Australia's guiding lights
There are more than 350 lighthouses dotted around Australia's coastline, but not all are worth stopping the car for. Here are six of the best.
Cape Willoughby Lightstation
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
The road to this lonely 1852 lighthouse at the eastern end of Kangaroo Island winds through sheep-dotted hills before emerging on a wild promontory.
Winds howl, surf booms on cliffs and sunsets are spectacular. The neat and nautical lighthouse compound has two self-catering 1920s lighthouse-keepers' cottages - spacious, comfortable but basic. No fake antiques here, just scuffed furniture, creaking floorboards and a delightful pioneer atmosphere. Best experienced with friends.
Cottages for two A$212 (NZ$228), families A$257. Both cottages sleep eight; additional guests A$28 each.
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse Cottage
Seal Rocks, New South Wales
Built in 1875, this lighthouse provides three self-contained houses behind neat picket fences - two keepers' cottages and the larger Head Keeper's Cottage.
Sensitive restoration of the heritage properties retains blinding whitewash and historic appeal while adding designer style and chic kitchens. Sweeping views steal the show, however. Whales wallow, sea eagles glide on thermals, and sunsets over the bay are worth several drinks on the verandah.
Cottages from $340 for four, Head Keeper's Cottage from $420 for six. Additional guests $50. Two-night minimum.
Smoky Cape Lighthouse
South West Rocks, New South Wales
Surrounded by the bushland of Hat Head National Park and perched higher than any other east coast lighthouse, Smoky Cape Lighthouse provides wind-battered, glorious blue-and-white views.
Hunkered on the hillside below, two self-catering cottages sleep six. There's also an unusual (for lighthouses) B&B option, staying in one of two smallish rooms with shared bathroom in the former head keeper's cottage. Breakfast on the verandah is glorious.
Both cottages from $500 for two nights, additional nights $120. B&B from $220 for two, including breakfast.
Cape Byron Lighthouse
Byron Bay, New South Wales
Byron Bay's lighthouse stands on Australia's easternmost point, and this stay is more tame than some - you're surrounded by a car park and hordes of visitors.
Evenings are calm, however, and the winds at night provide the requisite wild atmosphere. Sunrise over the sweep of coastline is worth the early start. The two, three-bedroom Assistant Lighthouse Keepers' Cottages have heritage charm and backyard barbecues perfect for whale-spotting as you cook; in fact, you'll have to step outside to catch the best views.
Both cottages from $350.
Wilsons Promontory Lightstation
Wilsons Promontory, Victoria
This lighthouse stands out for its sheer remoteness on the southernmost occupied point of mainland Australia.
Bring your own food and bed linen (though you can rent duvets) but travel light, because everything is hauled on your back on a 19-kilometre walk to the lighthouse. Accommodation is in two granite cottages, each of which has a full kitchen, two bathrooms and dormitory-style bunk beds. Another cottage sleeps two. Evenings with new-found friends are often convivial, and well-earned sleep is no problem.
Shared cottages from $120 a person; two-person cottage from $325.
Cape Otway Lightstation
Cape Otway, Victoria
This popular Great Ocean Road attraction is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the mainland, commanding Bass Strait.
After the public is shut out at 5pm, the location comes into its own. There are two large houses of the former head lightkeeper (sleeping 16) and manager (15). Complimentary afternoon teas at the cafe on arrival are a pleasant bonus. Between May and October, sit on the verandah and watch whales swim by.
Houses $450 for two, then a sliding scale up to $1350 for 16. B&B option $225 for two.