The next morning, with the sun still below the horizon, I went wandering. From the end of the inn’s driveway I could just see the hills of the Fleurieu Peninsula on the mainland. A kangaroo the size of an ATM sprang from the trees and crossed my path. I was eager to see others, but I’d arranged to meet Sue Pearson for coffee. Her résumé lists stints as a chef at the Ivy in London and the Pier in Sydney, two of the English-speaking world’s more serious restaurants. Now she does catering and owns a storefront fish-and-chips shop in Penneshaw, a town as trim and shuttered as Ferness, the tiny Scottish village in Local Hero.
It seemed odd that Pearson could be fulfilled deep-frying fillets for the same handful of people night after night. But when I thought about it further, I understood. If Sophie Newland had more entrepreneurial drive, she’d grow her three-room cottage into a full-fledged inn. If Graham Allison of Cape d’Estaing wanted to capitalize on its success, he’d plant more vines and make more wine. But then, they’d probably never have moved to K.I. in the first place. “People come in and say, ‘You could expand!’ ” Pearson said. “And we say, ‘We’re all set. We’re happy. We’ve got a bit of money. And we’re here.’ ”
On an island this sparsely populated, one keeps seeing the same faces. When I happened upon Sorrento’s, an Italian restaurant in Penneshaw, I found a table there full of people I’d already met, including Newland and her boyfriend, Justin Harman. They were dining, it turned out, with someone I’d wanted to meet: Jayne Bates, the island’s mayor. Bates clearly shared her constituents’ ambivalence about tourism. “We want to encourage development and money being spent,” she told me. “But it’s all about keeping vigilant.” She made sure I knew that there is no McDonald’s on the island (though I couldn’t imagine that anyone would have tried to open one), no movie theater, and only three elevators. “We walk a fine line,” she said.
When I wondered where I might see another kangaroo before I left, Harman offered to drive me to the best spot. We left the road at a dirt path and rambled to a clearing. Suddenly marsupials were springing past our headlights like goblins in the night. Sitting in the car, watching this otherworldly ballet, I had a disturbing vision of future resorts on the site. Each in itself would be tastefully restrained and well conceived, but taken together the increased development would drive the kangaroos farther and farther into the interior. Soon they’d be foraging for food in backyards, dodging BMW’s on a newly improved road system.
Does Martha’s Vineyard still have vineyards?I wondered. Does Oyster Bay have oysters?Is Paradise Island still paradise?
Bruce Schoenfeld is Travel + Leisure’s wine and spirits editor.