Historic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse & Water Wheel

Posted February 2013; re-posted May 2017

 

The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stands at the Southwest tip of Australia near the small town of Augusta. Just a short drive south from the Margaret River township, I was able to visit 3 of the region's caves on the way here and still made it back to town by sunset! The lighthouse looms over the rugged coastline at the meeting point of the Great Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean, where converging currents create dangerous sailing conditions.


When it was constructed in the late 19th century, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was the tallest in Australia and featured the largest kerosene wick lamp in the world! 

 

Builders had to excavate nearly 7 meters deep to reach bedrock and lay the foundation for this 40-meter tower, which was constructed by master stonemasons from local limestone. This region of Australia was quite sparsely populated at the time, which made the construction process a monumental feat.

This extremely isolated sentinel was operated manually until 1982 when the pendulum-operated kerosene burner was replaced with an electrically-powered halogen lamp. The lighthouse was and is considered an essential beacon for vessels passing around the cape due to the dangerous currents and conditions presented. The site's weather station has recorded invaluable climatic data over the years.

 

I definitely recommend visiting this beautifully windswept coastline if you are in the Margaret River area. Climbing the 186 steps to the top gives a panoramic view of the surrounding coastline, not to mention a nice little workout. This is particularly relevant for the tour guide, who ascends and descends them a dozen times a day! 

The immediate area has plenty to offer. Besides the quaint town of August, there are some great hiking trails, good fishing spots, and the famous Cape Leeuwin Waterwheel. Built just up the coast from the lighthouse, the waterwheel was constructed to deliver fresh spring water to the lighthouse builders and keepers. Over the years, the wooden structure has been encased in limestone, forever preserving this historical landmark (pictured above on left).