To the lighthouse

To the lighthouse

Here’s the sec­ond part in our series on Kan­ga­roo Island’s his­toric lighthouses

The lucky win­ner of our Good Liv­ing com­pe­ti­tion will win a week­end get­away to stay in one of the her­itage-list­ed for­mer light­house keep­ers’ cot­tages at Cape Willough­by or Cape Borda.

Free from urban lights, Cape Borda’s night sky is daz­zling – with mil­lions of stars glis­ten­ing above while its light­house sends beams of light out to sea where six oth­er light­hous­es blink on the horizon.

Cape Bor­da light­house is sit­u­at­ed on the far north-west tip of KI, sur­round­ed by some of the high­est cliffs in South Aus­tralia. It was first lit in 1858 and is the last tra­di­tion­al­ly oper­at­ed light­house in SA. Although auto­mat­ed now, the light­house still has the old-style rotat­ing turntable with lens­es that focus a fixed light into sep­a­rate beams. From a dis­tance, its four rotat­ing beams appear as four flashes.

The archi­tec­ture is also strik­ing as this light­house is short and square rather than tall and round. As Cape Bor­da is 155 metres above sea lev­el it doesn’t need to be tall to be seen nor round to be strong. It is one of only three square, stone light­hous­es that exist in Australia.

It was an iso­lat­ed life on the Cape in the ear­ly days. With no road access to Cape Bor­da for near­ly 70 years, sup­plies came by ship once every three months. Harvey’s Return, 5 kilo­me­tres to the east, was the near­est place where sup­plies could be land­ed. There, a 150-metre-long, 45-degree rocky cliff face leads down to the water’s edge. Sup­plies were pulled on trol­leys through a horse-drawn cap­stan up the steep track and then hauled the 5 kilo­me­tres through the scrub to the lighthouse.

It wasn’t until 1933 – when two diesel motors were built onsite – that man­pow­er and horse­pow­er could be swapped for elec­tric power.

Being in such an iso­lat­ed place, light­house keep­ers and their fam­i­lies were com­plete­ly cut off. If some­thing went wrong, such as break­downs, machin­ery fail­ures, acci­dents or sick­ness, they were on their own. Many chil­dren were born on the site with­out any med­ical assis­tance. A few were still­born or sur­vived only a few days.

Despite the iso­la­tion and hard­ship there were amus­ing sto­ries. One horse learned to recog­nise the signs that the sup­ply ship had arrived. Know­ing that meant a cou­ple of days of hard work, he would wan­der away and hide in the bush­es. Anoth­er horse was tak­en by a light­house keeper’s daugh­ter when she left to elope. Yet anoth­er horse stole a fresh­ly baked loaf from the kitchen win­dow sill where it had been put to cool.

Vis­i­tors today can stay in Flinders Light Lodge, the lime­stone cot­tage that was once home to a light­house keep­er and his fam­i­ly. Accom­mo­da­tion is also avail­able in the reliev­ing keeper’s quar­ters Hart­ley Hut and the sin­gle-roomed Wood­ward Hut.

Light­house tours are avail­able and the 12.30pm tour includes the fir­ing of the orig­i­nal Roy­al Navy can­non, which was man­u­fac­tured in Scot­land in the ear­ly 1800s and lat­er used to assist sailors with navigation.

There is more infor­ma­tion about Kan­ga­roo Island and it’s nation­al parks on our website.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living