By Julietta Jameson
Head down South Australia’s 700km Yorke Peninsula and be continually surprised – it has some spectacular and unique attractions all along its twin coasts, one facing Gulf St Vincent on the east and the other Spencer Gulf on the west.
A sea – locked Troubridge Island
But none, perhaps, are more remarkable than Troubridge Island Conservation Park, a sea-locked lighthouse station.
Drive just under three hours from Adelaide to reach Edithburgh, where caretakers Judy and Chris Johnson own the lease on the property, take bookings and run shuttles out to the historic island.
They don’t run too many of them – the most amazing thing about Troubridge Island is you can have it all to yourself.
It only takes one party at a time. That’s because the beautiful island is also fragile – it’s actually a sandy shoal – and an important protected park for nesting seabirds, including little penguins, cormorants and terns.
There are regular pods of dolphins passing by and one resident Australian sea lion called Sammy.
But it’s also home to the original lighthouse and keeper’s cottage, where visitors to the island can spend a few nights, soaking up the feeling of being a world away.
Only accessible by boat, it’s a place of white beaches and deep peace.
The heritage-listed lighthouse keeper’s cottage today sleeps 12 in comfortable country fashion and features a big eat-in kitchen ideal for board games and long dinners with lots of laughs.
Bring your eskies and supplies on the boat across with you, as well as your own sheets and towels.
Judy and Chris have tried to keep the property as authentic as possible, but have introduced the mod-cons of a gas stove, fridge and microwave. The property runs on solar power and rain water.
It’s also a history buff’s dream.
Celebrating its 160th birthday in 2016, the last lighthouse keeper left in 1980, but from February 1, 1886, when it was first switched on, it shepherded ships away from treacherous waters.
More than 30 had been shipwrecked there due to errors in early mapping by Matthew Flinders.
Today, ships safely pass but still, the island is unstable and changing.
The seas move the sands constantly anti-clockwise and challenge the longevity of the structures on them.
Volunteers carry out regular conservation work to help the buildings survive.
The volunteers are now raising funds to get the lighthouse painted for its birthday and hope the state government will chip in.
That fragility makes it even more special, perhaps.
If planning a visit, keep in mind you can’t just rock up with your own boat.
Access is by permit only and permits are available from Troubridge Island Hideaway and Charter, the Johnsons’ business.
It costs $120 per adult a night and $60 per child a night, minimum two nights and minimum four adults.
The Johnsons also run two-hour day tours on demand and subject to availability.
Phone (08) 8852 6290.