This is a short island stroll that begins and ends with a spectacular helicopter ride. Ideal for a special celebration or treat!
After our safety briefing from the staff at Precision Helicopters, we strapped into our helicopter seats, put on our headsets and took off over Boambee Beach and the harbour. About 10 minutes later we were touching down gently on the island where we were met by a NPWS tour guide.
First stop is the lighthouse itself. Built in 1880 (despite the 1879 sign!), the lighthouse was manned until automation in 1975. We climbed the spiral stairs and took in the view from the balcony. South Solitary us one of only two island lighthouses off the New South Wales coast. The kerosene-fuelled optic was replaced by modern technology last century, but today you can see the original lens at the Jetty.
We wandered down toward the head lighthouse keepers house. Solid walls protect the houses from the worst of the weather – I can only imagine how terrifying an east coast low would have been for the islands residents. Water was collected in shallow drains – there is no natural water supply on the island. No trees either, but the ground cover includes some flowering Plectranthus. Friends of South Solitary Island (FOSSIL) had been doing some weeding, removing alien grasses. Wedge-tailed Shearwater (muttonbirds) nest here during the season, but are absent in winter.
We strolled further down, past the courtyard between the cottages where island children once played, past where an ingenious rubbish disposal slide was built, down to the remains of the landing platforms. We had a new perspective of the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk along the beaches and headlands, and across the sea to Mount Coramba, north to Clarence Peak and south Mount Yarrahapinni.
We imagined the lovestruck keeper sending morse code (the text messaging of the day) and rowing over to meet Maud Dammeral at her headland on the mainland.
The island is good for bird watching, and whale-watching, and turtle-watching. But while birds are free to come and go, it is only possible to visit on a tour with Precision Helicopters and NPWS. Thank you to our Discovery Ranger for a lovely relaxed tour chatting about lighthouses and a harsh lifestyle long gone, and enjoying being out on an island in sublime Solitary Islands Marine Park on a glorious sunny winters day.