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For many 19th Century immigrants, Cape Otway was the first land sighted after leaving Britain five months and 15,500 km earlier. The 84 kilometre gap between Cape Wickham on King Island and Cape Otway is known as the "Eye of the Needle", and is the Western entrance to Bass Strait. 

Due to concern over shipwrecks on the Bass Strait coast and King Island, pressure was exerted on the government to build a lighthouse at Cape Otway. Construction was begun by a local contractor in 1846. Access was a problem in establishing the lighthouse and after three attempts the Cape was finally reached by land.  A site was selected and after great difficulty a road was cut. Construction was taken over by the government in 1847 and completed in 1848.

The lighthouse is constructed of sandstone quarried from Parker River 5 kilometres away, is 20 metres high and sits on a cliff 100m above sea level. It was the second lighthouse constructed on mainland Australia.

Initially it had 21 parabolic reflectors, each with its own wick burning sperm whale oil. These were rotated by clockwork and it gave a single flash lasting 3 seconds every 53 seconds, which threw a beam 22 kilometres. Kerosene was later used to keep the light burning. Later changes included diesel generators, electricity, radio and global positioning satellites.

In 1859, one of the earliest telegraph stations in Australia was added to the facility, soon connecting Tasmania to the mainland through Cape Otway and Melbourne.

The Cape Otway Lighthouse was the oldest operational lighthouse with unbroken service on the mainland Australian coast until it was decommissioned in January 1994, with the introduction of satellite navigation systems, including a small solar powered beacon.  At the beginning of 1997, the Lightstation was leased to a local company, to operate for tours and accommodation.  Cape Otway celebrated 150 years of existence in August 1998. 

Tower light operation prior to deactivation

Location: 3851'S 14331'E
Nearest Town: Apollo Bay
Operator: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Built: 1848
First Lit: 29 August 1848
Automated: 1993
Deactivated: January 1994
Structure: Round sandstone tower, painted white
Open to public: Yes - entry fee
Access: Sealed road
Accommodation: Yes - Lighthouse Keepers buildings
Character: Triple flash every 18 seconds
First Order Fresnel Chance Bros
920mm focal radius catadioptric
1 revolution every 90 seconds
Mercury float
Light source: 1000W/120V 3000hr life tungsten halogen
Power source: Mains with diesel standby
Intensity: White 1,000,000 CD Red 4,000 CD
Height: 20 metres
Elevation: 91 metres
Range: 46 kilometres white light
39 kilometres red light

New GRP beacon

Location: 3851'S 14331'E
Nearest Town: Apollo Bay
Operator: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Built: 1994
First Lit: 1994
Structure: GRP hut
Open to public: As above
Access: As above
Accommodation: As above
Character: Triple flash every 18 seconds
Beacon: PRB 46
1 revolution every 36 seconds
Light source: 36W, 12V, Tungsten Halogen, 500 hr life
Power source: 12V supply powered by solar panels and batteries
Intensity: 87,000 CD
Height: 2 metres
Elevation: 73 metres
Range: 35 kilometres white light
28 kilometres red light

* Parks Victoria
* Lighthouses of Australia Inc
* Totaltravel.com: Cape Otway Lighthouse
* 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
* Ibbotson, J. (2001) "Lighthouses of Australia: Images from the End of an Era", Australian Lighthouse Traders


Photographed by K. Eggleston, 29 December 1999 Kristie Eggleston


The Cape Otway Lighthouse is located about 200 km south-west of Melbourne, via the Great Ocean Road. 

Refer to regional map at Wilmap for greater map detail.


The road leading to the Lighthouse is sealed, and there are toilet facilities, a kiosk, walking tracks, and interpretive signs and other information. An entry fee into the lightstation is charged.

The lightstation, with its accompanying facilities, is operated by Tourism Great Ocean Road Pty Ltd, a private organisation.  Accommodation is also available in the Lighthouse Keepers buildings.

Cape Otway Lightstation
PO Box 41
Telephone: (03) 5237 9240
Facsimile: (03) 5237 9245
Website:  www.lightstation.com
Email: keeper@lightstation.com


Lighthouses of Australia Inc Tour Victoria

Cape Otway official website Great Ocean Road Marketing
Grant & Tracey's Lighthouse pages Victorian Coastal Council
Parks Victoria ABC South West Radio
Garry Searle's Lighthouses Australia Totaltravel.com
Great Ocean Road Highlights

Page last updated:  29 December 2003

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