Saturday, 26 April 2014

Illuminating the darkness when all other lights go out

My love of lighthouses goes a long way back.
Some of you might remember my post early this year about our trip down the peninsula, here.
Since I spied Cape Schanck Lighthouse in the far distance, I’ve often mentioned a special day trip to see it.
A month ago, hubby came home and surprised me with the news that he’d booked a night’s stay... at the lighthouse!

Well, we’re back from our unique and exciting visit.
This will be a self indulgent, lighthouse image heavy post. Some photos are a little grainy, as they were taken at dusk and dawn, and other times, the wind buffeted my attempts to keep my little camera as still as possible in my hands.

Hubby had the week following Easter off, and we were booked in for mid-week.
I’d been biding my time oh so patiently until, finally, the day arrived.
I was as giddy as a schoolgirl at a Bay City Rollers concert (circa 1975) – now, that dates me, doesn’t it?

Totally assured that Jack was in good hands – our son and his lovely girlfriend. And, after a very long, furry cuddle, we set off, leaving them with a list of care/food instructions and emergency phone numbers.

As the weather at Easter was overcast, I was a little worried that the grey would stay. But, as we drove further down the coast, the clouds cleared, and turned into a very pretty day.

Gotta love a road trip :)

Two hours later, my heart leapt and my stomach flipped, when I beheld the red-capped beacon as we drove onto the property.
There it stood.  Cape Schanck Lighthouse.

One of the oldest (still) active, and best maintained, lighthouses in Australia.

We would be staying in the cosy Inspector’s Room,

adjoining the old Head Keeper’s Cottage.

The grounds were bustling with visitors. Even a classic Jaguar club arrived in the afternoon, each owner vying to place their car in the best photographic position in front of the lighthouse.

Finding it hard to contain our excitement, we dropped our bags off at the cottage and made our way up to the star of the show -
the lighthouse.


 And, out to the viewing platform nearby, to marvel at the deep blue rocky view.

A tour of the ex-Assistant Keeper's Cottage, now museum, was included in the cost of accommodation.

We spent a good hour among old lighthouse machinery and equipment, viewing photographs and reading the history of the light station, its keepers and their families over the years.

By 4pm each day, visitors must leave. After that, only guests staying at the cottages remain, and the fenced property is then locked.
Should there be the need to go out for a drive or dinner after that time, a key to the securely padlocked gate is provided.

Apart from one other couple who were staying in the cottage behind the museum at the other end of the grounds, we had the place to ourselves!
Private. Isolated. Peaceful.
Just us, the ocean and the lighthouse.
Give me that over a noisy, busy, populated resort any day.

We explored the vast area and enjoyed the views from different vantage points until late into the afternoon.

Biding our time until sunset, we crossed our fingers that clouds wouldn’t obscure the sun, and hoped that we would be rewarded with a fiery spectacle.

Choosing to save our pennies for a hearty fireside breakfast at our favourite little café in Flinders the next morning,

Flinders Bakehouse Cafe

we decided to have an early dinner of instant cup of soup/noodles and a slice of bread.

Sitting at the little table outside our cottage, we ate in silence and listened to the sea in the near distance.  Calling.

Suitably rugged up, we stood in anticipation on the platform as time drew near.

The sun slowly dipped over the horizon, painting the lower sky in flame coloured hues, as a purple tinted dusk drew near.

We stayed for a while, exclaiming at the ever-changing glow.

Then, we took a long walk on a dirt track, past tangled trees,

to get a different perspective of the lighthouse.
Watching in awe, as the remnants of the day greeted the coming night.

In that very special liminal time and space.

With its light guiding our way in the darkness, we walked back to the lighthouse.

We stood, peering out over a now charcoal coast, lost in our own thoughts.
The handsome white-washed silent sentinel keeping us company.  Its tall thick walls ghostly pale in the torchlight.

Sending out reassuringly bright beams out into the inky blackness - just as it has for over 150 years - while the waves crashed ominously and relentlessly over the rugged rocks below. 

Finally, we said goodnight to our watcher of the dark, and retired to our old cottage.

After our busy day, sleep came quickly.
In the middle of the night, I awoke and adjusted my eyes to the ebony gloom of a strange room.
The wind had picked up and was playing a mournful tune around the windows, as it pulled at the old net curtains with unseen hands.
Deliciously eerie.

We got up before the light of dawn.
With our hands wrapped around mugs of hot tea, we glimpsed bush creatures snuffling in the shadows just beyond the cottage porch light.

Greeting the lighthouse, we welcomed the new day – blustery, drizzly and misty.

In the growing silver-grey light, we decided to follow the dirt track and head further onwards to the 350 metre long wooden staircase and boardwalk.

We’re nothing if not intrepid.  Standing at the top of the damp and slippery stairs, we debated as to whether we'd descend.
We did.
The biting wind clawed at our hair and threatened to rip away any apparel that wasn’t well secured.

But, there’s something that makes one feel, ALIVE, in such situations.
Every one of our senses was tingling.
And, just for a moment, it felt as though we were the only people left on earth. At that hour, in this strange, remote location.
Just we two, the elements and the distant lighthouse keeping vigil.

Looking back up the boardwalk, there it stood. The powerful lantern still shining in the dim, early morn light.

At the very end of the boardwalk is a tiny bay, or pebbled beach, with a most haunting atmosphere.

The dark basalt (volcanic) rock which makes up most of the rugged coastline around the cape, adds to the mysterious vibe.

Standing at the very tip of the cape, in the near distance, you can see the aptly named Pulpit Rock, which sits upon a large tidal platform known as The Devil’s Desk.

This coastal monolith is a photographer’s dream, and has been the subject of many stunning photographs in all light, and at all times of the day.
Best reached at low tide – which, at the time we were there, it was not.

Over millions of years, rocks have been pounded and tumbled by unrelenting waves to create a mass of smooth dark stones of varying shapes and sizes.
The sound of the pebbles rolling around as the water surges backwards is indescribable, and almost unnerving.

I have attempted a very short video of the beach here, and at 32 seconds in - after the second wave - you can almost hear the stones tumbling in the surf, just above the wind.

Rogue waves are known to sweep in suddenly and, threaten to sweep unwary spectators into the rolling surf.
This wild, unpredictable and treacherous stretch of coastline has seen many wrecked ships before the lighthouse was built in 1859.

Although, it is of course, far more hospitable to the marine residents that dwell within it's depths.
Seals, fairy penguins, whales, gulls, albatross, myriad fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus - to name just a very few.

We carefully made our way back up the long boardwalk and up the track to our now familiar limestone sentinel.

Its light dimming as the leaden clouds slowly gave way to a soft blue, and the promise of another cool, yet sunny day.

A few more lasting moments gazing across Bass Strait, and out to the Southern Ocean, as the wind began to die down, and the tide ebbed further away from shore.

Finding it very hard to tear myself away from the handsome landmark, I sadly made my way back to pack up and tidy the cottage room.

One more race up to the lighthouse.
Patting the cool, white exterior and stretching my eyes upwards, I whispered,

Driving home, the briny scent of the sea lingered in my nostrils and the kiss of salty ocean spray mingled with tears on my cheeks.

We will return.

He will always be here.  Standing at this place of history, mystery and magic.
Where stories are told. And, some un-told.

Just one more...


  1. How absolutely magical.
    A perfect gift, to hug to yourself.
    Goodbye? No. Farewell - and hopefully not for long.
    Loved the post, the photos, and am stifling my sense of envy.

    1. Ahh, but you have that all magical Antarctica experience - one rarely shared by many in this world. Your photos EC, I must confess, I've returned to look at on more than one occasion - especially in the summer :)

      And yes, "farewell" be more fitting. Even a few days later, I still fancy I can hear the ocean waves in the quiet of the night.
      It's only a matter of time.

    2. How lovely to hear that you enjoyed Antarctica with me. If you would like, I could send you the photos by email. Let me know which ones and I would be happy to send them on.

    3. Thank you EC. And, after reviewing your archives, I love the images from your blog dated Tuesday, December 4th 2012. Titled, "Another Antarctic Post".
      Even now, I gasp at the sheer raw, wild beauty of nature in this pristine world. You captured it all so well :)

  2. What a spectacular place! I enjoyed taking a look back at your trip with you:) I agree, desolation vacations are the best, time to rest the mind.
    You would love our state of Maine, rocky coasts and lighthouses everywhere. Such mysterious sentinels!

    1. Thanks for coming along Tracey :)
      From what I've seen, Maine looks like a very beautiful place. Picture perfect.
      And, imagine having access to so many stunning lighthouses in close proximity!
      I'd love to do a tour of the world's lighthouses - I'd be away from home for years.

  3. Oh! I've just finished reading "The Light Between Oceans" by ML Stedman, which was set in a remote island lighthouse in Western Australia and here you are actually staying in a real lighthouse! I've always been fascinated by lighthouses as well as by their remote locations. It is probably the romanticised idea of living on an isolated island and being responsible for keeping the light going to save all those souls at sea. Through storms and gales and ice and sleet and snow..

    I know all of the lighthouses here in Sweden having sailed up and down the coast for many years and look to them as both landmarks as well as a welcome sign that we are near our destination. I see them as places of comfort and safety - an anchor to the real world.

    What a wonderful holiday destination - and such stunning photos of the location. I even got a little teary hearing the pebble beach sound - we don't have that sound here. I hope it isn't a final "Goodbye" and that you'll be back to embrace the atmosphere again.

    1. I've just checked the book out online, Marie. It sounds like one I'll have to read. Thanks for telling me about it.

      Sailing the coast of Sweden, and looking out at the lighthouses sounds divine! Do you have photos you could post on your blog one day? I know I'd love to see them, and the coastline.

      Yes, I hope to visit our sentinel one day again, in the near future. Fingers crossed.

  4. You have a thing for lighthouses!! Some people love teapots, old spoons, furniture, but I love that you
    have a thing for lighthouses! lol. It's great. Love your pics too, I have never much thought about lighthouses
    but you have thrown a new 'light' on my thoughts about them. Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers, Anita.

    1. Thanks Anita!
      It certainly was an experience I'll never forget. And, I hope to create more memories there again one day soon.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

  5. What a gorgeous post! Thank you, Vicki, for sharing it. I've always wanted to stay at a lighthouse, now I sort of feel like I have, thanks to you. Such a beautiful area of coastline, and all your photos are wonderful, especially the panoramic shots. And the sunset photos took my breath away...the colors and the quality of light you captured...spectacular! Now, I'm going back to look at everything again...



    1. Thank you, Victoria. It's not often that I get to see and photograph sunsets. I was worried my hands wouldn't stop shaking from excitement and the photos would turn out blurry :)
      It was a spectacular experience!

  6. Your photos are stunning! There's a few that took my breath away, the deep blue rocky view, the lit lighthouse on top of that black cliff...I love the wooden walkway too.
    Taking photos in buffeting winds is a real challenge isn't it? I remember a blustery, choppy, ferry ride around Sydney Harbor a few years ago.

    1. Thank you River. It was a wonderfully surreal place to be.
      The wind can play havoc when taking photos. Concentrating on keeping still hands is quite the challenge, I agree.

  7. no words.
    just no words. tears of joy somehow. you saw it for me and shared it so well. the pictures so beautiful.
    i'm glad there was a spectacular sunset. and even more glad that the next day dawned grey and misty and blustery. lighthouse perfect.
    thank you dear one! ♥

    1. It really was perfect, Tam.
      To be able to stay in such an atmospheric place of history and wild beauty was a true honour.
      And, the caretakers have done such a tremendous job - a labour of love - in ensuring it stays that way.
      A little slice of history to be experienced and savoured.

  8. Like Tammy, I'm all teary-eyed! LOVE lighthouses too! And I've often wanted to stay in one as well. So happy you got the chance, Vicki! Thank you for taking us along... *swoon*... look at those views! What a beautiful adventure to remember! I hope you'll get to go back... and stay again! :o) ((HUGS))

    1. So happy you enjoyed the post, Tracy. It was every bit as wonderful as the images portray.
      Next time, I'll take photos of the inside of the lighthouse.
      I hope it's not long before we go back too :)

  9. What a gorgeous gift from your hubby. The best kinds of gifts, the ones that leave you not wanting to leave :)

    1. A gift for both of us, really. And, a great tonic it was.
      The lighthouse seemed to have a persona all its own.
      Not surprising at that age. Quite magical.

  10. this is my first visit here, I have bookmarked your blog because I enjoyed my visit so very very much, what an amazing experience to stay at the light house, thank you for sharing such amazing images,

    1. Hello Laurie, and, thank you for your lovely words. You are always very welcome here :)


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