Ranger tips: Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park and Wilderness Protection Area
Get insider tips on the best places to visit and must-do activities from Park Ranger Matt Angrave.
Located on the eastern end of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, 40 km south-west of Kingscote, is the pristine Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park and Wilderness Protection Area.
With so much to explore in the park, we’ve asked ranger Matt Angrave for some insider tips. Here’s what he had to say:
What are the options for camping in the park?
Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park offers some great camping opportunities, with its two campgrounds being recently upgraded.
The campgrounds are great spots to base yourself for some fishing and bushwalking in the park, and are centrally located to other attractions on the eastern end of Kangaroo Island.
1. Murray Lagoon Campground
Murray Lagoon Campground on the northern border of the park is the perfect spot for families to stay the night, with toilets, a BBQ shelter, communal fire pits (only to be used outside of the fire danger season, of course!) and generous-sized campsites.
There’s plenty of space for the kids to play a game of cricket, or to kick the footy around on the grassed areas, and there are lots of great areas to explore.
Another huge bonus is the campground’s close proximity to walking trails, with the Timber Creek Walk, Bald Hill Walk and Curley Creek Hike all starting a short drive up the road.
Murray Lagoon Campground features 8 campsites, including one large group site that can fit up to 30 people and 8 vehicles, making it perfect for large family groups and schools. The campground is suitable for tents, camper trailers and caravans.
2. D’Estrees Bay Campground
D’Estrees Bay Campground on the south coast has toilets and picnic shelters, and all of the sites have access to the bay – so you can expect to be waking up to beautiful ocean views.
The campground is made up of 8 campsites dotted along the coastline, with options for tents, caravans and campervans.
If you’d like to trade off easy access to facilities for a little more privacy, check out the Big Sand Dune campsite. The site is only suitable for tents, but you’ll get great protection from the south-easterly winds.
Where are the best spots to go fishing in the park?
Wreckers and Wheaton’s beaches are both great for fishing. At Wreckers Beach you’ll find a BBQ shelter and toilets, and at Wheaton’s Beach a new toilet block is under construction.
Autumn is one of the best times to go fishing in the park. There are plenty of mullet to catch at this time of year, and you might also reel in King George whiting, trevally and flathead from these sandy beaches.
What’s the best walking trail in the park?
The park is filled with so many great walking trails, it’s hard just to pick one! So here are 3 of my favourites:
1. Timber Creek and Curley Creek walks
The Timber Creek and Curley Creek walks near Murray Lagoon offer great opportunities to see shorebirds and waterfowl, especially from the lookouts at Bald Hill and along Curley Creek.
Both of these trails are well-maintained and have wide paths that accommodate young families.
Take caution if you’re visiting the park in winter, as some sections of the trails can become flooded.
2. Tadpole Cove Walk
If you’re after a short walk, the Tadpole Cove Walk just south of Wreckers Beach is perfect for the whole family.
On your way, you’ll walk among coastal heath and will be able to spot plenty of birdlife amongst the shrubs.
The trail meanders through regenerating vegetation to a lookout at Tadpole Cove – have a look along the coastline and see if you can work out why it’s called Tadpole Cove.
As you walk, take notice of the old stone threshing floor where crops were threshed manually, or with a horse if you were lucky! It’s a great reminder of the hardship of early farming years in the area.
3. Cape Gantheaume Coastal Trek
For the more adventurous and experienced walker, the Cape Gantheaume Coastal Trek is your best bet – it starts the Sewer car park at D’Estrees Bay and goes all the way through to Bales Bay.
Walkers will travel through the Cape Gantheaume Wilderness Protection Area and will see spectacular coastal scenery and tracts of undisturbed native bushland, and will have the opportunity to observe abundant and diverse wildlife, including long-nosed fur seals.
This multi-day trek is unmarked and is more than 30 km long, and is only suitable for experienced walkers.
It’s only open from 1 January through to 30 April each year. The trail is closed for the remainder of the year to protect nesting sites of the endangered white-bellied sea eagle in the area. Fresh water and food aren’t available on the trek, so it’s very important to plan ahead and to discuss your plans with a ranger before you head out.
What wildlife can you see in the park?
The park has some fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities.
For the best birdwatching experience, time your visit to be in the early morning or late afternoon. There are many passerine woodland birds, large raptors – including eastern osprey – and many different beach-nesting shorebirds to be seen.
Kangaroos, wallabies and echidnas are also frequently sighted throughout the park – the Curley Creek Hike is one of the best spots to spot an echidna going about its day.
How can I learn more about the history of the area?
If you’re interested in the early European history in the area, then the self-guided tour of D’Estrees Bay would be perfect for you.
The 8 km interpretive self-drive tour was developed by the Friends of Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park and showcases the natural and cultural history of the area, and demonstrates the struggles of the early farming days on Kangaroo Island.
Check out the self-drive brochure on the National Parks and Wildlife Service website.
Park of the Month
Throughout December, the parks of eastern Kangaroo Island are being celebrated as National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Parks of the Month. Join rangers on beach rambles, driving tours and walks in the park – check the website for all the details.
Looking for more to see and do on your next visit to Kangaroo Island? Why not go and check out the island’smost famous lighthouses.