Shackle Road Drive - Kangaroo Island

Sunday, Nov 25, 2012 at 15:22

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest Island and is very unique in both terms of Fauna and Flora with many species found no where else living or growing naturally in the world. Over 30% of the Island is under the control of National Parks and Wildlife and for very good reasons and these special draw-cards attract tourist from all around the world. Of these Conservation and National Parks, the largest on Kangaroo Island is Flinders Chase National Park that occupies most of the western park of the Island and covers an area of around 328km2 and was established in 1919.

Within Flinders Chase National Park, you will see dozens of Tourist Coaches, Campervans and private vehicles at all the major attractions like Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch, the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and New Zealand Fur Seal Colony which are all serviced by good bitumen roads. The same can not be said the moment that you leave the bitumen and hit the dirt roads that criss cross the Island. We have driven Shackle Road a couple of times, with the first time being quite wet, so I made a promise to myself that we would see this great drive again when it was fine weather.

Even though we had a 12 month Kangaroo Island Tour Pass that is put out by the Department for Environment and Heritage, which gave us twelve months free unlimited access to all the paying Tourist attractions run by National Parks, we still had to stop and collect our daily free pass at the Flinders Chase Visitor Information Centre. The Centre is a great stop for all the latest information as well as there are Rangers on hand to answer any questions that you would like to be answered. After a great Cappuccino Coffee and a Hot Chocolate from the well appointed cafeteria, we headed back to the carpark armed with our permit to enter the park, as well as a small but well put together booklet for the drive, with a list and brief description of all the numbered stops and what we knew we were going to see.

Within 300 metres of leaving the carpark and back on the main highway down to to the main tourist attractions, it was time to leave the bitumen and turn right onto the main west coast road and we were immediately into the very tall Eucalypts that tower over the narrow dirt road. It is during this first section of track that we were lucky enough to spot a Koala high up in the trees. After passing and stopping at the first three stops that are part of the Shackle Road Drive, we came to the first track intersection, with the road to our left heading out to West Bay, while we turned right at the official start of Shackle Road. What made this drive even better were the brilliant displays of wildflowers that carpeted the sides of the road and added extra colour to the usually green landscape.

After many unscheduled stops for the many species of wildflowers and of course the official stops along Shackle Road, we arrived at the next major intersection on the Playford Highway. From here we turned to the left and headed for Cape Borda, as we intended to take the 12.30pm Light Station tour, which includes the daily 1pm firing of the original Cape Borda Cannon. For those that have made the trip out to Cape Borda before will know that it used to be compared to a very well travelled outback road, complete with some good corrugations. Well not so this time as the road was now getting regular gradings and we were surprised just how good the road was to travel on.

We by past the other Shackle Road official stops, as we were running short of time and we intended to visit those stops on our return trip back to where we were camping. Arriving at Cape Borda the small Carpark was full, so we headed for the overflow carpark with 15 minutes up our sleeves. As was to be expected at this remote location that sits high on the cliffs which are some of the tallest in South Australia, the strong wind had everyone sheltering in the lee of the buildings out of the wind. After a tour of the Cape Borda museum, we all made our way inside of the very unique Lightstation which is South Australia’s third oldest and was built in 1858. Unlike all traditional tall and round lighthouses from around the world, the Cape Borda Lighthouse is very unique, as the lighthouse is South Australia’s only square lighthouse and only 10 metres tall. Sitting on top of the cliffs and 155 metres above the ocean below, the intensity of the 1000w Tungsten light at night can be seen 21 Nautical Miles or nearly 39 kilometres out to sea. Making our way back out into the wind, we all gathered to hear the very loud cannon fire which also marked the end of the tour.

Before heading back to the car, we did the small 1 kilometre Clifftop Hike, where at the end of the walk, we stood at the small lookout which gave commanding views from the top of the cliffs. We looked in vein for the whale that I had a very quick glimpse at while at the lighthouse, but we could see nothing, so he headed back to the car. Every now and then in a small sheltered pocket, a Tamar Wallaby would look up at the strangers walking by and them close its eyes again soaking up the sun and having its mid day siesta. By the time that we walked back to the carpark, most of the vehicles had already left, which was great, as we would not have to be following in someone else's dust. After leaving the Carpark, we travelled the short distance to Scott Cove Lookout and had a lunch stop. The afternoon was perfect and the breeze had now died down completely and it was great just great to look out over the Cove. We followed a small path to the edge of the cliffs and sat down an admired the views and again there was no sign of the whale that I thought that I had seen.

Heading further east, it was a quick photo stop at the Harveys Return Cemetery before heading to the Harveys Return Campground, not to set up camp, but to take Fiona on the small, but challenging hike down the only accessible place in the area where you can hike down the steep and rugged track to the beach and cove below. The route of the hike is the very same route that the Cape Borda Lightkeepers used over a hundred years ago to haul their supplies up from Harveys Return using a horse and capstan and small rail car. After a long but slow half walk, half slide down the steep and very washed away track, we were finally down the bottom and were now rock hopping our way towards what is left of the old base where the crane was positioned and Fiona yelled out ‘I just saw a whale’. This time it was Fiona who spotted it first and I knew that she would not have been seeing things, so we continued our rock hopping and once at the old structure, founds as comfortable spot as possible and then spent the next hour and a half in full gaze, as not one, but two Southern Right Whales frolicked less than 100 metres from the shore line.

This really set off the day’s events as we watched in ore in such a very pretty location. We could have watched them for ever, but it was now 4.45pm and we still had to make the long haul back up the cliff to the carpark. Back at the car, we set off back to the Western KI Caravan Park via the quicker and bitumen road on the West End Highway which was still well over an hour away. The Drive ended up taking far longer, as the biggest fear now was hitting one of the very tall and well built Kangaroo Island Kangaroos that were continually dashing out from the thick vegetation that lines the highway.


Depending on what time of the year you travel through the Park, you can be rewarded with some great displays of wildflowers. The following photos were all taken in the Flinders Chase National Park, starting just outside of the Visitor Information Centre and then through Shackle Road and finally at Cape Borda.

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