I'm a freelance writer who lives on the Bellarine Peninsula. I enjoy finding new things to see and do in the beautiful area that I live in.
Most of us don't consider the important role that lighthouses play in our lives, especially those of us who don't live on the coast. Just think about how many ships and small boats sail into our harbours each day- without adequate warning from the lighthouses that man our coastline, I'm sure that there would be a lot more boats running aground or smashing into cliffs. Even if this is not so much the case nowadays, with high-quality navigation instruments on board, it was definitely a concern back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Which is why, over the weekend of the 17-19th August 2012, Cape Otway Lightstation (just outside of Apollo Bay) will be celebrating lighthouses and the people who have worked in them throughout the years. As the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia, the iconic Cape Otway Lightstation has prevented hundreds of collisions between sea vessels and the coast since its construction, and is a highlight of the Great Ocean Road tourism industry.
The Cape Otway Lightstation lighthouse (with thanks to Kelly Cooke)
The weekend will kick off on Friday 17th, with a performance by Geelong duo Shirley Power and Colin Mockett in their show Hit The Road Digger. Playing at the Apollo Bay Mechanics Hall at 8pm, this musical and historical show tells the story of the Great Ocean Road, and the man behind its 14-year construction. As the world's longest war memorial, the iconic Great Ocean Road is also one of Victoria's most famous tourist-attractions and plays an important role in the history of the Cape Otway Lightstation. Bookings are essential for this live performance, and you will also receive a finger food supper with your ticket. This is a great opportunity to watch a fantastic performance that features history, humour, a little bit of drama, and a selection of popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for concession and $15 for students and are available at the Lightstation or from Galapagos Bookstore in Apollo Bay.
'Hit The Road Digger' will be playing at the Apollo Bay Mechanics Hall. Image from flickr.
On Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th, Cape Otway Lightstation will play host to the Lightkeepers' Games. From 10am to 4pm, groups of four will be able to compete for the chance to win from a fantastic range of prizes. And why wouldn't you want to have a go with the prizes that are on offer? You have the chance to win an Otway Fly Zip Line pass (valued at $460), surf lessons with Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak (worth $220) or breakfast at Beech Forest's Ridge Café (to the value of $80), and all for four people- so each person in the team is a winner! Some of the events include a 5-legged race, a rocket launch, a lightkeepers' lunch tossing and a signal flag decoding challenge. These activities are suitable for all ages and abilities, and if you're flying solo or in a pair, groups of four can be arranged for each competition. The Lightkeepers' Games are guaranteed to be a fun event for participants and spectators alike, and the range of prizes are a further incentive to get involved.
There will also be a range of activities running all day Saturday and Sunday where you can explore the Lightstation grounds and learn more about the history of the place. The lighthouse will stay open until 9.30pm on Saturday, giving you the opportunity to tour the grounds after dark, or you can take a self-guided tour and explore the Telegraph Station, WWII Radar Bunker, shipwreck relics and historical displays (including the Lightkeepers' Cottages). You can follow the Aboriginal Cultural Trail, which has connections to the Gadabanud people, visit the old cemetery, and, of course, climb to the top of the lighthouse, where a trained guide will greet you. 'Characters of the Cape', a performance that runs most days at the Lightstation will be appearing all weekend, where you will have the opportunity to see a part of history played out. The performances tell the stories of several early pioneers whose lives are influenced by the Lightstation, and showcase the early history of Cape Otway and its inhabitants. There will also be weather station tours and, if you're lucky, you might get the chance to see whales, which often frolic in the coastal waters nearby during this time of year.
Pat Howell, a former lighthouse keeper who you can meet at Cape Otway Lightstation. Image from www.lightstation.com
As part of the festivities, there was also going to be a Titanic Theatre Restaurant, to be held at the Lightkeepers' Café on Saturday night. Unfortunately, due to staff illness, this has been postponed, but the café will still be open for meals and drinks throughout the weekend.
If you're looking for a great day out, and something just a little bit different, the International Lighthouse Weekend is the event to go to. Set in the picturesque Otways, along the Great Ocean Road, there will be plenty to see and do, and you are guaranteed to have an enjoyable experience.
Where:Cape Otway Lightstation, Great Ocean Road, VIC
Cost:Normal admission prices (although for this weekend only, if you buy a ticket on Saturday, you can return on Sunday for free). Adults $18.50, Concession $16.50, Children (school students) $7.50, Family (2 Adults and 4 Children) $46.50
I love lighthouses and have visited quite a few in Australia. Cape Otway is one of my favourites and a great place for stopping off along the Great Ocean road. You can even stay in the lighthouse keeper's cottage, something I'm looking forward to doing in the future. Great article, Catherine.