If I thought Maffra was remote, it’s city living compared to Point Hicks. Well, they are night and day really. It took us four hours to get to Point Hicks, an hour of that was over a corrugated dirt road – and totally worth it.
Rich and I have wanted to stay at a lighthouse for a long time. I don’t know if we put it on our Living List (but I need to amend that list!) but it’s one of those things that every time we visit one, we always say ‘wouldn’t it be cool to stay overnight?’. Most lighthouses in Australia have lightkeeper cottages which can be rented for a night or two. Some have a minimum of a week. Some, like Montague Island, charge $3500/night to stay. Granted you have to get there by boat and you have the island to yourself for the night, but still… that’s pretty outrageous.
Which is what has always prevented us from staying in a lighthouse – the cost. Until now. Let me clarify that: We have finally found a lighthouse stay that we can actually afford.
Just south of the N.S.W. border & part of the Gippsland area in Victoria is Point Hicks. This was the original point that Captain Cook’s crew sighted when they first sighted Australia. They actually thought it was part of Tasmania. But, it was 1770, so we’ll cut them some slack there.
It was named after the crew member who sighted the point.
In 1880, a lighthouse was built and a rotation of a head lightkeeper and two assistant lightkeepers manned the point. A head lightkeepers cottage was built, and a larger house, split into a duplex to create two living quarters was built as well.
We stayed in neither of those.
We couldn’t afford the assistant lightkeepers cottage. The main one is used for the lighthouse caretaker.
So what did we stay in?
We stayed in the Point Hicks Lighthouse Bungalow. We believe it was a storage / office building back in the day, but it’s been converted into a very cozy one bedroom cottage of it’s own. It was located right behind the lighthouse itself so you don’t have the expansive views that the cottages have, but we were lucky. For our first night, no one else was staying, so we could leverage the verandah on the cottages to our hearts content. And we did! Most of our time was outside, exploring the headlands, taking (lots of) photos, getting the lighthouse tour.
That is until the front hit where wind gusts and pelting rain kept everyone inside. One of the cottages was booked out for our second night. We barely saw them and vice versa. While the winds outside were blustery and cold, our pot belly stove kept us cozy indoors. We managed the day just fine, with some offline work, reading books and even attempted a jigsaw puzzle (and failed miserably due to time constraints!)
Even though we wanted to be outside to explore the coastline, it was the perfect way to spend such a day. Rich still braved the elements, here and there, but was happy to return to that heat.
There is still a lightkeeper or caretaker here. During our visit, that happened to be Jane. She was awesome. During one of our many chats, Jane was telling me that the caretakers here do a month on/two months off rotation. There are three caretakers in all. They do all the weather tracking, make sure the lighthouse is functional (it’s automatic now), manage the cottage bookings, including cleaning, supplying firewood etc.. and manage the nearby campground. I’m sure there’s a lot more as Jane seemed pretty busy but we were well taken care of.
So, part of the deal with the Bungalow is that our bathroom is not within our cottage. It’s actually a few steps outside in it’s own little room. Fine when it’s lovely, but ah, a bit of a challenge in the middle of the night when it’s cold and windy.
And, if you lock yourself out. Like Rich did the first night we were here…at 2am. The best part about this story, apart from seeing his skinny naked legs as he waited for me to open the door, is that he didn’t come inside immediately. Instead, he said ‘Come outside. The stars are amazing!’
We had been waiting for a good night for stargazing since we started travelling. I’ve been waiting to see the stars in a remote area on a clear night. I remember, going back to my farm days, looking up into the sky on a clear night and the stars being so bold and so vivid that you felt like you could just reach up and touch them. The Milky Way seemed… right there. This night was like that, but not quite that close. Still, the sky was absolutely chockers with stars. Finally a good night for stars, but still, it was 2am and it was bloody freezing!
When we did our tour with Jane of the lighthouse, she told us a little of the resident ghost. I’m not put off my ghosts at all. In fact, we had a (friendly) ghost at my family’s farm (stories for another day). We had read a little about The Ghost ofKristoferson, in the guest binder in our bungalow. It was interesting, yet sad in a way. It was rumoured he’d been washed off the rocks while setting crayfish pots. While they searched for 6 days, his body was never recovered.
But he remains at Point Hicks. People have heard him walking around the place at night, doing his rounds no doubt. He wore particular boots, hob nail, that make a certain sound. Things have been moved, which only the lightkeeper’s have access to. He’s been known to polish brass around the place, one of his many duties.
While this all sounds like normal ghost activity, we asked Jane about recent experiences with Kristoferson.
She said that the phones tended to ring between the lighthouse and the lightkeeper’s cottages. They are old phones, no longer in use, that ring at odd times. No one is on the other end, of course and the lighthouse is locked when they ring. Lights tend to go on in the lighthouse too when no one is in there.
After our tour, I asked if the glassed lantern was still used, automated somehow. She said it was not. I asked if it moved anymore? She said only when it’s touched. I said that it was odd because as she and Rich had started to descend the stairs, the lantern started moving and I was well away from it myself. She just smiled and nodded. Kristoferson had been saying hello.
Staying at the Point Hicks Lighthouse was definitely a highlight of our already amazing road trip for me. It truly felt off the grid and I relaxed. Reading a book I’d been waiting to read. Sitting next to a fire that roared in the potbelly stove, listening to Mother Nature roar outside… it was incredible. And, I could check off a lighthouse stay off my own Living List.
I would totally do it again, ghost and all. It was an amazing experience.
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