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Cape Nelson Lighthouse was officially lit in 1884 after the building had been delayed by difficulty in obtaining suitable bluestone for the project.  The stone that had been originally quarried from close by soon ran out and consideration was given to completing the tower with steam bricks from Melbourne.  However, suitable stone was found at a location eleven kilometres away.  But there was no direct road and the stone had to be carted via Portland, a distance of twenty-one kilometres.  The blocks at the base measured six cubic feet each. The outside walls were constructed to taper from 7 feet at the ground to 3 feet 6 inches half way up, and then to 2 feet 6 inches nearer the top.

As the tower was being constructed, other buildings were also established. These included a store, two stall stable, fodder room, cart shed, lightkeeper's detached cottage and assistant lightkeepers semi detached cottage. The lightstation grounds were enclosed by a rubble wall 1.75 metres high, 0.4 metres wide and 435 metres (1450 ft) long surrounding the keepers quarters and extending out to the light to protect the keepers from the harsh winds. This tower is believed to have replaced an earlier square wooden tower built in the 1870's.

Telephone communication between Cape Nelson and Portland was established in 1884. Also at this time, an auxiliary light (or 3 mile warning light) was added to the base of the tower. In 1907, a new incandescent lighting apparatus was installed - this was 4 times more powerful than the original light, throwing out a light equal to 2,000 candlepower. The light used ordinary kerosene which was converted into gas.

In 1934, the old system of lighting was replaced by an electronically controlled group flashing light of 608,000 candlepower. The power was drawn from a local power plant, and a motor in the lighthouse automatically controlled the timing apparatus by a clock system.

In 1971, the light was converted to run off 240V mains power. In the event of a power failure, a diesel generator was also installed. Today, the light has a range of 22 nautical miles and its white light is approximately 850,000 candlepower. The light stands 250 metres above sea level and consists of a group flashing 4 times every 20 seconds. The tower has 129 steps to the top, and stands at 24 metres high.

Location: 38 26' S 141 33''E
Nearest Town: Portland
Operator: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Built: 1884
Automated: 1995
Structure: Round bluestone tower, painted white
Open to public: Yes - entry fee
Access: Sealed road
Accommodation: Yes - Lightkeepers buildings
Character: White, group flashing 4 every 20 seconds
Lens: Chance 4th order, 3.6 metres
Light source: 250mm catadioptric rotating lens
Power source: Mains power with diesel generator backup
Intensity: 850,000 candlepower
Height: 32 metres 
Elevation: 75 metres
Range: 39 kilometres

* Cape Nelson Lightstation
* Lighthouses of Australia Inc
* Lighthouses: Australia
* Howes, M. et al (1999) "Victoria's National Parks - Explorer's Guide", See Australia Guides Pty Ltd
* Reid, G. (1988) "From Dusk to Dawn: A History of Australian Lighthouses", AGPS


Photographed by K. Eggleston, 24 April 2000 Kristie Eggleston

Road to lighthouse

Lighthouse keeper's cottage

Lighthouse keeper's cottage

My sister Jen at the base of the tower

Me at the base of the tower

Jen on the balcony

The tower's shadow overlooking the sea

The lens

The keepers' buildings viewed from balcony


The Cape Nelson Lightstation is 13 kilometres south of Portland, Victoria.  Portland is located about 360 km from Melbourne - a 4 hour drive SW of Melbourne via the Princes Highway.

Refer to regional map at Wilmap for greater detail.

The Lightstation and its accompanying facilities are run by a private organisation. Accommodation is available in the Lighthouse Keepers buildings, and the old stables and workshop have been converted into a licensed cafe, where meals are served for those people staying in the keepers quarters.

The road leading to the Lighthouse is sealed; the cafe is open to day visitors, and there are toilet facilities available. Access to the reserve is by tour only, with an entry fee applying.

Cape Nelson Lightstation
PO Box 1030
Portland VIC 3305
Ph: (03) 5523 5100
Fax: (03) 5523 5166
Email: enquiries@lightstation.com.au
Website:  www.lightstation.com.au


Cape Nelson Lightstation website Parks Victoria

Lighthouses of Australia Inc ABC South West Radio
Grant & Tracey's Lighthouse pages Great Ocean Road
Garry Searle's Lighthouses Australia BABS Accommodation
Portland Now Great Ocean Road Highlights

Page last updated:  27 December 2003

Copyright 1999-2003 Kristie Eggleston. All rights reserved.
Email: kristie_eggleston@hotmail.com