Visitation surge a beacon of light for Cape Nelson

Word by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

What used to be simply a stopover hotel has now turned into a destination in and of itself following two years of restrictions and lockdowns.

Portland’s stunning Cape Nelson Lighthouse is seeing a surge in post-COVID visitation as more holiday-makers seek a remote escape by the seaside.

Lighthouse general manager Debra Craib says business has gone ‘gangbusters’ since restrictions eased.

‘We’ve always had a good occupancy rate, but since COVID we’ve seen a change in the length of night stays,” Debra says.

People want to go somewhere which is a bit more remote, so they have discovered us. We have had a lot of people saying they never realised we were here.

The Cape Nelson Lighthouse is one of Portland’s most popular attractions and also offers an accompanying suite of charming cottages all located on the Great South West Walk.

The Lighthouse itself remains operational by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, with its white group light flashing four times every twenty seconds and ensuring the safety of the seas.

The old on-site stables have been renovated into an eclectic cafe so visitors can soak up the serenity while enjoying some coffee, cake or a gourmet meal.

The Lighthouse also offers tours and ‘spectacular’ sunset views, with groups flocking to the area for whale watching, cycling tours, and to venture along the many seaside walks – further enriching the site’s allure.

While Debra says the Lighthouse has seen a decrease in interstate visitation as well as international travellers – which accounted for much of their business – she says holidaymakers from regional Victoria have loved discovering the cottages and the town of Portland.

‘We are only 70 kilometres from the border, so normally we would get a lot of visitors from South Australia, with our biggest clientele coming from overseas. They would do the Great Ocean Road, stay overnight and move onto Robe and Adelaide,’ she says.

‘But we very quickly welcomed Victorians who would travel the whole of the state, come in and stay longer.

‘In November, once Melbourne was set free, it was like a tsunami of visitors from the city.’

Cape Nelson Lighthouse is comprised of five two-bedroom cottages which have been refurbished to maintain their history, and styled with dabs of modern comfort.

Self-contained, the cottages sit brightly along the rugged cliffs of Cape Nelson and are overlooked by the towering Lighthouse.

Boasting a whole range of amenities and luxuries, guests can expect to stay in a quaint house aptly-doused with light and set to perfectly round off one’s beachside stay.

Debra says the property lease was taken over about 10 years ago, at which point the buildings were abandoned and derelict.

She says it was a long and arduous process to restore the cottages to their current state, but well worth the effort.

‘We went from being a backpacker’s hotel to winning the Victorian Tourism bronze medal for deluxe accommodation,’ she proudly exclaims.

Despite the recent surge of business, Debra says the road to post-pandemic recovery remains long.

But with bookings filling up fast next year, the future does not look so bleak.


WHAT: Cape Nelson Lighthouse
WHERE: Cape Nelson Lighthouse Road, Portland West

We wish to acknowledge the Gunditj Mirring people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.