I’ve always wanted to stay at a lighthouse.
These lonely, isolated outposts on remote coastlines have always intrigued me. Exposed to harsh weather, perched on cliffs or rocky outcrops, there’s a certain romanticism about them although I imagine they were also incredibly difficult places to live and work for the keepers who maintained the lighthouse. Stories of how they made most of their situation always intrigue me.
I finally got my chance to stay at a lighthouse recently at Wilsons Promontory, where the old lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been opened up to hikers.
Wilsons Prom National Park is about three hours drive southeast of Melbourne and is one of Victoria’s natural jewels. The coast and beaches are spectacular, as are the forests and bush you hike through to reach them.
The lighthouse cottages have been wonderfully renovated.
There are three self-contained cottages – the large, head keeper’s cottage, and two others, one for couples and another for groups.
My friend and I stayed in the old head keeper’s cottage, which has four bedrooms (I think) with bunk beds and a large kitchen, sitting room and showers and toilets. Luxury compared to my usual camping!
As we didn’t need to carry in a tent or stove, we had plenty of room in our backpacks for good food – no dehydrated stuff this time. We had smoked salmon pasta for dinner our first night and falafels and couscous the second night with nice cheese and crackers and pastes for nibbles. Lunches were wraps with cheese, cured meat and fresh salad stuff.
Another reason for staying at the lighthouse were its resident wombats. Wombats are one of my favourite Australian animals and the opportunity to see them wondering freely around the cottages was something I couldn’t resist. And I wasn’t disappointed, as you’ll see in the photos.
It’s quite a slog to get to the lighthouse. We took the most direct route, from Telegraph Saddle, along the dirt service road used by rangers. It doesn’t go all the way to the lighthouse though thankfully. The final 3-4km to the lighthouse is along a walking track that follows the coast through tall forest. Possibly the toughest part is the last 200-300 metres to the cottages, up a very steep concrete path from the rocks where stores used to be unloaded. It’s about a five to six hour walk in.
We arrived about 4.30pm and the wind was blowing strong and the ocean was rough. Thick fog came rolling in and the lighthouse almost disappeared from view.
The next day we did a 20km day walk to South Point, the southerly most point of the Australian mainland. It was a funny day weather-wise. To the west of the lighthouse the sky was clear, but to the east the fog hung heavy and thick. Out to sea you could hear the fog horns of passing container ships. The fog eventually lifted in the late afternoon and the views were clear when we had a tour of the lighthouse and climbed to the top.
Our third day dawned clear and the wind had died down. We had all day to get back to the car so we decided to walk back via Waterloo Bay and its beautiful white sandy beach. We had great views of the coast and looking back to the lighthouse, and saw a whale breaching in the distance. That was an unexpected bonus!
All that walking had one downside – blisters. I was wearing my Scarpas which haven’t been out for a while and it felt like I was breaking them in all over again. Not a good thing to do when walking 20km a day. By the end of the walk, heading up the last hill to get to the car at the saddle, every step was painful. My left small toe was the worst and it felt like a blister had formed on top of another blister if that’s possible. A week later and it’s finally gone down and back to normal.
But the trip was worth it.