Funding to transform Cape Willoughby

Photo - Shutterstock
Photo - Shutterstock

An upgrade of the Cape Willoughby visitor precinct will help to transform the tourism experience at the eastern end of Kangaroo Island.

The state's oldest lighthouse is set to host the island's newest tourism destination following the announcement of a $5 million project aimed at supporting and rejuvenating the visitor economy.

Jointly funded by the federal and state governments, the redesign and rollout of the Cape Willoughby visitor precinct has been made possible thanks to the purchase of an additional eight hectares of former private land.

The federal government will be providing $4m and the state government $1m towards the project.

Located in Cape Willoughby Conservation Park, the redesign will include upgrades to heritage accommodation and visitor facilities, a cafe and visitor centre, new walking trails and a spectacular cantilever viewing platform overlooking 'Devil's Kitchen'.

The new viewing platform will be set above a 10-metre chasm in the cliffs where waves break over the rocks below and provide visitors with stunning coastal views.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the upgrade would assist the island's economy following the bushfires and ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

He said it strengthened the tourism offering on Kangaroo Island.

"The upgrade of the accommodation, day visitor precinct and the construction of a viewing platform will transform the precinct into a must-see destination for the eastern end of the island," he said.

"The upgrades at Cape Willoughby will encourage visitors to stay longer and explore further by increasing the experiences offered outside of the more popular destinations on the island.

"It will also create new jobs on the Island, with up to 33 jobs created from the design and construction phase through to ongoing delivery of cafe and accommodation services."

Kangaroo Island mayor Michael Pengilly said it was a huge positive for funding to be secured for the precinct.

"It's another big step forward for tourism on the island," he said.

"Looking forward, this investment is going to set up the area for the future, and continue to drive a more diverse range of experiences for visitors and locals, which in turn will help the Dudley Peninsula economy, along with the rest of the island.

"We are very grateful to the federal and state government for this investment."

Kangaroo Island Tourism Alliance chairperson Pierre Gregor said the upgrade would provide greater variety for visitors.

"One thing the bushfires taught us is a lot of the iconic sites are at the western end of the island and that was a drawcard, while 50 per cent of the island that was not burnt was underestimated in terms of visitor appeal," he said.

"Having a focus on developing the eastern end will work as a catalyst for longer stays, more money spent and perhaps repeat visitation.

"I can't overstate the significance in the money being put in to reinvigorate the east end of the island - this will leave a legacy and an upmarket experience at the Cape Willoughby lighthouse end."

Mr Gregor said the effects of COVID had attracted people to outdoor activities, adding that the trail from Penneshaw to Cape Willoughby was exciting as it would provide another experience on the island.

Liberal Senator for South Australia Andrew McLachlan - who has a special connection to the lighthouse as his great-great grandfather grew up at Cape Willoughby as the step son of one of the first lighthouse keepers after moving from Scotland in the 1800s - has welcomed the funding boost for Kangaroo Island.

"The construction of a new $4 million visitor centre at Cape Willoughby which includes a viewing platform, cafe and visitor information centre is a real win for the community and will help to keep the Island's unique history alive and drive tourism growth," he said.

Tourism Industry Council South Australia chief executive officer Shaun de Bruyn said it was exciting to see investment in the Cape Willoughby precinct to create another iconic experience on Kangaroo Island.

"Having another iconic site to visit on the island will help to ensure more people will spend additional time when they visit, to experience the full range of experiences and products across the island," he said.

"It'll mean visitors have a high-quality experience by being able to access a wider range of experiences."