By Clair Morton
Last updated on: September 26, 2019 at 11:20 am
It’s still dark when we roll up to the SeaLink terminal at Cape Jervis.
“Good morning Clair, Vanessa,” a man with a clipboard says in a manner that’s all too cheery for the early hour.
Before we’ve even boarded the ferry to Kangaroo Island, we feel welcomed.
It’s a feeling that doesn’t leave us the whole time we’re there – everywhere you go on KI, there’s a sense that people are happy to share their slice of paradise with anyone who visits.
Even though it’s only an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Adelaide, the island seems a world away from the mainland. Locals are still excited about the introduction of high-speed broadband, and will readily admit that it feels like the place is 15 years behind everywhere else.
While it’s slowly catching up, Kangaroo Island moves to its own rhythm, and that’s just part of its charm.
Sometimes though, the islanders are ahead of the game.
A spirited place
Kangaroo Island Spirits, started by Jon and Sarah Lark in 2002, was the first boutique gin distillery in Australia.
Set in an unassuming tin shed outside Kingscote, the distillery is the quintessential KI venue, and its signature collection of native botanical-infused gins have collected awards from all over the world.
During a quick tour of the distillery, we’re introduced to the still, affectionately called Mary.
It’s here we discover that gin really doesn’t take that long to produce – if you wanted to, you could make and bottle the gin all in one day.
Visitors can get their own taste with a gin blending workshop, cocktail-making class, or even just a tasting at the cellar door.
Stop and smell the lavender
From there, it’s off to Emu Bay Lavender farm. As if confirming that everyone on the island is connected in some way, co-owner and 5th generation KI local Eliza Sheridan mentions that she and her mother Sophie worked at Kangaroo Island Spirits for 5 years before they bought the farm 18 months ago.
Together they’ve expanded and turned the shop into a café, which is open from 9am-4pm. They grow 12 varieties of lavender on the farm, with a total of 8000 bushes growing on the property just north of Kingscote. While a few confused bushes have already start blooming, most of the plants will explode with purple in summer.
And it’s the island’s famous Ligurian bees – believed to be the only pure-bred, disease-free population in the world – that help them know when to harvest the flower buds for use in their food and homemade products.
“Once they start to swarm the bush we know it’s time to harvest,” she says.