Harbour Lights and Markers



Inner South Head (Hornby Lighthouse)
Hornby Light (also known as South Head Lower Light), at the entrance to Sydney Harbour, was built with the lightkeeper's cottages in 1858 immediately after the tragic wreck of two ships, the Dunbar and Catherine Adamson, both in 1857, on South Head with the loss of many lives. It was constructed near the outer gun battery on South Head which had been commenced in 1854 but remained uncompleted. Most of the stone fortifications seen today date from 1870.



The foundation stone of the lighthouse was laid in 1860 by Gov. Denison who named the light after his father-in-law, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleets, Sir Phipps Hornby. Designed by Colonial Architect Alexander Dawson, the structure has a base of curved dressed sandstone (now painted) and a lantern house surrounded by a non-ferrous metal balcony and railing. Stone for the lighthouse and Victorian Georgian style cottages was quarried on site. The concrete pill box near the light was erected in World war II.
The lighthouse is constructed on what is believed to have been a sacred Aboriginal site. Early colonial records indicate it was used as a burial site for tribal elders. Rock engravings, though badly weathered by wind, rain and foot traffic, abound in the vicinity of the lighthouse, the most visible one being that of a fish carved into the rock alongside the concrete pill box near the lighthouse. Another fish can be seen on a flat rock between the lightkeeper's cottage on the harbour.
Access to the lighthouse is via a walking path from Watsons Bay and Camp Cove which follows the alignment of the old cobblestone road that was built to give access to the forts in 1870.

Power source: Mains electricity
Elevation : 27 metres
Range: 12 nautical miles
Height: 9 metres
UBD Map 218 Ref A 9

Bradleys Head Light


Harbour marker to guide vessels up the Harbour between Shark Island and Bradleys Head. Standing offshore, its round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery is reached by a gangway across the water. Erected in 1905, it was originally constructed of timber only to a design similar to light at Robertson's Point erected at the same time. A fog siren was added in 1906 (four blasts, the first one 10 seconds and the others 4 seconds, every 30 seconds). The structure was modified in 1936 and again in 1949 when concrete was introduced. The light displays an occulting green light.

Character: pile light
Power source: Mains electricity
Elevation: 7 metres
Height: 7 metres
UBD Map 237 Ref C 2

Shark Island Light


Harbour marker to guide vessels up the Harbour between Shark Island and Bradleys Head. A pile light in the water, it was erected 1913. It has a 12 m round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery, and emits three red flashes every 8 seconds.

Character: pile light
Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel
Elevation: 12 metres
Height: 3 metres
UBD Map 237 Ref G 4

Cremorne Light


Located on the tip of Robertsons Point and standing offshore, it is reached by a gangway across the water. It marks the channel between Robertsons Point and Pinchgut Island. It has a round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery. The light was originally constructed of timber only to a design similar to light at Bradleys Head, which was erected at the same time. The structure was modified in 1936 and again in 1949 when concrete was introduced to it. Both have green lights, occulting every 3 seconds.

Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel
Elevation: 8 metres
Height: 8 metres
UBD Map 216 Ref N 16

Blues Point Light
Erected in 1993 to guide vessels under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it consists of a lattice metal tower.

Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel
Elevation: 18 metres
Height: 14 metres
UBD Map 236 Ref B 1

Eastern Channel Harbour Marker


An 11 metre octagonal cylindrical tower with lantern and two galleries, mounted on piles. Located off Laing's Point in Vaucluse, it marks the eastern end of the Sow and Pigs Shoal. It emits a green light occulting once every 3 seconds. This channel markert is scheduled for replacement by Sydney Ports.

Character: pile light
Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel

Western Channel Harbour Marker
An 11 metre octagonal cylindrical tower with lantern and two galleries, mounted on piles. The lighthouse marked the western end of the Sow and Pigs Shoal. Sydney Ports had slated the lighthouse for replacement in 2007, The original marker collapsed into the water on 12th December 2006. Also known as the Wedding Cake marker, it has since been restored to its former glory. It emits a green light occulting once every 3 seconds.

Character: pile light
Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel

North Head Channel Marker
As the dominant headland of the harbour, North Head was of importance in navigation from the time of the First Fleet. By 1809 navigational plans were showing an obelisk, located in what was to become the Quarantine Station precinct, presumed to have been used as a channel marker for vessels negotiating the Sow and Pigs Reef. A ten metre high obelisk still exists on this site, which may be the original marker, making it potentially one of the oldest European structures on Sydney Harbour.

Vaucluse Bay Front Light


This light, located in the garden of No. 80 Wentworth Avenue, Vaucluse, gives ships that have entered the Harbour a guide as to the line of the eastern channel of Port Jackson south from inside The Heads. The light is located to the east of Parsley Bay and lines up with the Vaucluse Bay Rear Light located on the hill beyond it at No. 12 Wentworth Road, Vaucluse (see photo above). This is one of four lighthouses designed by architect Maurice Festu in a style sometimes called "Disney Castle" today.

Character: fixed or leading light
Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel
Elevation: 16 metres
Height: 8 metres
UBD Map 237 Ref P 16

Vaucluse Bay Rear Light


What appears to be a white lighthouse in the front garden of No. 12 Wentworth Road, Vaucluse is in fact a functional Harbour marker, which lines up with the Vaucluse Bay Front Light at No. 80 Wentworth Avenue, Vaucluse, to define the eastern channel of Port Jackson south from inside The Heads. This is one of four lighthouses designed by architect Maurice Festu in a style sometimes called "Disney Castle" today.

Character: fixed or leading light
Power source: Mains electricity
Elevation: 84 metresv Height: 8 metres
UBD Map 237 Ref M 2

Fort Denison


Marks the channel between Robertsons Point and Pinchgut Island. Erected 1913 on top of Fort Denison's Martello tower, the light emits four white flashes, separated by 2 seconds, every 15 seconds. The island is open to guided tours (reservations required; fee) but the tower is closed.

Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Dieselv Elevation: 19 metres
Height: 6 metres
UBD Map 236 Ref K 3

Grotto Point (Sydney Harbour Front) Light


A painted, cement rendered brick tower with attached stone room, cement rendered and painted white and enclosed with a white painted picket fence. From the harbour entrance this light, when aligned with the Rosherville light on the Spit Peninsula, indicates the path to be taken by vessels entering the Harbour. The structure is dissimilar in appearance to the traditional lighthouse in that it has a short tower and two dome-roofed sections added to one side. It is one of four lighthouses designed by architect Maurice Festu in a style sometimes called "Disney Castle". Access is via the Spit to Manly walking track. Erected in 1911, the light was originally coal-gas powered and red in colour. It is powered by electricity today, its light being catadioptric, that is, it is coloured red, white or green depending on the position of vessels in relation to it.

Character: fixed or leading light
Power source: Mains electricity
Elevation: 19 metres
Height: 4 metres
UBD Map 217 Ref J3

Rosherville (Sydney Harbour Back) Light


An approximately 14 metre high white-painted rendered brick cylindrical tower which tapers to a corbelled cornice below a domed roof with copper lightning arrestor. A horizontal slit below the cornice on the seaward side is the light outlet and access is via a ramp on the landward side to a door mid-way up the tower. The Rosherville light assists ships entering the Harbour (see Grotto Point Light). It is one of four lighthouses designed by architect Maurice Festu in a style sometimes called "Disney Castle" today. The lighthouse is located at No. 53 on the Harbour side of Parriwi Road, The Spit. Erected 1911.

Character: fixed or leading light
Power source: Mains electricity, Standby Diesel
Elevation: 43 metres
Height: 7 metres
UBD Map 197 Ref C 15

Marker Buoys
In addition to the fixed lights detailed here, there are numerous buoys around the harbour which act as channel marker - more or less to indicate the middle of the main channels.

1910 Channel Markers
When travelling on the ferry to Manly, if you look at the hill beneath the Quarantine Station hospital building, you can see this navigation marker. It is clearly shown on marine charts of Sydney Harbour, together with another lower down near the water. Lined up, the two markers delineate a channel for outbound ships. The water-level marker disappeared a long time ago.
These markers date from October 1910 when a scheme called "Leading Lights and Beacons" was introduced. They were placed to guide mariners down the western shipping channel of the Harbour. Similar markers still exist all around the Harbour and are still maintained. It is not clear when or why they fell into disuse.

Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse


The Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse is not part of Port Jackson's harbour light system, but an exhibit at the National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour. Built on Cape Bowling Green about 75 km south of Townsville, Queensland, this lighthouse was relocated twice to escape beach erosion. The lighthouse was replaced and dismantled in 1987.
It was relocated and reactivated (unofficial, maintained by the museum) in the same year at the Maritime Museum. It has a focal plane about 19 m (60 ft); four white flashes every 20 s. 16 m (50 ft) round frame tower covered by galvanized iron sheets, with lantern and gallery. The tower is open to guided tours daily.

Lightship CLS-4 Carpentaria


An exhibit at the National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, this light ship was commissioned in 1917. During its career the ship served in the Gulf of Carpentaria; off Breaksea Spit near Sandy Cape, Queensland; and in Bass Strait. Decommissioned in 1983, it is a 22 m single-masted steel lightship; its round cylindrical light tower with lantern is amidships.




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Western Channel Harbour Marker

Channel marker buoy

Blues Point light

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