By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Kangaroo Island has so much to offer – stunning scenery, sumptuous food and wine, and most importantly, beautiful people.
After spending three days exploring KI, it would be easy for me to describe the crisp chardonnay I sipped at False Cape Wines or the delicious honey ice cream I gobbled down at Clifford’s Honey Farm. But the people that can best tell you all about KI are those who call this incredible SA island home.
Watch our video and hear from the locals who make KI such a wonderful tourist destination.
Tony Blight – Tru KI Thai
Down a small dirt road near American River, you’ll spot a shed which will transport you thousands of kilometres away to Thailand – you’ll even find the plastic chairs and tables you see in a Bangkok market. KI Tru Thai – which is the brainchild of local Tony Blight and his Thai wife and chef, Sirintip Panya – serve everything from Massaman curry to phad Thai and green curry.
Tell us a little bit about KI Tru Thai?
My wife came to KI and started cooking Thai for me with our beautiful KI produce and I said, “Wow! If I like her food, the rest of Kangaroo Island will.”
We thought about starting a restaurant but instead went with a food van. We set up the van, let people know on social media and went out on the corner of the road. Well, 70 people were there waiting for us. From then on, it was like that every week.
How did you end up relocating into a shed?
We kept running the food truck, but it rained once, so we decided to move into the shed, and we’ve been here for about nine years. We added a bar, and as a musician I love live music, so we incorporated that as well.
What do you love about Kangaroo Island?
There are beautiful places all over the island. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the north coast or south coast, there are magical places everywhere. You have the unspoilt coast, stunning wildlife and it’s a family-friendly environment.
A lot of people may come to KI for the first time, and it takes a day or two to get into it, then they slow down. After five days, they don’t want to leave. Every day is an adventure and KI is quite unique.
Julie Helyar – False Cape Wines
On the banks of the Willson River on the Dudley Peninsula between Penneshaw and Cape Willoughby, you’ll find a rustic cellar door overlooking rows of grape vines.
Julie (pictured below) and Jamie Helyar established the False Cape vineyard in 1999, before starting the mammoth task of building a cellar door about five years ago.
Now, visitors can sit on the deck or dining room, sipping one of False Cape’s award-winning wines and feasting on a platter or homemade pie.
Families are welcome with an enclosed lawn and playground available for the kids.
I heard you built the cellar door yourself. Tell us a little about the building?
Yeah, the building took four years to build from scratch by my husband, a local stonemason and myself.
It’s made from local timber, jetty timber, local stone and KI bricks. We collected all the reclaimed timber to create what you see here today.
What’s so special about the KI red bricks?
We used the KI red brick which has the stamp of a kangaroo and KI, and they were made in Penneshaw, near where the Sealink ferry comes in.
The [brick factory] opened in 1907 for three or four years, so a lot of the early chimneys and houses on KI were made with these bricks. They’re quite sought after.
What can visitors expect when they visit Kangaroo Island?
There’s wildlife, hiking, food and wine. It’s going to take five days to explore and that’s without chilling on the beach for a day or two.
There’s a lot do and see. [Visitors] can expect to fall in love with Kangaroo Island. Most people say they’re blown away and will come back again.
Which KI beach do you like best?
My favourite beach is Antechamber Bay which is only a few minutes down the road [from False Cape Wines]. The water’s clear, it’s quiet and a nice family beach.
Bev Nolan – Clifford’s Honey Farm
Honey is special on Kangaroo Island. In fact, the unique Ligurian bees are so important to local apiarists that you can’t bring any honey products to the island. Why? Those products could be harbouring diseases that could ruin KI’s honey industry.
Clifford’s Honey Farm is a true family business, with multiple generations helping to harvest the sweet golden nectar.
Bev Nolan (pictured below) is the daughter of Dave and Jenny Clifford, who established Clifford’s Honey Farm in the 1980s.
The family opened the farm-gate shop in 1993 and have since expanded, selling a variety of honey products including beer, cosmetics, and chutney and marinades.
Give us a little insight into Clifford’s Honey Farm.
At Clifford’s Honey Farm we have three generations of our family working together.
Our signature product is the honey ice cream, which we’ve been producing since we opened about 29 years ago. It’s the same flavour of honey in each batch, which is cap gum honey. All our products are made on the farm, and we have a brewery here as well.
What do you love about beekeeping?
My favourite part of beekeeping is collecting the wild swarms which are the same special type of bees [Ligurian] and working with my family. All my family work here, so we have lots of good times.
The Ligurian bees originally came from Italy. They’ve cross-bred everywhere across the world now – even in Italy – so they’re only found on KI. They’re not aggressive bees, they’re disease free and very productive.
What else should visitors see while on KI?
There are lots of great places on the island. Near us we have Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery, there’s another honey farm in Penneshaw and a lavender farm.
Visitors should definitely go out to the Flinders Chase National Park and see iconic places like the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
What’s your favourite part about living on KI?
I love the community. We all stand up for each other and look out for each other during hard times like the fires (in the summer of 2019-20).
The island is peaceful, and people are welcoming. There’s lots of good food and wine and honey. Visitors will want to come back.