A once a year extraordinary experience to visit a remote maritime outpost
A lucky handful of people will have the opportunity soon to visit one of the most extraordinary and remote lighthouses in Australia when helicopter tours of South Solitary Island resume for only two weekends in early August.
The tours are immensely popular but because of the combination of remoteness, weather and the timing of seabird nesting seasons they are only conducted in the first two weekends in August in what is now a decade long partnership between the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Precision Helicopters at Coffs Harbour.
NPWS Area Manager, Glenn Storrie, said it's a tour of the past as well as the present.
"It's just an amazing way to see the island, flying in from the mainland and once you've arrived a tour of this rocky outcrop will confirm just how hard it would have been to construct a lighthouse and the associated keeper's quarters.
"The tour will also take you back in time to when families lived here as permanent residents. It's a lifestyle that existed for more than a century and which does not exist anymore since the light station complex became automated and more recently the advent of GPS technology," Mr Storrie said.
Former island resident, Peter Ross, whose childhood was spent exploring the nooks and crannies of this ocean outpost with his siblings said of the tours that, "it really is a very special opportunity to see first hand just what it was like to work and live as a family in such an extraordinary place."
"We had a pump-fed sea water pool, a volleyball net strung up in the head keeper's cottage courtyard and regular games of cricket with Mum as umpire. We turned our Hills Hoist into a roundabout and built our own set of swings."
"My brothers and I constructed billy carts that we used to tear down the concrete slope towards the gantry. The carts were made using whatever we could lay our hands on; mower wheels to start with and eventually we got some pram wheels. That made the ride a little smoother."
"We quickly understood the risks of roaming free across the island. If you stuffed up, it could be dangerous, so we learnt our limits."
"Mum would blow a whistle to call us back for dinner. If we didn't hear it or were late returning, it was on us. It taught us to be alert, to be responsible and to look out for each other," he said.
If you've ever imagined what it would be like to live on a tiny island and would like to hear a firsthand account of the experience, then don't miss your chance to meet Peter and other ex-residents on South Solitary Island this August.
More information: South Solitary Island helicopter tour