Griffith’s Island Lighthouse

Port Fairy, Victoria | C.1859

Photo Credit: Edward James

From indigenous Aboriginals to Australian whalers, Griffith’s Island has been home to many including the Griffith’s Island Lighthouse, built 1859. The island, off the southern coast of Victoria, Australia, no longer hosts any permanent inhabitants, but the lighthouse is still accessible as a popular tourist attraction.

While little is documented of the Aboriginals who used the island, it is known that the Gunditjmara people often visited and referred to it as Moleen. Known traditionally as river and lake people, the Gunditjmara were great eel farmers. Their territory encompassed 2,700 square miles including nearby present-day Port Fairy. Soon Australia’s whaling and shipbuilding industry took off, and the Island became a central factor in its success.

Named after John Griffiths, a Tasmanian entrepreneur who established Port Fairy’s whaling industry, the Island held a bay whaling station for a decade until 1843. Eventually the whaling station was abandoned and during the mid 19th-century, it was used as a mission for young Aborigines by Flora Dunlop, the widow of Victoria politician Alexander Dunlop.

The Lighthouse was soon built as a navigation aid to Port Fairy. The growing trading port city’s close proximity to the Moyne River necessitated improved navigability. The Lighthouse was built of local bluestone by Scottish stonemasons who laid each step stone by stone. Two keepers typically manned the Light, and the last keeper resided there until 1954, eventually giving way to an automated system.

Today, Griffith’s Island Lighthouse attracts both tourists and seabirds. A mainstay of the Island, it is popular for bird watching with the abundance of mutton birds that nest nearby. Although the keeper’s cottages were demolished in the 1950s, their original gardens still bloom with hardy flowers each year.

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