Discover the magnificent lighthouses of Margaret River

Published Thursday, December 3, 2020 in Talking Local

See the sights and hear the tales of the lighthouses at
Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste.

Who doesn’t love a tale of the sea? Stories shrouded in mystery, about king waves, shipwrecks, mythical creatures and far-flung destinations? And then there are the structures that keep everyone and everything safe with their beacons of light emerging from the blackness of the night: lighthouses.

 

Although GPS has reduced the role lighthouses play, they still manage to evoke an intoxicating sense of secrecy and wonder. The region has two lighthouses – still operational – and both are exceptional Margaret River attractions for young and old alike. We asked the caretakers, Tod Kearns and Paul Sofilas, for their thoughts.

 

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse: Extraordinary views of two oceans

Soaring high above the windswept landscape near charming Augusta is the Australian mainland’s tallest lighthouse. Standing at 19m (but 56m above sea level; what a view from the top!), the word ‘leeuwin’ means ‘lioness’, so named after the Dutch vessel that chartered the coast in 1622. This was likely the first European ship to sail Australia’s south-west.

 

What’s really spectacular about this lighthouse is that two oceans converge at this spot, the Indian and the Southern, caretaker Paul Sofilas said. In fact, this windswept location was the inspiration for the novel and subsequent movie The Light Between Oceans.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta.

 

“Antarctica one way and Africa the other; think about all those people who have sailed the oceans for hundreds of years, all those people who are connected through having seen the lighthouse but would never know each other,” he said. “A lot of mariners say it’s one of the most dangerous capes in the southern hemisphere. Many have memories of going past in extreme conditions and they come back to visit the lighthouse that kept them safe.”

 

And considering its spot on the globe, the weather here can be a spectacle to behold.

Way up high - Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta. Image courtesy of Tim Campbell

Way up high – Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta. Image courtesy of Tim Campbell

 

“We’re metres from the water’s edge so you’re pretty close to the action,” he said. “We could be having cyclonic winds and you’re in the café having scones and tea. It’s like watching a TV program about a wild storm, but it’s real and you’re just a few metres from it. You’re safe though!”

 

What else is fascinating about Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse? It has been recording the weather since 1897, and it is where one of the largest passenger liners ever wrecked off the coast of Australia. It is also a fantastic spot to see migrating whales. During winter and early spring, humpbacks rest in the bay, sometimes hundreds of them.

 

“It’s a special place and we love to share it. And people are quite taken with it: all ages, nationalities, and whether you’re interested in history, the environment or culture.”

 

Discover more about Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

 

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse: Wildflowers and walking trails

You can easily drive to this lovely lighthouse from Yallingup or Dunsborough. Walk up and stand beneath the 20m cream-coloured structure, craning your neck and blocking the sun with your hand – it’s a breathtaking sight. It was made with local limestone and still houses the original Fresnel lens.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, near Dunsborough

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, near Dunsborough

 

This lighthouse hasn’t just had an important role for mariners. It was also the lifeblood to those on land. It supported the development of the Margaret River region by helping the logging industry to flourish and goods to be shipped as far away as India and England, site manager Tod Kearns explained. And it may come as a surprise to visitors that it is still a working lighthouse.

 

“People think lighthouses are redundant now that we have fancy GPS and satellite navigation, but this is a Category 1 lighthouse. It still works every night and ships still use it,” he said. “If satellite drops out, which happens quite a lot at sea, mariners fall back on lighthouses to navigate. They even use it to see if their GPS is accurate!”

 

There have been numerous wrecks along this coast. It was also part of a maritime incident, the rescue of the Carnarvon Castle crew in 1907.

 

“This was an English ship that sailed out of Liverpool,” he explained. “It caught fire between Africa and India and the crew abandoned ship into two life rafts, but they lost contact with each other. Three weeks after first abandoning ship, one of the boats washed up on our cliffs and were saved by the lighthouse keeper’s daughter.”

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, near Dunsborough

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, near Dunsborough. Image courtesy of Tim Campbell.

 

From the viewing platform, you have an incredible 270-degree view of dazzling ocean waters and the South West. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse is a great location for other South West activities too. This is a beautiful location for walking, bird watching (see everything from tiny, sweet wrens to large eagles) and mountain biking. Not to mention it is spectacular during wildflower season and you can also see passing whale pods here.

 

Discover more about Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

 

 

Margaret River region’s top attractions converge

A lot of careful planning and funds have been poured into both attractions in recent years. The lighthouses have renovated cafes and well-resourced interpretive centres that will appeal to all ages and interests.

 

If you’re looking for an organised tour in Margaret River to keep everyone engaged and happy for a few hours, this is a great option. And for an all-round outdoor adventure, consider walking a section of the stunningly beautiful Cape to Cape Track – in fact, the lighthouses mark the beginning and end of the 123km trail, which dotted with dramatic cliffs, ancient rocks, beaches, forests and wildflowers.

 

Planning a Down South getaway? Browse our portfolio of luxury holiday homes today.

 

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