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Historic lighthouses


cape nelson 

Towering above the landscape, these magnificent lighthouses provide a glimpse of another era, as well as fascinating places to stay today.

Cape Nelson

The lighthouse at Cape Nelson State Park, built in 1884, looks like a lighthouse from a storybook, with its smooth white walls, rectangular windows and jaunty red roof. It’s not hard to see why this spot was chosen. The rugged cliffs and swirling seas further east toward Port Fairy are aptly named the Shipwreck Coast.

The Cape Nelson lighthouse did double duty during the late nineteenth century. As well as saving ships that were sailing west towards Melbourne, the lighthouse held a huge telescope, which was used to scan the surrounding waters for Russian warships. Today, you can climb the tower for some impressive ocean views, picnic in the park or enjoy peaceful walks; the 3km Sea Cliff Nature Walk allows visitors to explore the cliffs close-up. There is a small café at the lighthouse, and there are two fully renovated cottages available for rent.  

For details visit the Cape Nelson Lighthouse website.

Cape Otway

For many European immigrants, Cape Otway lighthouse was their first sight of Australia after months at sea. Completed in 1848, it is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Australian mainland. Perched atop towering sea cliffs, where Bass Strait and the waters of the Southern Ocean meet, it has silently watched the coast’s turbulent history.

In years gone by, the light was kept burning with whale oil, kerosene, diesel generators and other means. Now a small solar-powered beacon has replaced the ‘old light’.

While the lighthouse is the drawcard, there’s much more to do and see within the lightstation grounds. Cape Otway Lightstation is just 14km from the Great Ocean Road and at the heart of the Great Ocean Walk. Tours of the 18-metre lighthouse are conducted daily. Accommodation is available in the Head Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence and there’s a café located in the Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage.

Visit Cape Otway Lightstation website for more information.

Cape Schanck

In the 1800s the world kept a slower pace than it does today. In 1841, the Victorian Government decided that the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula at Cape Schanck needed a lighthouse. However, it took a further 18 years for construction of the limestone tower of the lighthouse to begin.

Today, Cape Schanck is perhaps the most accessible lighthouse from Melbourne and tours are available every day. For lighthouse buffs, it’s considered the most original because much of the 1800's mechanism is still in place. Next to the lighthouse is a museum dedicated to lighthouse keeping that contains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about lanterns, Fresnel lenses, kerosene burners and acetylene. The museum also reveals the relentless demands on the lighthouse keepers themselves: the clock mechanism that kept the lamp rotating had to be rewound every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No sleep-ins. No sickies.

Visit www.austpacinns.com.au for further details.

Wilsons Promontory

Just a few hours’ drive from Melbourne, yet centuries away, Wilsons Promontory Lightstation was built in 1859 from local granite on a narrow peninsula jutting into the wild waters of Bass Strait. It looks like the loneliest place imaginable.

In the 1800's supplies were delivered to the lighthouse by ship every six months and there was no communication with the outside world. Families, often with children, had the lonely but vital task of keeping the light burning, saving both ships and lives.

At Wilsons Promontory, visitors can taste a little of the lighthouse keeper lifestyle by staying in three cottages next to the lighthouse. While the cottages are well equipped once you get there, the only way to reach the lighthouse is on foot, carrying your food, drinking water, towels and sheets. It’s a 19.1km walk, or around six hours each way from the Telegraph saddle carpark.

Bookings are essential, book online or call 13 1963.

wilsons prom lighthouse cape otway
View from Wisons Promontory Lightstation (left); Cape Otway Lightstation (right)

Gabo Island

Gabo Island, 500 metres off the wilderness coast of Croajingolong National Park, is a popular destination during summer and offers a unique accommodation experience. The island is isolated and remote, with its rugged coastline and spectacular lighthouse - magnificent in construction and shape. The coastline you see is almost exactly as James Cook would have seen it.

The lighthouse, built from pink granite quarried on the small island in 1863, is solar powered and no longer needs the lighthouse keeper to keep the light burning. Tours of the 47-metre high structure are available and the views from the top are spectacular. If you are lucky, you might spot whales, dolphins and seals.

Visiting Gabo Island by light plane or boat charter is weather dependent, and during the peak whale-watching season of September and October, accommodation on the island books out weeks in advance.

Bookings are essential, book online or call 13 1963.