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State Indexes > SA > Cape Borda Lighthouse

The Cape Borda Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island

The Cape Borda Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island was isolated and the scene of tragedy in its early years. It is the only square stone lighthouse in South Australia.

The Cape Borda Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island
Photograph: Peter Coombs


LOCATION: Latitude 35䵧 3" S, Longitude 136㵧 7" E (map)
OPERATOR: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
CHARACTER: Group Flash 4 Every 20 Seconds
LIGHT SOURCE: 120v 1000w Tungsten Halogen Lamp
POWER SOURCE: Mains Electricity
INTENSITY: 170,000 cd
ELEVATION: 155 Metres
RANGE: 21 Nautical Miles
HEIGHT: 10 metres

The Cape Borda Lighthouse and Cannon
Photograph: Chris Klep


The lighthouse was built in 1858, and is the third oldest remaining in South Australia. It is also the only square stone lighthouse in South Australia.

It was built to guide sailing ships arriving in to South Australia off the Roaring Forty trade-winds and into the Investigator Straits and on to Adelaide.

In the early days supplies had to landed by boat and hauled up long steel railway at nearby Harvey's Return.

The small cannon was put in place to be fired during fog to signal ships of danger before the introduction of radio. It was also believed that due to the Russian scare the placement of the cannon was symbolic of a small military presence, and therefore seen as a deterrence to invasion from possible enemy ships! Indeed one of the reasons for building the lightstation in that position was to be a lookout for Russian ships.

In late 1999, NPWSA restored the cannon and test-fired it at Midnight 2000 as part of a global exercise of time-signals at maritime locations around the world. The cannon was found to be Y2K compliant and has since fired every day at the traditional hour of 1pm

It is only one three lighthouses in Australia to retain a Deville lantern room.

The light was converted to automatic operation in 1989.

The Cape Borda Lightstation
Photograph: Winsome Bonham


Visiting the small cemetery, at Harvey's Return, where there are 16 headstones, is a solemn reminder of the hardship endured by early lighthouse keepers and their families. One keeper died a slow agonising death after having his eye pierced in a fall. Children died of diseases with no access to medical treatment. One child was found at the bottom of a steep cliff, killed in the fall. Other children simply disappeared in this rugged scrubby terrain.

Family members buried at Cape Borda (Harveys Return)
WOODWARD Capt. G 1858 1st Head keeper (infection of eye injury)
JOHNSON Unknown 1862 Daughter of Lightkeeper Charles and Mary Johnson (aged 3 weeks)
WELLS Unknown 1873 Son of Lightkeeper, Thomas Wells (stillborn)
MAIN William 1875 Son of Headkeeper Capt. George Main (scarlet fever, aged 7 1/2 yrs)
MAIN Arthur 1877 Son of Headkeeper Capt. George Main (fell off cliffs, aged 3 yrs 4 mths)
JENNESON Lilly 1884 (aged 9 years)
WILLS Augusta 1884 Wife of Lightkeeper Wills (childbirth)
KOPP Irene 1895 Daughter of Jane Elizabeth Kopp
KERR Capt. Edward 1895 -
KOPP Jane Elizabeth 1903 Wife of Lightkeeper
Source: Captain Dan Grieve, NPWS - SA

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

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.

The Cape Borda Lighthouse at Dusk
Photograph: Brian Lord


DISTANCE : 70 km (Kingscote)
192 km (Adelaide)
ACCESS: Ferry/Air then road
TOURS: Yes (lighthouse and museum)

The Surrounding Area

The Road to the Cape Borda Lighthouse
Photograph: Peter Coombs


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Researching Hamilton family tree and Cape Borda Lighthouse Bulletin Apr 03

Other Cape Borda Sites

Cape Borda - Kangaroo Island Postcards
Cape Borda Lightstation, South Australia TravelDownunder
Cape Borda Lightstation Parks SA

The Cape Borda Lighthouse In Operation
Photograph: Peter Coombs

Special Thanks to:

  • Brian Lord for Photographs
  • Chris Klep for Photographs
  • Capt. Dan Grieves for page revisions
  • Peter Coombs for Photographs
  • Winsome Bonham for Photograph


  • AMSA
  • Brian Lord
  • From Dusk Till Dawn by Gordon Reid
  • Kangaroo Island Net
  • Kangaroo Island Sealink
  • Kangaroo Island Tourist Association
  • Lighthouses of South Australia by R Parsons
  • National Parks and Wildlife, South Australia
  • Rod Cairns

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