WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF AN 1800s LIGHTSTATION KEEPERby TRISH GOODLET
When people visit the Cape Otway Lightstation, they are astonished at the wild, isolated and dangerous life experienced by the keeper, his staff and families.
The Lightstation, which stands majestically on the tip of Cape Otway on the Great Ocean Road, offers a unique opportunity to see first-hand the lifestyle of a lightstation community.
If you listen carefully in the wild, whipping winds, you might hear the whispers of forefathers from the sea-bedded shipwrecks…and the ghosts of former light house keepers, still keeping a watchful eye on their precious lamp.
Here are 4 ways to appreciate the life of a lighthouse keeper:
1. Follow the keeper’s footsteps
The lighthouse’s stairway has counted thousands of footsteps since it was built in 1848. Climb to the top and see the room as it was when the last keeper; Peter Scott, sat at the desk to fill out his log in 1994.
Fast fact: Henry Bayles Ford was the first and longest serving lightstation keeper from 1848-1878.
2. Feel the power of nature
Nothing brings you closer to nature than stepping out on a lighthouse balcony…especially in the peak of winter when the wind speed can exceed 100km/h. Then, look below to see the waves crashing against the ragged cliff face. You’ll appreciate the responsibility that the lighthouse keeper had when guiding passenger and cargo ships through to Australian waters. Personally, I think the windier it is, the more exhilarating the experience!
- The highest wind speed recorded here in recent years was 176km/h
- The worst wreck at Cape Otway was in 1869 when French ship ‘Marie Gabrielle’ collided near Moonlight Head, carrying a cargo of tea from China to Melbourne. Most of the crew were saved and a number of the survivors spent a month at the station recovering.
3. Learn the lightstation lifestyle
You can walk through the original lightstation precinct and buildings, which was incredibly isolating for the keeper, assistant keeper and their families. Supplies were only sent in about once a year. In 1878, assistant keeper William Evans was forced to live in a temporary shack built from discarded iron sheeting, whilst his quarters were being repaired. And, in 1943, the tiny population woke to find a storm had blown a shed over the cliff! Tough times, indeed!
4. Enjoy a cuppa by the open fire
There’s no doubt that the lightstation community treasured their big open fires and a good cup of tea…and so will you! After your tour of the lightstation, you’ll also welcome the warmth of a log fire warmth in the original Assistant Keepers Quarters.
Today, as our café, we serve great coffee and cake, home-made soup and other delicious hearty meals. The views from the café are spectacular, and, if you’re lucky enough, you might see a Southern Right or Humpback whale breaching. What a wonderful way to relive Victoria’s maritime history.
- For more about the Otways, visit our dedicated website
- To explore the Otways by foot, check out the Great Ocean Walk
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Other attractions in the Otways
Let him describe the history, landscapes and the flora and fauna of the Otways as he shuttles you along the Great Ocean Walk via the Great Ocean Road.
Cape Otway Lightstation
Cape Otway Lightstation is Australia's most important lighthouse. The light established in 1848 is perched on towering sea cliffs 90 metres above where Bass Straight and the Southern Ocean collide.