Best Islands to Live On: Kangaroo

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Why Kangaroo Island? Do you want to have wallabies, possums, platypuses, penguins, seals, sea lions, koalas and (of course) kangaroos for neighbors? How about a quirky community of echidnas, goannas and bandicoots? It's hard to beat Kangaroo Island's abundance of wacky wildlife. We're also impressed with how the island protects its many feathered and furry residents: National parks and conservation areas take up more than a third of the island. Then there's the island's food: Litgurian honey, artisan cheeses, fresh oysters, lobster and intense wines from island-grown grapes. Imagine sipping a glass of local shiraz on the deck of your ocean-view home while you watch a fairy penguin waddle by. That and much more can happen here.

Life of an Expat "Honestly, the first hour I was here I was handed a baby kangaroo, and I think I knew then this is where I belonged," says Kate Venable, who speaks with a melodious mix of Australian and southern-U.S. accents. "I just felt comfortable, and the wildlife and scenery captured my heart. In hindsight, I must have been looking for something, but Kangaroo Island just happened. I really had no intention of living here, but I just kept coming back."

Kate, who grew up in Georgia, graduated from Alabama's Auburn University in 1991. She then spent four years traveling the globe, working in hospitality and tourism in the States, Europe and Australia. "I have never really had any 'plans,' so life just seems to happen around me," says the 38-year-old. "I just grab ahold occasionally." But it seems Kangaroo Island grabbed ahold of Kate during her first visit in 1994. "I could have just kept moving, but I heard what my mind and body were telling me, and it was, 'Stay!' " says Kate. The following year, she moved to the island full time.

She has since opened a business, the Wind in Wings Gallery Café, and bought a home on Kangaroo Island's north coast. "I was here for seven years and then thought, 'Hey, I should probably look at committing.' Two days later, the farmer up the road found me on the beach and said, 'Come have a look at my property.' A month later, there I was in a little farmhouse overlooking the ocean," says Kate. Her view: "Beautiful sugar gum trees, spiky yacca grass trees, rolling hills going straight out into the ocean." Kate shares her home with kangaroos, wallabies, several different types of possums, cockatoos, magpies, and any other wild critters in need of rescue or rehabilitation. "I have children," Kate says. "But they either have fur or feathers."

Overall, Kate's philosophy is to go with the flow. "Life takes us on strange and wonderful pathways to get where we are going," she says. "I think you have to be open to what the universe gives you. Listen to your heart."

Facts of Life

  • Climate: Temperate
  • Population of island: 4,260
  • Percentage expats: 11 percent
  • Population of main town, Kingscote: 1,692
  • House starting price: Mid $100,000s
  • Travel from US: Fly through Melbourne to Adelaide, Australia; take a 30-minute flight or 45-minute ferry ride to Kangaroo Island.
  • Closest hospital: Kingscote
  • Price of local beer: $6 for a pint of Kangaroo Island Pale Ale
  • Languages: English
  • Ease of immigration: Difficult
  • Ease of buying a home: Medium
  • Website: tourkangarooisland.com.au

Purchasing Paradise

  • $ Three-bedroom brick house on the outskirts of Kingscote: $148,878.
  • $$ Three-bedroom house with large deck for wave and wildlife watching: $335,055.
  • $$$ Three-bedroom timber-andrammed-earth home on an 11-acre vineyard: $698,031.

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