Cape Otway Lighthouse
Cape Otway Lighthouse
Celebrating its 171st birthday back in August, the Cape Otway Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australian and is a symbol of the maritime history of the Shipwreck Coast. Labelled ‘The Beacon of Hope’ it was constructed in 1848 to help the navigation of migrant ships through the treacherous waters off the coast, which Explorer Matthew Flinders once described ‘I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline’. The lighthouse and Cape Otway were for thousands the first sight of land after leaving Europe, Asia and North America for a new life on the other side of the globe.
The site of the lighthouse was chosen by then superintendent of Port Phillip, Charles La Trobe who after 3 attempts and with the help of local Aborigines and settlers, finally made the difficult journey through forests, rivers and deep ravines. Construction took 10 months with stone sourced by the local Parker River 5km away and transferred by oxen. The lighthouse lantern was manufactured in London and transported via small boats across the violent surf. The light mechanism consists of 21 polished reflectors and lamps mounted on a frame.
Once the construction of the lighthouse was completed, Lightkeepers were in charge of maintaining the light produced, ensuring a higher chance of survival for incoming ships. The Head Lightkeeper kindled the light at sunset until 10pm, while assistants were in charge between 10pm and sunrise.
Over the years the Lighthouse and Cape Otway coast has witnessed up to eight different ship wrecks including the famous Loch Ard in 1878 that was unable to see the lighthouse due to heavy fog and the SS City of Rayville in 1940 that turned out to be the first American vessel sunk during World War II when it was struck by a German mine.
During the winter to spring months, the lighthouse is a great vantage spot to view migrating whales breeding and socialising off the coast before heading off to feed in the sub-Antarctic waters. 25 species migrate past the lighthouse including Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales and Killer Whales.
Cape Otway Lighthouse attracts thousands of visitors each year to learn about it’s amazing history and soak in the incredible coastal views. During each day guides host history talks as well as bush tucker trails that highlight the rich Aboriginal culture of the area. You can also visit the 1850’s Keepers Quarters and 1859 Telegraph Station as well as a WWII Radar Bunker built in 1942 to keep watch for any enemy aircrafts. You can grab yourself a coffee and snack at the Lighthouse’s Café and Souvenir Shop.
A visit to the Cape Otway Lighthouse is a must for any keen visitor who wants to immerse themselves into the rich history and sights of the Great Ocean Road.