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Culture and heritage

The Cape Schanck Lighthouse has served shipping since 1859. It was built from dressed limestone and sandstone. The lighthouse still has its original mechanisms in place.

In 1841, due many coastal shipping disasters between Western Port and Port Phillip Bay, a Committee was appointed to decide on the best location for a revolving light. After much discussion with members of the nautical fraternity of the day Cape Schanck was the chosen location.

In June 1841 the Geelong Advertiser stated that:

‘… the light on Cape Schanck will not only in great measure insure the safety of coasting vessels, but will also be of considerable benefit to running through the straits, as it frequently happens, from the prevalence of strong southerly winds, they approach the northern coast unavoidably nearer than agreeable…' Eighteen years later the first stone was laid in the construction of the Cape Schanck Lighthouse. There was much procrastination by the relevant authorities in spending limited government finances on lighthouses. Many bureaucrats argued that many of the ship wrecks along the northern coast of Bass Strait were caused by the ignorance and poor judgement of ships captains.'

Today Cape Schanck Lighthouse and its Keeper's Quarters are significant as a substantially intact representation of an 1800s light station and for being one of the oldest substantial groups of light station buildings in Australia. With Wilsons Promontory, Portland and Port Fairy it was the fourth light station constructed by the Colony of Victoria and retains today not only its original buildings but also includes an early, probably rare, Chance Bros. first order optic.

The lighthouse is built of limestone with a decorative bracketed gallery, rock face base course, tapered window and door openings and rare stone spiral staircase (one of only three pre-1863 surviving lighthouses with a stone spiral staircase). The Keeper's Quarters represents a relatively intact group of quarters. The buildings demonstrate the typical configuration of lighthouse quarters buildings. The light station location with its exposed, dramatic and remote location is impressive due to its considerable aesthetic power. It strongly reflects the maritime history of the colonial era and clearly demonstrates its contribution to the development and establishment of navigational aids in Victoria.