, some really good locally-produced edibles and a deafening live band that rocked the night. The music was like being at a communal country wedding reception.
A beautifully-crafted menu sponsored by local food and wine producers. The evenings gastronomic stand-outs, for me, was the main course, dessert and the exceptional Malbec from The Islander Estate Vineyards. Goose in brik pastry, roast breast, buttered KI cabbage and samphire salad, olive puree. Beautiful dish, even if the samphire wasn’t all that present. And for dessert, KI granola, sheep’s cheese and honey parfait, KI flowers and honeycomb. This thing was exquisite. From the subtle honey and cheese aromats, to the puffed quinoa granola, and the sweet and slightly waxy honeycomb. Yeah baby!
And this was just day one. I was already looking forward to the rest of the itinerary.
hnf travelled to Kangaroo Island courtesy of South Australia Tourism