Cape Northumberland Lighthouse

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.


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 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.

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Title Address Description
Cape Banks
Carpenter Rocks SA 5291, Australia

Cape Banks

Cape Northumberland Ruins
2 Cape Northumberland Rd, Port Macdonnell SA 5291, Australia

Cape Northumberland Ruins

Cape Northumberland
174 Lighthouse Rd, Port Macdonnell SA 5291, Australia

Cape Northumberland

Cape Nelson
Cape Nelson Rd, Portland West VIC 3305, Australia

Cape Nelson

Whalers Bluff
2 Lighthouse Ave, Portland VIC 3305, Australia

Whalers Bluff

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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..

“The second incident (the first was at another lightstation) was a more communal experience. The man living next door to Mr Jordan at Cape Northumberland saw the saw the ghost in his house on the same night about a year ago.’I was just lying in bed when this woman appeared at the end of the bed. She was looking at my wife and smiling. Oh, I smiled back at her and all that’, says Mr Jordan. ‘The clothes she was wearing were a bit out of date, but not really old-fashioned. She was playing with ends of a scarf she had on her head. I’ve no idea who she was either. All of a sudden she just vanished, like the one at Jaffa, right in front of me.

‘I didn’t tell anyone about it, but the next morning the chap from next door came up and told me he had seen exactly the same thing, which was strange’!”

(‘Keeper of the Night Light’, The Advertiser, 8 February 1978)


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 Exhibited1882
LocationLatitude: 38° 03.3710' S
Longitude: 140° 40.0470' E
Original OpticChance Bros 1st order 16 panels
Current Optic4 Bulls eye 450mm f.r. (ex-Troubridge Shoal)
ConstructionWhite masonry tower with red band and white Chance Bros 12' 10" dia. lantern
Height17 m 9 metres to base of lantern
Elevation45 m
RangeNom: 21 nm Geo: 18 nm
CharacterFl. W. 5 s
Intensity167,000 cd
Light SourceLED Array Sealite SL324
Power Source240 Volts Mains
NotesAs at Nov 2016

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


The lighthouse grounds are open all year round however the residents of the old lighthouse cottages claim the road leading to the lighthouse to be their private property. The tower is not open to the public.


No tours are available.


The Port MacDonnell & District Maritime Museum

Associated Lighthouse

Cape Banks Lighthouse


Short lifespan of the Cape Northumberland Bay lighthouse – ABC February 2012