THE popular tours of South Solitary Island lighthouse have claimed a gong at the 2011 National Trust Heritage Awards.
The Experience South Solitary Island Project, which includes a helicopter trip and tour of the light station through personal interaction with heritage resources and guides, was highly commended in the tourism projects category.
National Parks and Wildlife Service North Coast manager Alan Jeffery said the annual South Solitary Island Open Week, run jointly with Precision Helicopters, provided opportunities for members of lighthouse families to renew their association with the place as well as opportunities for visitors, including locals and tourists, to understand, enjoy and appreciate the site.
“The South Solitary Island Open Week was developed to fill a space in the Coffs Coast tourism calendar and generate local business, employment opportunities and revenue to support heritage asset maintenance,” Mr Jeffery said.
“A NPWS review of visitor demand and visitor opportunities across north-east NSW in 2008 recognised the importance of partnerships, the attraction of light stations and the potential to enrich visitor experiences by offering personal interaction with heritage resources, guides and storytellers.
“The survey helped improve the tours through content, imagery and the use of authentic storytellers working alongside NPWS discovery rangers.
“NPWS has formed commercial and industry partnerships and designed tour administration, logistics and operations to link in with key elements of the domestic overnight tourism industry on the Coffs Coast.
“Last year, Precision Helicopters flew more than 120 people over for a discovery tour of the island and its buildings.
This year’s program in July is expected to be just as popular.”
The iconic South Solitary Island lighthouse, built in 1880, is significant for its design and construction.
It was the first of three major NSW coastal installations by colonial architect James Barnet to employ local rock as an aggregate for the mass concrete tower and domestic walls.
The lighthouse group is a dramatic landmark feature at the apex of the island, which has an impressive visual quality in a harsh cliff-top setting.
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