American River is not a place you visit for scintillating nightlife. Rather, it’s the birds, the wildflowers, the oysters, and the fishing that define this coastal community, where a small township surrounded by bush looks out towards the Australian mainland. Sailors and cruisers from around Australia seek refuge in its protected harbor, which is a frequently shifting tidal basin between the sea and Pelican Lagoon. Even in spite of its small size, however, the basin offers the most protected harbor of anywhere on Kangaroo Island, and fancy cruising yachts and salt-covered fishing vessels all share the same respite from surf.
South of town is Pelican Lagoon, a protected wetland of 1,000 acres that houses dozens of species of birdlife, and to the north are the lights of South Australia twinkling away by night. Here in American River, however, nights are characterized by curious wallabies bouncing their way through the town, and relaxed visitors swapping fish tales about the size of that morning’s catch. It’s a town where time moves blissfully slow and is refreshingly in touch with nature, and the guesthouses help create a comfortable base for exploring Kangaroo Island.
American River is located 45 minutes from Penneshaw and 30 minutes from Kingscote. To reach the town, the island’s main highway—Hog Bay Road—leads to the turnoff for American River road and the five-minute drive into town.