The Fog was heavy as we stood at the top of Cape Otway Lighthouse, but as it cleared we were meet with a majestic view of Victoria’s glorious coast.
We were on our last day of a glorious weekend along the Great Ocean Road we spent previous days walking Sheoak Falls and Swallow Cave. Spending the morning roaming the grounds of Mainland Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse seemed to be the fitting end.
We were concerned about how much we would be able to see from the top of the lighthouse that sits 90m above the clear blue waters of Bass Strait. But Cape Otway light station did not disappoint. As the fog cleared, the smell of the salt water infused the air, we knew we had made the right choice.
Cape Otway Lighthouse is affectionately called the “Beacon of Hope” and when you begin to understand how many hundreds of lives were lost along this stretch of ocean, that is known as “Shipwreck Coast”. You can understand why.
Cape Otway Lighthouse
Built in 1848, it stood as a beacon for all those 19th-century migrants who had spent months travelling by sea from places like Europe, Asia, North America. It stood tall on the point where the Southern Ocean crashes into the Bass Strait. Whilst it still stands tall, it was decommissioned back in 1994, and replaced by a low solar powered light, situated right in front of the lighthouse. However, the history of the lighthouse lives on.
Eight vessels were still lost whilst the Lighthouse was operational, The Marie(1851), the Sacramento(1853), Schomberg (1855), The Loch Ard (1878), the Joseph H. Scammell (May 1891), Fiji (September 1891) and the Casino in 1932. The first American vessel sunk during World War II, the A class “SS City of Rayville” SS was also sunk off the Cape by a German mine in 1940. However, many more would have run into trouble without the bright Light guiding them safely through.
The Cape Otway light station was the longest running continuous light on Australia’s mainland, but it was also so much more. It was the location of the telegraph station that ran between Tasmania and Victoria in 1859. (Unfortunately only for 6 months as the underground submarine cable only lasted that long). Then became the Lloyds signal station, allowing people in Melbourne to be made aware of all the vessels passing by.
It was the location of the top-secret World War II radar bunker, and I found the history of it fascinating. I never realised how many mines were laid just off the coast of Melbourne, Mines that would sink Allied ships. I never realised 268 lives were lost when a hospital ship the AHS Centaur was hit by a torpedo on May 14, 1943.
I learnt about the Yokosuka E147 float plane, a plane assembled on the deck of the Japanese 1-25 submarine, that surfaced just off the coast of Cape Wickham lighthouse. This float plane would be launched from the submarine in February of 1942 and fly over Cape Otway lighthouse, Point Lonsdale lighthouse, Portarlington, Laverton RAAF base, Melbourne, Dromana, Cape Schank Lighthouse and land back in the Bass Strait to be collected by the Japanese submarine. This all happened a few months before the radar station was operational.
It is also home to some fascinating history of our indigenous culture.
It is also the perfect location to visit between May and October when 25 different species of whales, migrate past the lighthouse shadow.
We walked the grounds looking at the dinosaur museum, with the hundred other tourists but the grounds are big enough that you still felt like you had room to explore, room to move around.
We sat at the quaint little cafe eating our Devonshire tea as we watched the fog roll past the lighthouse, then watched it clear just to roll through again.
We marvelled on how lucky we where to see a Koala clamber across the road on our way to the lighthouse.
We decided that the Cape Otway lighthouse was definitely somewhere we would come back to, the next time we wandered down the Great Ocean Road.
Important Information about the Cape Otway Lightstation
The Cape Otway Lightstation encompasses the Cape Otway Lighthouse, the Keepers Quarters and Workshop, the 1859 Telegraph Station,
Aboriginal Talking Hut, WWII Radar Bunker, Whale Interpretation Site and Lightkeeper’s Cafe and Souvenir Shop.
General Admission prices
Child: $7.50 / Adult $19.50 / Family: (2 Adults 4 children) $49.50 / Concession: $17.50
Pre-school Children: FREE
Hours of Operation
9am – 5pm (entry closes 4:30pm)
CLOSED CHRISTMAS DAY
Extended hours – 26th December – 14th Jan
9am – 6pm (entry closes 5:30pm)
Daily History Talks at 11.00am, 2.00pm and 4.00pm
Daily Bush Tucker Talks at 12noon and 3.00pm
Have you been to the Cape Otway lighthouse? Where are some of your favourites places to visit on the Great Ocean Road?
Also, make sure you check out some of the other great locations along the Great Ocean Road