Kangaroo Island sits off the southern tip of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. Well known for its wildlife, natural beauty and artisan food, Kangaroo Island’s rugged coast also has a lot to offer lighthouse devotees. Kangaroo Islands lighthouses are at Cape Willoughby on the east coast and Cape du Couedic and Cape Borda on the west coast. They are both a fascinating glimpse into the island’s maritime history and a spectacular sight on some of the most remote parts of Kangaroo Island.
Each of Kangaroo Island’s lighthouses and the lightstations they were part of, offer something different to visitors. Below is our full lighthouse guide. We’ll tell you how to get to them, a bit about their history and things to do at the lighthouse. Read about lighthouse accommodation options and other things to do in the area.
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- Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
- Cape Borda Lighthouse
- Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse
Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
25 minutes from Penneshaw
Cape Willoughby Lightstation is the closest lighthouse to Penneshaw. Look for the brown signs as you come off the ferry. They will get you onto Cape Willoughby Road which runs along the coast of the Dudley Peninsula out to the Lighthouse. The first part of the road is sealed, the rest is compacted base and suitable for 2WD. It is a scenic drive with views across Backstairs Passage as you pass Antechamber Bay and Lashmar Conservation Park.
The lighthouse is in the Cape Willoughby Conservation Park. Built in 1852, the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in South Australia. It was also one of the last automated with the lighthouse keeper only moving out in 1992. The 27m tall lighthouse sits atop the Cape Willoughby Cliffs and looks over the treacherous water of Backstairs Passage.
In case it comes up at your next trivia night, the name Willoughby was bestowed by English explorer Matthew Flinders. It doesn’t recognise a favourite crew member or Lord of the time, but the name of a village in the English county of Lincolnshire. The village of Willoughby is near the east coast of England and a place of great natural beauty which is perhaps why he chose the name.
Things to do at Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
There are quite a few things to do at the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. There are two guided tours. The Historic Lighthouse tour runs twice daily at 11.00 and 2.00 or the Express Tours that run throughout the day. Prices start from $10.50/adult for the 20 minute express tour and up to $17 for the 45 minute Historic Lighthouse tour. Both tours involve climbing the 102 steps to the top of the lighthouse. History buffs can hear a few more stories on the longer tour.
There is also a small visitor centre and museum that has photographs, exhibits and objects that paint a picture of life at the lightstation. It is also here you can book your tours and arrange access to the Cape Willoughby Lightstation Heritage Hike. And if you like to collect souvenirs of your lighthouse visits, there is a small gift shop.
A fun activity to do here is the Cape Willoughby Lightstation Heritage Hike. The 1.9km loop hike takes about 1 hour. Collect a map and follow the markers from the visitor centre around the ruins of the original lightstation settlement. There is a bit of a slope as you go up and down the gully, but the map and signage give you a great insight into life at the lighthouse.
Even if you don’t do the walk there are panoramic views from around the lighthouse over Backstairs Passage and back towards Cape St Albans. Keep an eye out between May and October, you might spot a passing southern right whale.
Full Day Kangaroo Island Guided Tour
This full-day guided tour takes in the highlights of this unspoiled natural paradise. Visit Seal Bay Conservation Park, Vivonne Bay, Flinders Chase National Park, Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch among other spots to see native animals including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, goannas, echidnas, fur seals & more.
Lighthouse Keepers Heritage Accommodation
Lighthouse accommodation is a popular option and is available at Cape Willoughby. There are two cottages at Cape Willoughby – the Seymour Cottage and Thomas Cottage. Both are fully self-contained and can sleep up to nine guests. Bookings can be made through National Parks SA and reduced rates from May to the end of August
The cottages are being refurbished in May 2022 as part of a $5million investment into the Cape Willoughby precinct so check availability.
Read More : Kangaroo Island Caravan Parks & Camping
Things to do near Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
While you are visiting the Cape Willoughby Lightstation, you might want to check out these nearby attractions:
- Antechamber Bay – Go for a walk, swim, or try fishing at this beautiful 4.2km long beach
- Chapman River – This is a great spot to launch a kayak and take in some of Kangaroo Island’s birdlife
- Dudley Wines – Try some wine, have a meal, even swing a golf club as you relax on the balcony of this cellar door in Cuttlefish Bay. From the deck you get some of the best views on Kangaroo Island.
Cape Borda Lighthouse
1 hour 40 minutes from Penneshaw
By their very nature, lighthouses are often in remote locations and that is certainly the case for the Cape Borda Lightstation. Cape Borda is on the northwest corner of Kangaroo Island in Flinders Chase National Park. The lighthouse looks over Investigator Straight. Even if you are coming from Western KI Caravan Park it is still 50 minutes to Cape Borda.
Whether you are coming from the east or south you will end up on the unsealed Cape Borda Road for the last 30km of your journey. The last part of the road can have corrugations and be slippery in wet weather. The road is subject to closure in very wet weather. If you are in a 2WD it is worth double checking the road conditions before heading out.
Built in 1858, the Cape Borda Lighthouse has the distinction of being the only square lighthouse in South Australia. The station was automated in 1989 and still operates today.
Things to do at Cape Borda Lighthouse
There has in the past been a museum and guided tour available at the Cape Borda Lighthouse, but they are not currently available. Affected by the 2020 bushfires, the tours and canon firing that were a highlight of a visit to Cape Borda are yet to return.
You can still do a self-guided walk around the lightstation. It takes you around the lighthouse, museum, the generator house, Woodward Hut and the restored signal canon. There is also the short 1km Cliff Top Walk that has views over Investigator Straight.
Lighthouse Keepers Heritage Accommodation
Since the 2020 fires, accommodation at Cape Borda Lightstation has been unavailable. Previously there have been three options. Flinders Light Lodge that sleeps up to 6 or the smaller Hartley Hut or Woodward Hut. Keep an eye on the availability of these as recovery from the fires continues. Their remote location, views and evening wildlife make them a special place to stay. Fingers-crossed they are available again soon.
Kangaroo Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour
Kangaroo Island has plenty to offer everyone. On this full day tour, visit one of the island’s vineyards, honey farm, Spirits Distillery, Eucalyptus Distillery and The Lavender Farm. Enjoy wine tasting, gin tastings, lavender scones and gourmet lunch.
Things to do near Cape Borda Lighthouse
Most of the other activities to do around Cape Borda relate in some way to the lightstation.
- Return Road Hike – This 9km, 3 hour moderate hike goes from the lighthouse to Harvey’s Return Campground. It traces the track used to get supplies to the lightstation from Harveys Return. The walk takes you through bushland and past the Lightkeepers Cemetery. Take a detour to Scott Cove Lookout, continue to Harveys Return and marvel at how hard it must have been getting supplies to the lightstation.
- Historic Drive – If you do not fancy the walk, you can also drive to the cemetery, Scott Cove Lookout and Harveys Return.
- Snorkel adventure – If you are up for a tough walk, scramble down the path at Harveys Return with your snorkelling gear. At the beach, swim around the rock ledges to spot giant blue groper. Save some energy to walk back up. It’s hard work, but a lot of fun for confident snorkellers.
Read More : Snorkelling Adventures in South Australia
Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse
1 hour 45 minutes from Penneshaw
If we had to pick a favourite lighthouse on Kangaroo Island this would be it. Cape du Couedic Lighthouse wins for its remote, rugged location, sunset views, and nearby attractions.
The lightstation is in Flinders Chase National Park on the southwest coast of the Kangaroo Island. If you fall in the water here, the next stop is Antarctica. If you are coming from Western KI Caravan Park, it is a 25 minute drive on sealed roads. The drive includes a famous winding, wavy stretch of road that is a favourite on Instagram. Being in the National Park, you will need a park pass to get to Cape du Couedic.
Completed in 1909, the lighthouse here has the distinction of being the last one built in South Australia before the Commonwealth Government took over the management of lighthouses. Amazingly, access to the lighthouse by car/truck only became possible in 1940. Before then, supplies to the outpost were hauled up the side of a cliff a short distance away at Weir’s Cove.
Things to do at the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
There are no tours at Cape du Couedic lighthouse but there is a lot of self-guided fun to be had. The first thing to do is take the turn off to Weir’s Cove. This is where supplies came ashore, and you will have to see to believe the cliff face they negotiated to get material to the Lightstation. The remains of the jetty at the foot of the cliff are there along with the ruins of the storeroom, water tank and flying fox system. It is fascinating.
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse is not the only attraction on this part of Kangaroo Island, hence the enormous amount of carparking here. Admirals Arch – one of Kangaroo Island’s most popular sights is a short, spectacular walk away. Follow the signs and boardwalk along the coast. Make sure you stop and check out the seals resting on the rocks below. There are plenty of them, you will not have any trouble spotting them. The boardwalk ends at Admirals Arch, a spectacular feature in the sea cliffs.
The Cape Du Couedic hike is a 1.9 km, 45 minute loop walk around the lighthouse. You can access the trail from the upper and lower carparks. This walk brings your focus back to the lighthouse and the harsh, isolated environment the lighthouse keepers had to endure. It is a nice walk and less crowded than the clifftop walk to Admirals Arch. Keep an eye out for wildlife, you could spot goannas, kangaroos, and echidnas along the way.
Read More : Where to see Wildlife on Kangaroo Island
Lighthouse Keepers Heritage Accommodation
Like the Cape Borda Lighthouse, there is lighthouse accommodation at Cape du Couedic, but it is yet to re-open after the 2020 fires. There are three, three-bedroom cottages, the Troubridge, Karatta and Parndana, which have been faithfully restored down to the slate roofs they were originally built with. Keep an eye on the National Parks website for when they become available again.
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Things to do near Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
- Remarkable Rocks – Less than 10 minutes away, these orange lichen covered weathered granite boulders are an amazing sight set against the ocean backdrop.
- Hanson Bay – This beautiful beach is 30 minutes from Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. It is a great spot for a walk, swim and, if the waves are not too big a snorkel. The view is stunning.
- Sunsets – If you are after a great sunset location, try the road between Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks. The view looking west with the lighthouse standing tall against the dusk sky is sensational.
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