Captain Kangaroo

Exceptional Kangaroo Island lives up to its name

By: Andréa R. Vaucher

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Kangaroo Island offers clients
classic Australian animal sightings.
At the end of a rutted dirt road, our guide Craig Wickham unlocked the gates to the old Edwards’ estate, and we drove onto the property. We waited all day for this we were on Kangaroo Island, after all and now that it was dusk, the light was incandescent and, all around us, animals were beginning to stir.

We walked across a vast meadow covered with tall grass and there, against a big sky that reminded me of Africa, were dozens of kangaroos, some nearly six feet tall, others hugging the sides of their mothers, and not one of them afraid of us.

We were at the end of the earth, literally. A 30-minute flight from Adelaide, South Australia’s incredibly sophisticated capital, and we were in the bush. We’d seen koalas in the eucalyptus trees, spiny echidnas on the roadside, wallabies everywhere.

Wickham owns Exceptional Kangaroo Island, a tour company that lives up to its name. His clients get to walk right onto the sands at Seal Bay and receive lots of other access that make seeing Kangaroo Island with him, well, exceptional. Even officials from the Smithsonian, the Audubon Society and the American Museum of Natural History choose Wickham when in Australia.

For lunch, Wickham grilled King George whiting in the middle of a forest. Another day he took us to Andermel Marron Farm where we tasted marron, the world’s largest farmed crayfish, and drank wine from one of Kangaroo Island’s 28 vineyards. He introduced us to honey made by the world’s only pure strain of Ligurian bees, originally brought from Italy to the island in the 1880s.

In between sightings and tastings, as we criss-crossed the island from top to bottom, Wickham regaled us with tales of growing up on a 2,500-acre sheep station on the island’s north shore that his parents ran for Sir James Holden, owner of Holden automotive.

“They’re like the Fords of Australia,” is how Wickham described the Holdens.

Now, two generations later, on the 100 acres of the station that remain, Sir James’ grandchildren, Rachel and Nick Hannaford, run Lifetime Private Retreats. Part luxury hotel, part haute fantasy, Lifetime consists of three architecturally dazzling villas, overlooking Snellings Beach, a perfect white sand crescent stretched lazily along a turquoise sea.

When you arrive at Lifetime, you step into another world. Nick, a celebrated event planner, and Rachel, a yoga teacher and chef who has cooked for superstars like Mick Jagger and the Dalai Lama, have pulled out all stops in creating this magical milieu. Dinner could be a Middle Eastern feast, served beneath the bowers of a gigantic fig tree or paella in a shanty on the beach with a bonfire blazing.

If five-star hippie chic isn’t your clients’ style, Kangaroo Island also offers simpler accommodations. The Kangaroo Island Wilderness Resort, at the entrance to a national park, has a terrific restaurant, wine list and al fresco dining among the wallabies. The rooms are spotless and spacious.

Leaving the serenity of Kangaroo Island was bearable only because we were off to Adelaide, with its sumptuous central market and nearby Barossa vineyards. With a new Air New Zealand flight from L.A. to Adelaide (connecting in Aukland), it’s the moment to send your clients the ones who’ve been to Sydney and Melbourne and now long to explore more remote parts of the continent to the food- and-wine lover’s paradise known as South Australia.

Kangaroo Island is a great place to start.


Exceptional Kangaroo Island offers agents 10 percent commission across the board on flights, accommodations, meals and touring.

Kangaroo Island Wilderness Resort offers 10 percent commission.

Lifetime Private Retreats offers 10 percent commission.


An hour by small plane from Adelaide in the heart of the desert Outback, the opal-mining town of Cooper Pedy has to be one of the weirdest places in Australia. For one thing, the surrounding landscape is positively lunar, with vast, rocky plains and thousands of abandoned mines dotting the barren earth.

Since the 1920s, adventurers from all over the globe have come to this outpost, which produces 80 percent of the world’s opals. Most left broke, but others actually found the fiery stone. Now the place is a multicultural community, albeit an eerie, run-down one, where inhabitants live in underground houses (dugouts) to escape the desert heat.

It’s definitely worth a daytrip, if only to stay at the Desert Cave Hotel, billed as the world’s only underground hotel. And check out Australia’s Dog Fence, which stretches through the town’s outskirts as far as the eye can see. Constructed to keep the dingos from migrating into southern sheep territory, at 3,300 miles, it’s the world’s longest fence.

Desert Cave Hotel