Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Wth its unusual octagonal tower, the Smoky Cape Lighthouse was one of the last lighthouses to be designed for architectural excellence. Future lighthouses were to become mere functional engineering projects.


Smoky Cape was named on 13 May 1770 by Captain Cook: the name arising from the great amount of smoke from Aboriginal burn-off fires on the headland.

The lighthouse, first proposed in 1886, was to ensure the safety of the increasing coastal traffic on the colony of New South Wales northern seaboard. The light was completed and first exhibited in 1891 and has several claims to fame.

With the dismissal of the renown James Barnet, who designed many NSW lights and the abolition of his office of Colonial Architect, responsibility for future lighthouses passed to the Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers. This marked the end of a lighthouse representing ‘architectural excellence’. From here on most would simply regarded as engineering projects with less and less regard to aesthetics.

The other is the unusual feature of having a octagonal tower. This was because it was easier to cast the tower in the octagonal formwork than round formwork. The material used to cast the tower was concrete with local granite aggregate.

Mr Oakes who won the contract to build the lighthouse complex died during construction and the work was completed by his executors.

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Title Address Description
South Solitary Island
100 Sandy Beach Dr, Sandy Beach NSW 2456, AustraliaSouth Solitary Island
Smoky Cape
Lighthouse Rd, Arakoon NSW 2431, Australia
Tacking Point
Lighthouse Rd, Port Macquarie NSW 2444, Australia

Tacking Point

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The tower is divided into two storeys, with iron floors and staircases. The crown is a typical Barnet being granite voussoir blocks supported on moulded granite cantilevers. The balcony sports an ornate gun metal railing stamped with Queen Victoria’s mark.

The apparatus consisted of a first order lantern and lens system that is still in use today. The lantern revolved on rollers turned by a clockwork winding mechanism consisting of cables and weights. In 1912 the original Douglas burners, equipped with 6 concentric wicks, were replaced by Ford-Schmidt incandescent mantles fuelled by kerosene vapour.

In 1962 the apparatus was converted to mains electricity.  The roller pedestal was replaced with a thrust bearing model powered by an electric motor. With this the compliment of keepers were reduced from three to two.

There is a small aperture below the balcony that once held a a subsidiary red light to cover Fish Rock.

It is believed the light was automated in 1988 and has since been demanned.

The complex consists of the tower and annexe, the headkeeper’s residence and assistant keepers residences as semi-detached cottages, a coach house and stables.

As a result of the Commonwealth Lighthouses Act of 1911 this light was transferred in 1915 to Federal control because of it status as a coastal light.


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.

Technical Details

First Exhibited15 April 1891
LocationLat. 30°55'22.06"S Long. 153° 5'14.00"E
OpticChance Bros 920mm 9 sided catadioptric
ConstructionCast Concrete
Height14.5 m
Elevation128 m
Range26 NM
CharacterGrp. Fl. (3) W 20 secs
Intensity1,025,000 cd
Light SourceSealite SL324 LED array
Power SourceMains Power battery backed
OperatorAustralian Maritime Safety Authority
CustodianAustralian Maritime Safety Authority
NotesConverted to electricity 13/10/62

  NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.


The lighthouse grounds are open all year. Park entry fees may apply.


Tours are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm – Contact 02 6566 6301


The historic Head Lighthouse Keepers Cottage has been carefully restored and converted into a two room with private bathroom bed and breakfast. The two Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottages have been tastefully redecorated to offer self-catered accommodation for families.

Smoky Cape Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast & Cottages
Lighthouse Road, Arakoon
NSW 2431

PO Box 304, South West Rocks
NSW 2431
P: 02 6566 6301
M: 0419 66 33 01
W: External link


A small museum is in the base of the lighthouse tower.


National Parks Information


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