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Stay in a lighthouse hotel in Australia
They used to guide ships, but now the maritime marvels are opening their doors to travelers
There are 350 lighthouses standing tall along coastal cliff tops around Australia and many have now been converted into hotels.
In the past, these maritime relics protected passing ships in the night and through fog, shining a beacon of light to guide sailors through treacherous seas.
But the country’s lighthouses were deactivated in 1983 following the introduction of satellite navigation technology. These days, most are managed by various national parks and wildlife services and their heritage-listed grounds open to the public.
But why visit for a day when you can play lighthouse keeper for a nautical night in a beautifully refurbished keeper’s cottage? With panoramic views over the ocean, a cottage to yourself and utter isolation, what’s not to love?
1. Byron Bay Lighthouse and Cottages, New South Wales
Byron Bay’s lighthouse stands sentinel on the clifftops overlooking Cape Byron, Australia’s most easterly point.
That means you’ll be the first person on the continent to watch the sunrise. It’s also a good vantage point to spot migrating humpback whales breaching in the distance.
It’s a little slice of serenity away from the hippie vibe of the nearby boom tourist town.
The painfully beautiful Wategos Beach is only a short stroll from the two renovated self-contained cottages, which offer total privacy to bunk down in overnight.
Both contain three bedrooms sleeping a maximum of six per cottage and each is fitted with all the essentials -- even a washing machine and a barbecue for the day’s catch.
Byron Bay Lighthouse and Cottages, Cape Byron, +61 (0)2 6685 6552, rates: $1,100 for a three-night stay in off-peak season.
2. Cape Otway Lightstation, Victoria
The café at the Cape Otway Lightstation is a popular pit stop for travelers driving along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and a welcome break for hikers tackling the 104-kilometer Great Ocean trail.
It clings to the cliffs above the Bass Strait, with sweeping views over the ocean.
But the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia is also a magnet for maritime history buffs. Visitors can explore the World War II bunker, old telegraph station and shipwreck relics.
To top it off, there are even creepy ghost tours. But don’t let paranormal sightings of a four-year-old girl spook you from staying overnight.
The charming heritage accommodation includes the head lighthouse keeper’s cottage which sleeps six, or the Manager’s B&B, which is perfect for a couple. Complimentary Devonshire cream tea and scones on arrival sweeten the stay all the more.
Cape Otway Lightstation, Cape Otway, rates: from $225 midweek for a couple, +61 (0)3 5237 9240; lightstation.com.
3. Smoky Cape Lighthouse, New South Wales
The octagonal-shaped Smoky Cape Lighthouse sits proudly on the Hat Head National Park, a short drive from the sleepy coastal town of South West Rocks.
Built in 1891, the cottages are newly-renovated and managed by caretakers Wendy and Pat Halverso, who provide their guests with bed and breakfast in the head lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
Wake in the morning to eggs on the veranda overlooking the vista, or if you’re an independent type, cook them yourself in one of two self-contained cottages, kitted out with all the essentials for a weekend getaway, including books and DVDs.
The grounds straddle a pristine portion of the coast with some wonderful walking trails. So pack comfy shoes and a swimsuit to make the most of the surrounding bush land and beaches, such as North Smoky Beach and South Smoky Cape Beach.
Smoky Cape Lighthouse, +61 (0)2 6566 6301, rates: bed and breakfast from $150 a night and cottages from $500 for a two-night midweek stay, www.smokycapelighthouse.com
4. Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, New South Wales
A few hours' drive north of Sydney, Seal Rocks is celebrated for its rolling surf breaks, a cute colony of Australian fur seals, peaceful Myall Lakes National Park and the iconic Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse.
There are three heritage cottages just beneath the lighthouse, set above a manicured lawn with toothpaste-white picket fencing. They have a bird's-eye view of the glorious coastline panorama, from Crowdy Head in the north to Port Stephens in the south.
Though guests might want to spend as much time as possible gazing at the view, the interiors of the accommodation are just as beguiling and wouldn’t look out of place in a design magazine. Luxury furnishings and plasma televisions are topped off by modern kitchens that even a chef couldn’t fault.
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, Seals Rocks, +61 (0)2 4997 6590, rates: from $300 per night in winter (minimum stay two nights), sealrockslighthouseaccommodation.com.au
5. Kangaroo Island Lighthouses, South Australia
Lighthouse aficionados have not one but three lighthouses to explore on Kangaroo Island.
Each were instrumental in navigating migratory ships during the hazardous voyage from Europe to Adelaide, as they caught the “Roaring Forties” winds from Cape Town to Australia.
On the rugged eastern tip, Cape Willoughby hosts South Australia's oldest lighthouse, which was built in 1852. On the western side of the island, there's the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and also the Cape Borda Lighthouse.
The canon at Cape Borda Lighthouse -- used to alert ships caught in fog -- carries on the same tradition, firing every day at the traditional hour of 1p.m.
All the lighthouses share dramatic sea views and are perfectly positioned to explore the island’s parks, trails, seal colonies, as well as kangaroo and koala spotting.
The array of accommodation suits any budget, from beautifully restored lighthouse keeper's lodges, cabins and cottages to Cape Borda’s very basic Woodward Hut (no bathroom) -- a steal at only $22 a night.
Lighthouses at Kangaroo Island, +61 (0)8 8553 4410, rates for self-contained cottages from $165 per night for two in off-peak season to $206 in peak season, environment.sa.gov.au
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