The Great Ocean Road - Cape Otway; UFOs, lighthouses and koalas (part 2)

For part 1 click - here


In the early evening on October 21, 1978, Frederick Valentich left Melbourne's Moorabbin airport for a flight to King Island in Bass Strait. Valentich was a 20 year old pilot flying a Cessna 182L.  At about 7 pm he was just off the coast at Cape Otway when he and his aircraft disappeared. In the minutes leading up to his disappearance he was in contact with Melbourne Flight Service Control. Having asked the controller whether there were any military aircraft in the vicinity, he described a large object which he said was "playing some sort of game". 

He said, "it seems like it's stationary .... and just orbiting on top of me also it's got a green light and sort of metallic like it's shiny on the outside".

His last ominous words were, "that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again .. it is hovering and it's not an aircraft".

An extensive air and sea search in the following days found no trace of either Valentich or his Cessna. His disappearance has become Australia's most famous UFO mystery. 

A memorial plaque for Frederick Valentich

 Koalas and Cape Otway Lighthouse:

Cape Otway, the site of the oldest mainland lighthouse in Australia, is a 10 kilometre detour  from the Great Ocean Road. We knew nothing about the Cape's UFOs or koalas. David just likes lighthouses. 

By the time we turned off we knew we were beginning to run out of time. We still had to get to Melbourne and neither of us much like driving in the dark. After a few slow kilometres it was looking like a bad idea. Then we saw a young couple standing next to their car taking photos of the tree tops. Being an avid animal spotter I thought vaguely they might have seen a koala, but where were the 'koalas crossing' signs. For every animal in the wild I have ever seen I must have seen a hundred tantalising signs. Confirmation came with the next bend in the road - more people, more cameras pointed up.

'Stop the car - koalas!' - David who is used to my hysteria whenever there is a wild animal in the vicinity pulled over calmly. There was no hurry, koalas don't run away.

Altogether there were about a dozen of them nestled in the branches of the eucalyptus trees beside the road. A couple were awake and active - rare for koalas which sleep twenty hours a day. I've seen koalas before in the bush but never so many and so close to the ground. We abandoned all thoughts of hurrying through Cape Otway. We gorged ourselves on the sight of the koalas, took a slow self-guided tour through the lighthouse station and vowed to return next year to finish the Great Ocean Road properly. 

Cape Otway koala - fast asleep

Also fast asleep
Unusually - wide awake

Cape Otway Lighthouse

Practical stuff:

Where is Cape Otway?

View Larger Map

Can I stay there overnight?

Yes. The light station has overnight accommodation in the renovated Manager's House and Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage.

How do I get there? 

Cape Otway is about 3 and a half hours drive from Melbourne.

Will I see a koala?

You can never be sure but you have a far better chance than most other places. The density of koalas is considerably higher than elsewhere with as many as 18 koalas per hectare.

There are also mobs of kanagaroos at the Cape. We didn't see any but I was looking up into the trees most of the time.

Lighthouse Tours: 

Entry to the Lighthouse Station is fairly pricey at $18.50. You can take a self-guided tour or join a group.  

Links: - general information - re-enactment of Valentich's final conversation with Flight Service Control. - transcript of Valentich's final conversation with Flight Service Control.


  1. i just read an article on Sidney. Australia is a must see. Some day...

    1. If you ever decide to visit and you have any questions just send me an e-mail. I would love to help.