Heritage cottages arise from the ashes to reopen in iconic Kangaroo Island park
Burnt down in the Kangaroo Island bushfires of 2019-20 two state heritage listed cottages have arisen from the ashes to become the newest and highest standard of accommodation offered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
With only the stone walls remaining after the fire, careful stabilisation was carried out on the cottages under the guidance of a heritage architect, while the buildings were redesigned and rebuilt.
The now restored and accessible May’s Homestead and Postman’s Cottage are located in the heart of one of South Australia’s most iconic national parks, Flinders Chase National Park.
The cottages are bookable online on the parks website for stays from 26 September onwards.
Work is soon to get underway at another iconic KI site, Kelly Hill Conservation Park, which will undergo a significant site and infrastructure upgrade to create an improved visitor experience following the devastating bushfires.
All visitor infrastructure at the park was seriously damaged or destroyed by the fires, including the ticket office, public toilets, signage, cave tour shelter, interpretation and access paths, as well as the final section of the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail.
The upgrades will include the replacement of the cave entry building, including a new gathering and storytelling space, a new pathway with interpretation platforms to create an accessible and interactive journey to and from the cave entrance and new in-cave lighting and audio visual experience.
The park has been closed since the January 2020 bushfires, but is expected to reopen to the public from April 2023, including guided tours of Kelly Hill Caves.
NPWS is undertaking some temporary remedial works at the site to enable a limited number of ‘behind the scenes’ guided tours to be undertaken during the upcoming school holidays while construction is underway.
The ‘behind the scenes’ tours will traverse Kelly Hill Conservation Park and go down into the Kelly Hill Caves system. Participants will learn about the island’s geology and heritage and experience the local bushfire recovery firsthand.
The tours will also provide a sneak peek of future plans for the Kelly Hill Conservation Park and the Kelly Hill Caves experience.
Tours will be available two days per week (Wednesdays and Saturdays only), from the 28 September. Tours will be capped at 15 people (with a minimum age of 12).
NPWS Executive Director Mike Williams said it was wonderful to see the completion of works at May’s Homestead and Postman’s Cottage, to provide accessible and quality accommodation for visitors heading to Flinders Chase National Park.
“It’s equally exciting to announce that works are about to commence at Kelly Hill Conservation Park, including upgrades in the Kelly Hill Caves themselves,” he said.
“The caves showcase a very unique part of Kangaroo Island’s geological landscape, allowing visitors to view a wide range of impressive formations, including stalagmites, helicities and column formations.
“Initially, specially curated tours will be offered in the closed park while construction is underway. It is expected a full tour schedule will return by April 2023.
“We invite the Kangaroo Island community to visit the Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Park on Sunday 25 September for free, ahead of cave tours and restored heritage accommodation being made available to the public.
“We adopted a “build back better” approach in the aftermath of the devastating January 2020 bushfires and we hope the KI community will be delighted to see what we’ve achieved to date.
“The final park improvement will be the new visitor centre at the entrance to the Flinders Chase National Park. This is due to be completed by early 2024.”
To book accommodation visit www.parks.sa.gov.au/parks/flinders-chase-national-park#see-and-do to book a Kelly Hill Cave tour contact the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre on 8553 4450.
May’s Homestead provides two bedrooms, one bathroom. $270 per night for up to 4 pax with a 2 night minimum stay (to 1 April 2023). Postman’s Cottage provides one bedroom, one bathroom. $180 per night for up to 2 people with a 2 night minimum stay (to 1 April 2023).
Prior to the proclamation of the park in 1919, the land was farmed and the buildings were part of the original Rocky River Homestead established in the early 1880s.
Postman’s cottage apparently got its name as it was built for the mailman, who would call in and stay overnight once a fortnight at Rocky River Homestead and May’s Homestead was leased to the park’s first ranger, Charles May.
Architecturally, the cottages are typical of the types of houses built on the island in the 1800s, with solid masonry walls and low-pitched corrugated iron rooves.
Postman’s cottage was originally a one-roomed stone hut and now been rebuilt as a one bedroom with ensuite bathroom and May’s Homestead’s four-roomed stone structure has been contemporised and restored.