KANGAROO ISLAND, AUSTRALIA'S THIRD LARGEST ISLAND after Tasmania and Melville Island, separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago.
Stone tools and shell middens show that Aboriginal people lived on Kangaroo Island, possibly as long as 16,000 years ago and may have only disappeared from the island as recently as 2000 years ago.
In 1802, British explorer Matthew Flinders, commanding HMS Investigator, named the land "Kanguroo Island" after the western grey kangaroos on the north coast of Dudley Peninsula. He was closely followed by the French explorer Commander Nicolas Baudin, the first European to circumnavigate the island.
A community of sealers and others existed on Kangaroo Island from 1802 to South Australia’s colonisation in 1836. Some sealers kidnapped Aboriginal women from Tasmania and mainland South Australia. Sealers from the American brig Union in 1803 built the schooner Independence, the first ship constructed in South Australia, at what is now American River.
The first ship to arrive from England with settlers for the new colony was the Duke of York commanded by Captain Robert Clark Morgan in 1836. Settlement on the island proved difficult with problems such as lack of water so alternative sites were sought on the mainland.
Tourism has become a growing factor in the economy of the island (population around 4500) that is still principally agricultural, with a southern rock lobster fishery.
The largest town and administrative centre is Kingscote, an early suggested site for the capital of South Australia. Penneshaw, on the north-eastern tip of the Dudley Peninsula, has the ferry terminal that brings most visitors and freight to the island.
The island has several nature reserves, the largest being Flinders Chase National Park at the western end.