Kangaroo island is just a 30-minute ferry trip from mainland Australia, but its relative isolation has made the vast bushlands and broad beaches of this sparsely populated 100-by-35-mile islet a Galápagosian showcase for wildlife. With no predatory dingoes or foxes, the namesake marsupials—plus wallabies, koalas, echidnas, platypuses, goannas, fairy penguins, opossums, and bandicoots—are living large. (Becoming roadkill is the biggest threat to these nocturnal critters.) If you can splurge, base yourself at Kangaroo Island’s fabulously built $18 million Southern Ocean Lodge, an eco-wonder high above Hanson Bay on the southwest coast. "It’s designed to appear as if it’s floating along the cliff top," says co-owner James Baillie of the string of 21 minimal-footprint, interconnected glass-walled suites with private terrace daybeds and plunge pools. The lodge runs excursions into nearby Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Area and to many of the local food and wine producers, which have, in the past decade, transformed the island into locavore heaven. In Kangaroo’s cornucopia: superb sauvignon blanc, honey made from the world’s last pure strain of Ligurian bees, creamy sheep’s-milk cheeses, lamb, oysters, prawns, whiting, and barramundi. Daylong scuba outings off the quiet north coast, about 40 miles away, can also be arranged. You’re likely to spot a leafy sea dragon (picture a seahorse festooned with arugula), one of those elusive life-list creatures that make serious divers weep.
The Lure: Culinary tourism, Wildlife viewing
Vitals: Southern Ocean Lodge; doubles from $1,200, including meals, beverages, and guided excursions; southernoceanlodge.com
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