Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published March 19th 2017
The Only Real Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island
A real working lighthouse and not just a beacon, Cape Borda Lighthouse is the only one of the four on Kangaroo Island on which the lantern is still in service. It is the only square lighthouse remaining in South Australia and the third oldest of the State's remaining lighthouses. The history of this place is long and interesting but it's only one of many reasons to visit Cape Borda.
Cape Borda Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island - working since 1858 (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
1. Tour the Only Real Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island. The 45 minute tour includes the lighthouse and the museum. Mick, the resident ranger and our very animated guide, made this tour akin to theatre show.
The lighthouse was built in 1858, its role to guide ships arriving at South Australia on the Roaring Forties Trade Winds route into Investigator Strait and on to Adelaide. The 10 metre high square shape accords it more stability than the traditional round lighthouse. A taller round structure was not required as the cliff top on which the lighthouse sits is sufficiently high.
The Cape Borda Lighthouse Complex (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The lighthouse operates a Deville lantern room, only one of three left in South Australia. Access to the lantern room is not permitted but a window floor in the lantern room enabled us to see the lantern.
The Lantern Room at Cape Border Lighthouse viewed from below (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Mick explained the history of the lighthouse and the complex. He demonstrated the use of a sexton and explained how mariners in the 19th Century calculated latitude and longitude. The lighthouse now runs on electricity and we stood beside the very tall and impressive back up batteries. A history of the lighting methods was supported by examples of old lamps and we heard about the jobs of the earlier keepers.
2. The Daily Canon Firing. This small cannon was originally installed at Cape Borda to be fired in foggy conditions as a warning to ships and to give the appearance of a military presence. Apparently, there were concerns about Russian ships. The canon was restored in late 1999 and is fired daily at 1.00pm during the 12.30pm tour.
The canon at Cape Borda Lighthouse is fired every day at 1pm (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
3. Visit the Museum. The museum features historic lighthouse equipment as well as photos and artefacts testifying to early life at Cape Borda. An information board tells the story of the difficulty of landing supplies onto the beach and hauling them up the cliff at Harveys Return. A photo of the double track down the steep incline attest to the hazardous nature of the task back in the mid-1800s. Other displays include tools, household equipment, radios, whale bones and gardening implements.
The museum at Cape Borda (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
4. Stay in the Keepers Heritage Accommodation. Visitors can stay at the lighthouse complex in one of three restored cottages. Flinders Light Lodge is a three bedroom homestead originally built in the 1930s for the lighthouse keeper. Harley Hut is a one bedroom cabin and or Woodward Hut is a bunkhouse for two. Imagine staying in this quiet and remote location and seeing the lighthouse beams up close at night. You may even have kangaroos grazing in the paddock beside your accommodations. Take supplies with you as it is a long way to the nearest town. The cottage are run by National Parks SA. To make a booking or enquire about accommodation ring (08) 8553 4410 or email KIParksAccom@sa.gov.au
Heritage accommodation at Cape Borda Lighthouse (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
5. Follow a Walking Trail. The Cliff Top Walk which commences between the carpark and the store is a 1km return walk of around 30 minutes. The lookout provides sweeping views of Investigator Strait. This is marked as a moderate walking track, but be aware, it is mostly rock with a very uneven walking surface.
On the Cliff Top Walk (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Harveys Return Hike, 3km east of the Lighthouse Complex is a 1.5km return walk of around one and a half hours. In the early days, supplies arrived by boat and had to be hauled up the cliff at Harveys Return. Rated as hard this hike follows the trail used by the lightkeepers to collect the supplies. The beach is now an area of geological interest and those who make the journey will be able to view the distinctive zebra rock.
Zebra rock from Harveys Return in the museum at Cape Borda (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
6. Enjoy a Drink and a Snack in Glorious Surrounds. The store sells tea, coffee, pies, sausage rolls and ice-creams as well as a selection of souvenirs and postcards. While we waited for our tour to start we sat on the bench outside and enjoyed an ice-cream. Small colourful birds flitted about in the trees behind us and we could hear the buzz of beetles passing.
7. Learn Something in the Reading Room. Next to the store, a reading room allows visitors to look through a variety of maritime and historic records. The walls are lined with photos and maps.
Sweeping landscape views from The Playford Hwy (yes I said Highway) on route to Cape Borda, Kangaroo Island (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
8. Have a Picnic. If you've been organised enough to bring a picnic you will find a covered shelter just off the main path at the start of the Cliff Top Walk.
9. Visit the Lighthouse Keepers Cemetery. Officially named Harveys Return Graveyard this is the resting place of sixteen people who lived at the Cape Borda Lighthouse Complex. Captain Woodward, the first head keeper was buried here in 1858. The graveyard is 3km away from the Lighthouse Complex. Our tour guide explained that the limestone ground on the Cape is unsuitable for burial. It becomes saturated in heavy rains and the bodies could float to the top. We travelled to the Cape by road but in the early days, the only access was by ship at Harveys Return.
The Lighthouse Keepers Cemetery (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
10. Admire the Scenery at Scott Cove Lookout. Scott Cove Lookout is along the road between Harveys Return and the Lighthouse Complex. From the off road carpark overlook Scott Cove on the north coast of the island and the highest cliffs in South Australia.
Cape Torrens Cliffs, the tallest on the island, from Scott Cove Lookout (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
11. Enjoy the Wildlife. Although our visit was short we spotted a variety of birds including fairy wrens and black cockatoos and spotted a small lizard sunning itself on a rock. Others have reported seeing kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and goannas. These sightings are more likely at dusk.
Cape Borda is rich with wildlife. (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Location: Cape Borda is at the western end of the Playford Highway on Kangaroo Island, 103kms from the main town of Kingscote. The toad is sealed except for the last 23kms which is a dirt road. We drove it with a 2WD in good weather and although passable it was corrugated. At some times of the year this road might be better travelled in a 4WD. Kangaroo Island is accessed via the Sealink Ferryhttps://www.sealink.com.au/ from Cape Jervis. The ferry terminal is around 115kms and an hour and a half's drive from the Adelaide CBD.
Times: The Lighthouse Complex is open Friday to Tuesday and daily during SA spring, summer and autumn school holidays. Tours run 11.00am, 12.30pm and 2.00pm Friday to Tuesday and 11.00am, 12.30pm, 2.00pm, 3.15pm and 4.00pm during school holidays. The canon firing is conducted on the 12.30pm tour. Flinders Chase National Park is open from sunrise to sunset 7 days a week, except Christmas Day.
Contacts: The Cape Borda Lightstation can be contacted on (08) 8559 3257, Parks SA on (08) 8553 4465 and Kangaroo Island Visitor Information on 1800 811 080. Heritage Accommodation bookings and enquiries can be made by ringing (08) 8553 4410. For more information go to the Parks SA website.and download the park brochure.
Cost: Costs for the Tour and Museum are (Feb 2017) Adults $16.00 Children $10.00 Family $42.00 Self-guided tour and museum $3.00 per person. Accommodation options range from $50.00 per night for the Spartan Woodward Hut.
Why? To enjoy this serenely remote, picturesque and historic area.
When:The Lighthouse Complex is open Friday to Tuesday and daily during SA spring, summer and autumn school holidays. Tours run 11.00am, 12.30pm and 2.00pm Friday to Tuesday and 11.00am, 12.30pm, 2.00pm, 3.15pm and 4.00pm during school holidays.
Phone:Cape Borda Lightstation (08) 8559 3257 Parks SA (08) 8553 4465 Heritage Accommodation (08) 8553 4410 KI Visitor Information 1800 811 080