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State Indexes > SA > Cape Northumberland Lighthouse

Cape Northumberland Lighthouse at Port MacDonnell

The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse near Port MacDonnell was built to replace the earlier lighthouse that was under threat of being undermined by the erosion of the the cliffs on which it stood.

Cape Northumberland Lighthouse The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas


LOCATION: Latitude 38೧ 5" S, Longitude 140䰧 1" E (Map)
OPERATOR: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
CHARACTER: White Flash Every 5 Seconds
LIGHT SOURCE: 120v 1000w Tungsten Halogen Lamp
POWER SOURCE: Mains Electricity; Diesel Standby
INTENSITY: 310,000 cd
ELEVATION: 45 Metres
RANGE: 23 Nautical Miles
HEIGHT: 17 metres

The original MacDonnell Lighthouse circa 1870
The old MacDonnell Lighthouse, circa 1870
Photograph courtesy: Port MacDonnell & District Maritime Museum


The original MacDonnell Lighthouse was built in 1858 and commenced operation in early 1859. The original light had three faces - white, red and green - which it exhibited in succession.

The site was narrow and quite exposed with the buildings being built too close to the cliff edge. Therefore, this light survived only 23 years, due to the danger of its collapse from the cliff on which it stood being undermined by wind and sea. After the new Cape Northumberland Lighthouse was built in 1882 on a hill 400 metres to the east, the MacDonnell Lighthouse was demolished.

The Ruins of the MacDonnell Lighthouse
The old MacDonnell Lighthouse ruins
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas

The new light was white with Chance Bros first-order light lantern. It originally flashed every 60 seconds.

In 1906, the multiple wick oil burners were replaced by an incandescent vapourised kerosene burners which increased the intensity.

In March 1936, the power was converted from kerosene to electricity. In December 1972, the lights electric operation was converted to tungsten halogen. In July 1977, the light was converted to automatic.

In January 1990, lighthouse was demanned.

The close proximity of the lighthouse to the Port MacDonnell township meant that keepers and their families were likely to be involved in local community activities, and therefore unaffected by the pressures of isolation which turn keepers at remote stations into figures of mystery and romance, etc.

It is interesting to note that Cape Northumberland, as well as Cape Jaffa, were the only two lighthouses in South Australia where the keeper's children could attend a normal Government School. For this reason, keepers with children were circulated through these postings.

The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse
The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas

Cape Northumberland Lighthouse in 1900 looking west
The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse in 1900
Photograph Courtesy: Port MacDonnell & District Maritime Museum

The lighthouse is supposed to be haunted by a woman in 1950s clothing and this has been witnessed both by more than one individuals at a time as described in the following newspaper article..

Cape Northumberland Lighthouse from the air
Photograph: Australian Heritage Commission


The site of the old MacDonnell Lighthouse is easily accessed by road and is 3 kilometres to the west of Port MacDonnell. The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse is also off the same road, but access is not readily available, as the local residents living in the lighthouse keepers cottages have marked the entrance to the grounds as private property. There are no tours of the lighthouse.


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Port MacDonnell Museum plans set to be unveiled Bulletin Sep/Oct 2004
Cape Northumberland to be accessible to the Public? Bulletin Sep/Oct 2004


William Wood, Head Lighthouse Keeper at Cape Northumberland Bulletin Feb 2004

  The Surrounding Area


Other Cape Northumberland Sites

Cape Northumberland Lighthouse from the air
Photograph: Winsome Bonham

Special Thanks to:

  • Australian Heritage Commission for Photograph
  • Ed Kavaliunas for Photographs
  • The Port MacDonnell & District Maritime Museum for Historical Photographs
  • Veronica Jenkin
  • Winsome Bonham for Photograph


  • AMSA
  • Brian Lord
  • From Dusk Till Dawn by Gordon Reid
  • Lighthouses of South Australia by R Parsons

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