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Lighthouses of New South Wales

State Indexes > NSW > Barranjoey Lighthouse

The Barranjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach

Built of the attractive Hawkesbury Sandstone at Barranjoey Head on the outer reaches of suburban Sydney, the preservation of the Barranjoey Lighthouse and cottages has been a battle against bureaucracy, the elements and vandals.

Barranjoey Lighthouse [Photograph: Annette Flotwell]
Barranjoey Lighthouse 
Photograph: Annette Flotwell


LOCATION: Latitude 33° 35'S, Longitude 151° 20'E (map)
OPERATOR: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
EXHIBITED: Nepean sandstone
CHARACTER: Group flashing 4 in 20 seconds
LIGHT SOURCE: 120V 1,000 Watt, quartz halogen lamp
POWER SOURCE: Mains power, standby diesel
INTENSITY: 75,000 cd
ELEVATION: 113 metres
RANGE: 19 nautical miles
HEIGHT: 29.75 metres
CUSTODIAN: Parks & Wildlife NSW

The Barrenjoey Lighthouse [Photograph: 4Cs Enterprises]
The Barranjoey Lighthouse
Photograph: 4Cs Enterprises


The Barranjoey Lighthouse was the third light on the headland and was completed in 1881.

A customs station was established in 1843 as the Headland marked the entrance to Broken Bay and the Pittwater which were considered to be the backdoor of Sydney for smugglers.

The first report of any light on the headland was in 1855 when a fire was raised in a basket to assist mariners during stormy weather. Broken Bay and the Pittwater were a safe haven in storms for vessels carrying coal from Newcastle to Sydney.

Later, in 1868, two wooden lighthouses know as the Stewart Towers, were built at either end of the headland to guide ships in.

The need for a more permanent light lead to the construction of the current lighthouse. The tower is unpainted and built of the very aesthetic local sandstone.

The original apparatus in the new tower was a fixed red dioptric of 700 candlepower with four oil wick burners.

It is interesting to note that when this light commenced operations in 1881, and the first keepers were the George Mulhalls, father and son, who had also tended the lamps of the wooden Stewart Towers.

In 1900, an explosion followed by a fire destroyed the ornamental roof of the adjacent oil house. Fortunately it was subdued before reaching the tower.

Aerial view of Barranjoey Lighthouse [Photograph: Winsome Bonham]
Aerial view of Barranjoey Lighthouse
Photograph: Winsome Bonham

In 1932, the Barranjoey Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation with the installation of a acetylene gas apparatus. A new character of group flashing white light of 6,000 candlepower was introduced. It was turned off and on by a Dalen Sun Valve.

Even though the acetylene gas apparatus was efficient, access to the tower for re-supply caused problems and in 1972 the light was converted to electric operation.

Jervis Sparks, a former long time resident of one of the cottages, who supplied most of this information, makes an interesting analogy on the power of the new light: "As 1,000 candlepower is the equivalent of one automobile with headlights on high beam, Barranjoey is a '75 car' lighthouse."

The Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Keepers' Cottages [Photograph: Winton Irving]
The Barranjoey Lighthouse and Keepers' Cottages
Photograph: Winton Irving

The Barranjoey Lightstation
Photo: Jervis Sparks

Spelling of Barranjoey name

The correct spelling of the name of the Barra(e)njoey Lighthouse is something for which there is no definitive answer. The original plans for the lighthouse spell it as 'Barrenjuey', but when the lightstation came under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, it was officially known as the 'Barranjoey Lighthouse'. The Geographical Names Act of 1966 decreed it should be spelt 'Barrenjoey Lighthouse', and this spelling tends to be the most popular usage today.

However, as this website page is about the lightstation itself, which is referred to as 'Barranjoey' in most official lighthouse documentation & literature, Lighthouses of Australia Inc has decided to use this spelling, whilst acknowledging that the other variations exist.

More information about the variations in spelling can be found at


We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to Web Keeper.

Please include this lighthouse's name, the keepers full name and what years they were keepers. Also include the same information for any other lights they were on.

Preservation Issues

Control of the reserve was passed to the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service in 1997 though the lighthouse and cottages were handed over in 1998.

Unfortunately as a result, Jervis and Bridget Sparks, who had dedicated 30 years to researching and looking after Barranjoey and its lighthouse lost their fight to stay there in a court battle that ended in 1998.

Jervis has written the book "Tales From Barranjoey" while both Jervis and Bridget operated the Barranjoey Historical Resources Centre and undertook voluntary guide work for the National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of the Chase Alive program.

Despite the controversy of the eviction of the long standing tenants Parks and Wildlife are to be commended in there approach to restoration and utilisation of the Barranjoey Lightstation.

A vindication of this is that despite a painful parting from Barranjoey, Jervis Sparks has assisted in providing background material and advice in its restoration.

The restored Barranjoey oil room. [Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas]
The restored Barranjoey oil room
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas


DISTANCE: <<>> (Palm Beach)
: <<>> (Sydney)
ACCESS: 400 metres beach walk. 600 metre hard climb
TOURS: Tours every Sunday, weather permitting, 30 mins duration, $3 for adults, $2 for children - more info on 02 9472 9300

The lighthouse and the cottages can only be accessed by a one kilometre walk from the car park.

The Barrenjoey Lighthouse is on the Headland jutting into the sea [Photograph: Winton Irving]
The Barranjoey Lighthouse is on the headland jutting into the sea
Photograph: Winton Irving

The Surrounding Area

The Barranjoey Chance Brothers brass name plate, dated 1879
Photograph: Ian Clifford


Marguerite & Nick Stephen's NSW Trip: Part 2 Bulletin Aug 01
Lighthouses From the Air: Part 2 Bulletin Oct 01
NSW South Coast Lighthouse Expedition - Barranjoey Head Bulletin Jul 02
Annette Flotwell's East Coast Lighthouse Trip: Part 3 Bulletin Sep 03


Farewell to Barranjoey, Jervis Sparks Bulletin Sep 98
Jervis & Bridget Sparks Say Farewell to Barranjoey Bulletin Mar 99
Barranjoey Report out for Comment Bulletin Jan 01
Barranjoey Finally Vacant Bulletin Feb 01
Barranjoey Lighthouse Cottage Committee Formed Bulletin Mar 01
Barranjoey Tower Now Open Bulletin Jul 02
Barranjoey Lighthouse open to the public Bulletin Aug 03

The Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Keepers' Cottages [Photograph: Grant Maizels]
The Barranjoey Lighthouse and Keepers' Cottages
Photograph: Grant Maizels


Looking for Peter Frank Eckman, Keeper at Barranjoey Bulletin Aug 01
Lighthouse keepers in NSW - Josiah, Fred Sr, Fred Jr & Bill Warren Bulletin Sep 03

The Barranjoey lantern room [Photograph: Kristie Eggleston]
The Barranjoey lantern room
Photograph: Kristie Eggleston

The Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach [Photograph: Grant Maizels]
  The Barranjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach
Photograph: Grant Maizels

Other Barranjoey Sites

The Barranjoey Head Lighthouse Grant Maizels
The Barranjoey Head Lighthouse Garry Searle Jervis Sparks

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The magnificent Barranjoey Fresnel lens
Photograph: Ian Clifford

Special Thanks to:

  • 4Cs Enterprises for photographs
  • Ian Clifford for photographs
  • Annette Flotwell for photograph
  • Ed Kavaliunas for photograph
  • Grant Maizels for photographs
  • Kristie Eggleston for photograph
  • Winton Irving for photographs
  • Winsome Bonham for photograph
  • Jervis Sparks for photograph


  • Jervis Sparks
  • Brian Lord
  • From Dusk Till Dawn by Gordon Reid

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