Kangaroo Island: The quirky cream castle

You'd expect to find George listed in the official Kangaroo Island Visitor Guide, somewhere between the Flinders Chase National Park and the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. It's a strange omission from the catalogue of attractions on Australia's third biggest island, just off South Australia's coast.

George's place is hard to miss as you travel along North Coast Road to Emu Bay; his home is quite literally his castle – a very big castle, and relentlessly cream, Federation Cream to be precise. 

A sign near the gate says "George's 40,000 Lights" and another, "Visitors Welcome". At the top of a dusty drive, George Turner greets us with a paint brush in one hand and a tin of paint in the other. "Come in, look around."

The castle is at the junction of imagination and ingenuity, romance and recycling. From rubbish to rampart in one coat of Federation Cream, the towers of George's castle are upturned culvert pipes capped with orange flower pots and red witches' hats, while the tiny turrets fringing garden beds were once attached to sonar buoys. 

The castle walls look like they began life as sheets of roofing material and, as George walks us around, it becomes clear everything was once something else. "I make things the opposite way to what people think. It's all in my head. I get an image, and I build it." Like the Viking ship at the entrance gate.

Viking figures sit stiffly in their longboat, no doubt nursing dark thoughts of rape and pillage. The boat is two aluminium dinghies joined together; the high prow and stern once worked in the abalone industry; the shields are hubcaps, the sail a sheet of perforated metal.

The castle protects George's house, home to generations of Turners. Framed by a bay window, George's wife, Coral, gives us a wave before turning back to her sewing machine. What does Coral think of the castle which has grown around her? 

"Coral says it's quite OK – but no more spending," says George. Not that the castle has cost much. "I started building it at 60, and this June I'm 72, and it's cost about $5000 to $6000 a year." 

We won't see the 40,000 lights – not under a noon sun. But their tracks are everywhere. Wiring climbs like creeper up the trunks  and spreads among the branches, lights peer through small windows in the towers and dance around the turrets.  George says it takes 15 minutes just to flick the 32 switches on the five circuits, and "it costs $5 an hour for the power!" He doesn't turn the lights on unless he knows people are coming.  And come they do; he says that last Christmas there were 50 carloads.

We put a few dollars in the donations box, and George offers asmile and a paint-speckled hand as we politely back away towards our car. If you plan to visit George at night, call first and he'll turn on the lights to greet you.

Kangaroo Island is a 45-minute car ferry trip from Cape Jervis which, in turn, is a 90-minute drive  south of Adelaide.  George's 40,000 Castle Lights is at 1593 North Coast Road phone (08) 8553 5213. See tourkangarooisland.com.au.

The writer travelled at his own expense.

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