There’s something strangely mystical about lighthouses. What stories do they hold? What was life like as a lighthouse keeper with all that view and no one to share it with?
While most lighthouses are automatic these days, they are still spectacular markers of historic times. Some offer tours and even accommodation and lucky for us, there’s an interactive map of all of Australia’s lighthouses so you can track down your nearest one with ease. But, if you’re after a quick ‘lighthouse fix’ we’ve done the hard work for you and picked a few of NSW’s best.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Where it is: Sydney’s most northern point – Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach in the northern beaches.
What makes it unique: The lighthouse has dazzling 360-degree views and is the perfect day trip for Sydneysiders. Positioned 91m above sea level it offers panoramic views of Broken Bay and the Central Coast and if you bring your binoculars you might even be able to spot a whale during migration season (between May – November). Keen to learn more about the history of this lighthouse? Just book a guided tour.
Hornby Lighthouse, Sydney Harbour National Park
Where it is: Near Watsons Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Vaucluse.
What makes it unique: This iconic red and white lighthouse is unparalleled for retro cool and views galore. Take in Sydney Harbour to the west, Middle Head and North Head to the north, and the entire Pacific Ocean to the east. To get there, take the easy South Head Heritage trail which starts at Camp Cove. Once you reach the lighthouse, explore the historic gun emplacements or sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning view.
Did you know: The lighthouse was built in 1858 following the wrecking of the Dunbar at the foot of South Head. Designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson, Hornby Lighthouse was the third lighthouse to be built in NSW.
Cape Byron Lighthouse, Cape Byron State Conservation Area
Where it is: Byron Bay, baby!
What makes it unique: One of Australia’s coolest towns is home to one of Australia’s most iconic lighthouses, which stands proudly on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Built at the turn of the 19th century, this white tower takes you back in history with guided tours or a stop at the Maritime Museum. Stay at one of the heritage-listed Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottages, and wake up to the sunrise and the sounds of the ocean. Doesn’t get more magical than that.
Green Cape Lighthouse, Ben Boyd National Park
Where it is: An hour from Eden on the NSW South Coast.
What makes is unique: Tucked away from the world, Green Cape is the kind of unspoiled paradise we all hope stays the same forever. Stay in the Lightstation Keepers’ Cottages and explore the lush green coastline all around. Take a tour (free if you’re staying there) and hear mystical stories of Green Cape’s past. For the adventurous, Green Cape is the ending point of an epic multi-day walk, called the Light to Light walk definitely a bucket list item, as it’s one of the best walks on the NSW coast.
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, Myall Lakes National Park
Where it is: An hour north of Newcastle at Seal Rocks.
What’s unique: The glorious Sugarloaf Lighthouse stands on a dramatic rocky headland, surrounded by pristine beaches and close to the time-warped Seal Rocks village. Local fishermen still fish in the area and run their boats off the shore in town. Sugarloaf Lighthouse has restored Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottages, so you can stay and make a weekend of it. Or if you’re more inclined to rough it, camping is available at local privately-run campgrounds.
Did you know: Completed in 1875, Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse was the first lighthouse designed by colonial architect James Barnet and is one of only two towers in Australia with an external stairway.
Smoky Cape Lighthouse, Hat Head National Park
Where it is: Near South West Rocks on the NSW Mid North Coast
What’s unique: Smoky Cape Lighthouse itself, is as beautiful as its views, with a winding staircase and a unique octagonal tower. Smoky Cape is one of the oldest and tallest lighthouses in Australia, a top spot for whale watching, lazing on the beach and hiking through the rainforest of nearby South West Rocks.
Did you know: Smoky Cape was named by Captain James Cook after he saw Aboriginal People’s fires blazing in the area in 1770.
Montague Island Lighthouse, Montague Island Nature Reserve
Where it is: Montague Island Nature Reserve which is a small island off Narooma in the South Coast of NSW
What’s unique: Ahh life on an island spent frolicking with seals. If only. Accessible by boat from Narooma, this natural paradise is home to the most incredible wildlife including seals, whales and more than 90 species of birds! It’s also the perfect place to tick “spend a night on our own island” off the bucket list.