Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. It lies off the coast of South Australia 112 km (70 mi) southwest of Adelaide. Its closest point to the mainland is Snapper Point in “Backstairs passage” which is 13.5 km (8.4 mi) from the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Kangaroo Island was discovered by English explorer Matthew Flinders. He mapped much of the coast whilst on his famous voyage to chart Terra Australis in 1802. Flinders got there just before French Commander Nicholas Baudin and it was Flinders who named the Island after the large number of native Kangaroos that they saw on landing.
Between 1803 and the first official settlement in 1836, sealers and whalers arrived early and traded thousands of seal skins and tonnes of salt. Some settlers were a lawless lot who raided mainland settlements kidnapping Aboriginal women and bartering skins and salt for liquor and tobacco. Eventually action had to be taken, and in 1827 a ship was sent from Sydney in NSW. Police rounded up a large group of these people and took them back to the east, returning Aboriginal ‘wives’ and their children and dogs to the mainland.
The barque, Duke of York, arrived at Reeves Point in Nepean Bay on 27th July 1836. The dense scrub, limited water and poor soil made farming and gardening difficult. Many settlers became ill and died. Pioneer life was very different from their expectations, but many people persevered, turning Kangaroo Island into a thriving farming community, yet preserving the natural beauty of much of the land. Kingscote became the first capital of South Australia until Colonel light shifted that settlement to Holdfast Bay.
Today, Kangaroo Island has a resident population of approximately 4,700 people with the majority of those living in and around the main township of Kingscote.