Let’s face it, we are “lighthouse lovers” - we travel around the world to see lighthouse. I try to blend pleasure with business travels to see lighthouses, and that was what happened when I lived in Tasmania, Australia, in November and December 2002. Where, you ask? Tasmania — that little island-state of Australia in the lower right corner, west of New Zealand. That’s Tas!
With a total population of 480,000, Tasmania is the size of Ireland (roughly 198 x 64 miles) and has a climate similar to New York State. Corde Nast magazine for world travel in 2002 listed Tasmania as 4th among the top-10 most temperate climate islands in the world. Tasmanians claim their island is similar in scenery to New Zealand, but much less crowded. More than 40% of Tasmania is declared “World Heritage Forest” Area, and nearly a third of the state is protected within 14 national parks. Over 200,000 people live in the seaside capital city of Hobart in the southeast section of the island (reminded me of a small San Francisco: beautiful harbors, cosmopolitan setting and culture, and homes nested along hillsides around the city). Another 100,000 Tasmanians live in the second largest city, Launceston, in the north-central section of the island (it was actually from here where settlers left Tas because of overcrowding, crossed the Bass Strait, and established the city of Melbourne!). Connected by the major highway (Rt. 1), these two cities are friendly rivals (e.g., drink only Cascade beer, Australia’s oldest brewery, in Hobart, but only J. Bass in Launceston).
My journey to Tasmania began in 1999. I am a Professor of Psychology at DePaul University (Chicago, IL) and after 20 years of teaching, I planned on my first sabbatical (i.e., paid research leave) for several months. I wanted to use my skills for a community-based project in a foreign site, and through the internet I contacted a gentleman affiliated with the Tasmanian Knights of the Southern Cross (KSC). The mission of KSC is to improve the well being and standing of their organizations in local communities by conducting and supporting educational, charitable, religious, and social welfare work. Tasmanian Knights operate Southern Cross Care, Inc., Tasmania, a residential program with accommodations and care/support services for over 800 aged residents in nursing homes, hostels, independent living units, and home care throughout the island but concentrated around Hobart and Launceston.
In September 2000, my wife and I traveled to Tas for a week so I could make a presentation at an international conference and meet the Board of Trustees of SCC (Tas), to discuss mutual interest in assessing volunteer and staff programs. In November 2002, I returned to conduct that SCC (Tas) research project. The experience was incredible, and for six weeks I lived among some of the most friendliest people I ever met. My wife and children joined me in mid-December 2002 and together we enjoyed a “holiday-holiday” down under: 9 nights in Tas, 8 nights along the Great Barrier Reef, and 3 nights in Sydney.
In this article, I focus on the lighthouses visited during these two short trips to Tas. There are 38 major and minor lighthouses along the coast of Tasmania and its accompanying islands (e.g., King Island, a major dairy producer of some world class cheeses; and Flinders Island, producer of beautiful sheep wool goods). In our travels, my family and I visited 10 lighthouses:
Cape Bruny Island Lighthouse (South Bruny Island; built 1838; 44 feet tall, 339 feet above sea level; fourth lighthouse built in Australia, and up to 1996 the second oldest still operating from the same tower). My wife and visited Bruny Island in 2000, when we took a road trip south-east of Hobart to visit the lighthouse. We drove past quaint towns and villages and took the ferry from Kettering to North Bruny Island, continuing across a narrow (beautiful) causeway through Adventure Bay to South Bruny Island. What a sight, what a view, what an experience to see the seas leading toward Antarctica.
Derwent Light, originally called “Iron Pot” (entrance to the River Derwent in Storm Bay; built 1832-33; 55 feet tall, 65 feet above sea level; second light built in Australia, and the oldest still operating from the same tower). Iron Pot (as the locals still call it) is not accessible unless by boat but when my family and I tried to visit by sailboat of a friend from Hobart, the tides were against us. Instead, we took a seaplane and flew over the small one-acre, rocky slab of an island making it clear how this lighthouse was essential to navigation to early settlers. If you visit Tas, be sure to taste “Iron Pot” wine — delicious.
Point Home Lookout (Triabunna; built 1971; 57 feet above sea level; built to replace a difficult-to-access older light). One day, while traveling around to visit some of the SCC (Tas) nursing sights, my host Gary took me to dinner in Triabunna and from there we visited the lighthouse. Call me old fashioned, but modern lighthouses of concrete do not share the same lure as older houses that stood the test of time. The purpose of this house is to guide ships that bring chips to Triabunna in the production of wood products.
Cape Tourville (Coles Bay, Freycinet Peninsula; built 1971; 126 feet above sea level; also built to replace the older light that was difficult to access). Freycinet National Park is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and it contains Wineglass Bay — continuously voted one of the top10 beaches in the world. Its true - rugged peaks, red granite rocks, turquoise water, and white sweeping sands. It took nearly two hours to walk to the lookout overlooking the Bay and then another couple of hours to walk down to the actual bay — but it was worth it. It was my wife’s birthday when we visited this east coast park that included the lighthouse. The light is very modern, but the view from its peninsula was spectacular; well worth the tired muscles and aching body the next day.
Low Head (Low Head, outside of Georgetown; original built in 1833; current built in 1888; 43 feet tall, 142 feet above sea level; has the only foghorn in Tasmania). On a sunny spring day, after sleeping in Bicheno, where fairy penguins surrounded our cabin at dusk, we drove north to Georgetown through wine country. A white tower with a single wide red horizontal strip, Low Head is at the mouth of the River Tamar toward Launceston. We had a wonderful picnic, soaking in the sun and sights of the sea.
Mersey Bluff (outside of Davenport, on the north-central part of the island; built 1889; 51 feet tall, 122 feet above sea level). Another white tower but with several red vertical stripes, it is considered one of the most easily recognized lights in Australia and looks similar to a light in Sydney. My host and I stopped for a quick visit one day as we traveled up from SCC (Tas) sights along the north coast to sites in Launceston. Tasmanians stop here because it is easily accessible and a popular picnic-spot overlooking the Bass Strait.
Entrance Lights - Davenport (at the entrance of the River Mersey; built about 1960; 9-16 feet above sea level). These two lights are simple box-shaped structures that sit along the river to signal the way for ships including the “Spirit of Tasmania” connecting Melbourne to Tas by overnight ferry (an experience I wish we had).
Round Hill Point (on the north coast west of Burnie toward Davenport; built 1923; 30 feet above sea level). This tiny, white stump-of-a-light guides ships into the Burnie harbor and is so small I yelled, “stop!” to my SCC (Tas) host as we drove comfortably along the northern coastal highway. I got out and took a quick photo along before we continued.
Table Cape (accessible by road from Wynyard; built 1888; 82 feet tall, 300-400 feet above sea level). What a location! This white tower is perched on top of a bluff, surrounded by farmland. Moreover, in the spring this area is a producer of tulip bulbs and growing flowers (remember, in the western corner of Tasmania is the world’s “fresh-air” gauge that tests levels of pollution for the entire globe - the air is fresh here!). The colors of the tulips were incredible, and to see a lighthouse off at the end of the farmlands was breathtaking.
Well, that is my travel jaunt to Tasmania lights. Although many tourists from Europe and Asia visit Tas, not many Americans travel to this island state of Australia. Furthermore, I noticed that interest in lighthouses by locals and tourists was not a major attraction. My family and I, however, would love to return to see our friends and to travel further around to see natural wonders we missed this last trip. And I have more lighthouses to see.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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