Point Stephens Lighthouse

The preservation of the Point Stephens Lighthouse and cottages has been a battle against bureaucracy, the elements and vandals. It is located on either Fingal Head or Fingal Point depending on the state of the tide and condition of the sand spit. 

The reason the lighthouse was considered necessary was largely due to ships mistaking the entrance to Fingal Bay (False Bay as it was known then) for the main entrance to Port Stephens, then a very busy timber port.


The Point Stephens Lighthouse’s 22 metre Hawkesbury sandstone tower and a terrace of three single storey keepers cottages were completed in 1862 by James Elphingstone to the design of Alexander Dawson the colonial architect. Construction was supervised by Edward Moriaty. Materials were transported to the site by ship. The tower was fitted with a Wilkins & Co lantern with a catoptric revolving apparatus consisting of four groups of three catoptric lamps, two groups white, two groups with red lamps. The system produced a ten second flash every minute alternating red (500 cd) and white (2,000 cd).

With three keepers and their families living on the island sufficient children were present for the employment of a full time teacher. Classes were held in the lighthouse tower at ground level. Families supplemented supplies by ship by growing vegetables and fruit in a sheltered section of the island. Livestock were kept in a paddock around the lighthouse cottages. 

The first effective and immediate communication came in the 1880’s with connection of a telegraph line to the lighthouse. 

The original catoptric apparatus was replaced in 1922 with a revolving Dalen incandescent light, powered by pressurised acetylene gas. This increased the intensity of the light to 20,000 cd with a new character of group flashing white 3 flashes every 15 sec with the red discontinued. Keepers were reduced from three to two following conversion.

continued below …

© All images are copyright of their respective photographers and are not to be used without permission.

Title Address Description
Sugarloaf Point
Seal Rocks Lighthouse Walk, Seal Rocks NSW 2423, AustraliaSugarloaf Point
Nelson Head
Darwin Dr, Nelson Bay NSW 2315, AustraliaNelson Head
Point Stephens
Lighthouse Trail, Fingal Bay NSW 2315, AustraliaPoint Stephens
41A Nobbys Road, Newcastle NSW 2300, AustraliaNobbys

continued from above …

In 1960 the light was converted to electric operation using mains electricity with the installation of a submarine cable from the mainland. Backup was provided by a diesel generator.

The Wilkins lantern was replaced in1973 with a fibreglass NAL1 lantern and AGA PRB21 rotating lamp array. The lighthouse was automated and demanned at this time.

Conversion to solar power was made in May 1989 following the failure of the submarine mains cable to the island. A more energy efficient Tideland ML300 replaced the PRB21 unit to facilitate conversion to solar power. The light character remained the same. A Pharos Marine FA-251 beacon replaced the ML300 beacon in Feb 1990 to increase the intensity to 40,700 cd improving the range and visibility. The current optic is a Sealite SL-300 two tier LED array. 

Preservation Issues

Following demanning and proposals by the department of Transport to demolish the cottages thanks to one of the last relieving keepers Ron Fenton and local Frank Jackson the cottages were retained and taken under the control of the National Trust. A caretaker in turn leased the cottages and remained until their lease expired in early 1991. Shortly after vacating the triplex building was destroyed by fire in a senseless act of vandalism. The extensive destruction has left these unique cottages in ruins and should serve as a reminder to custodians to better manage our national heritage assets. The ownership of the reserve was handed over to the Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales in 1998. Despite strong local interest by the community in reconstructing the cottages they remain in ruins. 


The first head keeper was Claudius Parry Bowdler who was appointed as superintendent of the Point Stephens light on the 14th of March 1862.

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

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.

Technical Details

First Exhibited1st May 1862
Permanent Tower1862
Current Tower1862
LocationLat. 32° 44.9'S, Long. 152° 12.2'E
Original OpticWilkins & Co Catoptric
Current OpticSealite SL-300 two tier LED array
ConstructionHawkesbury Sandstone
Height21 m
Elevation38 m
Range17 NM
CharacterGrp. Fl (4) 30 secs.
Intensity40,500 cd
Light Source24v LED array
Power SourceSolar Power
OperatorNSW Roads and Maritime Services
  NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.


The reserve is 10 kilometres from the nearest town, Nelson Bay and though reachable by land, access is recommended by boat. There are no restrictions on access to the island.

Site Access

The crossing of the bar to Fingal Island can be dangerous as this story shows.


Moonshadow TQC Cruises have tours operating from ‘Albora Marina Nelson Bay.





Associated Lighthouses

Nelson Head Inner Light


  • Ian Clifford for photographs and information
  • Dirk Selderyk
  • Roxford Bree
  • Brian Lord for Photographs
  • Cyril Curtain for Photographs
  • Grant Maizels for Photographs
  • Winsome Bonham for Photographs
  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority