Cape Willoughby Lighthouse

Cape Willoughby was the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia, and lights the Backstairs Passage between Kangaroo Island and the mainland.

Unfortunately much of the aesthetic appeal of this light was lost in 1974 when the lantern room was replaced.


Established in 1852, the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, originally known as the Sturt Light after Captain Charles Sturt, is the oldest in South Australia. It is set on the eastern extremity of Kangaroo Island.

The light provides assistance to shipping through the Backstairs Passage – the 11 km wide strip of water between Kangaroo Island and the mainland of South Australia.

It is constructed from granite and limestone quarried from a cleft in the cliff at the base of the tower.

The original keepers settlement was in a valley, ½ km from the light. Here a spring provided fresh water and it was close to the beach where supplies where landed. Due to deterioration and the hardship of reaching the lighthouse in bad weather in 1927 new keepers quarter were built at the lighthouse.

The original apparatus was a Deville lantern comprising of a revolving parabolic reflectors powered by a clock work mechanism. The illumination was provided by multiple wick burners.

In 1912 the wick burners were replaced by incandescent vapourised kerosene burners.

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Title Address Description
Cape du Couedic
Cape Du Couedic Rd, Flinders Chase SA 5223, Australia

Go to Cape du Couedic

Cape Borda
Cape Borda Rd, Cape Borda SA 5223, Australia

Go to Cape Borda

Cape Marsden
Unnamed Road, North Cape SA 5223, Australia

Cape Marsden

Hope Cottage (Cape Willoughy Lantern)
1A Seaview Rd, Kingscote SA 5223, Australia

Hope Cottage

Pages Light
Deep Creek Cove Hike, Deep Creek SA 5204, Australia

Pages Light

Cape St Albans
Unnamed Road, Willoughby SA 5222, Australia

Go to Cape St Albans

Cape Willoughby
2706 Cape Willoughby Rd, Willoughby SA 5222, Australia

Go to Cape Willoughby

Cape Jervis
Flinders Dr, Cape Jervis SA 5204, Australia

Go to Cape Jervis

Point Malcolm
1740 Poltalloch Rd, Poltalloch SA 5259, Australia

Go to Point Malcolm

Cape Jaffa Platform

Cape Jaffa

Cape Jaffa (Kingston)
33 Marine Parade, Kingston SE SA 5275, Australia

Go to Cape Jaffa

continued from above …

The whole lantern apparatus was replaced in 1923 by a large Chance Bros. dioptric revolving lens which floated in a bath of mercury on a pedestal. This lantern had previously been in use at the Tipara Reef Lighthouse. Illumination was provided by a pressurised kerosene mantle burner.

The light was converted to electricity in 1959 when two diesel 110 Volt DC generators were installed.

In 1974 major alterations were made to the lighthouse. Up till then the intention had been to replace the lighthouse, the thinking at the time being that this was not an important light and not worthy of the cost of preservation because it was not aesthetically appealing.

The original elegant timber stair was removed, due to rotting, and replaced by steel stairs with three landings.

The lantern room and apparatus were removed and replace by an aluminium and fibreglass lantern room and an apparatus comprising of banks of sealed beam lamps. 240 Volt main electricity was connected, with a diesel standby generator.

One of the reasons the lighthouse was saved is because despite official opinions at the time, the value of public relations in preserving the tower was realised, as a result of the volume of tourists visiting the light.

The Chance Brothers lantern which was removed from the tower was donated to the National Trust of S.A. together with the lens and operating machinery. The equipment has since been re-erected on a short tower adjacent to, Hope Cottage, the National Trust Museum at Kingscote. It has since been into the “Register of the National Estate”.

Another point of interest is the bulge in the side of the tower. It seems that this is not due to deterioration, but came about in the original construction.

It was reported that during World War II, a RAAF bomber type aircraft crashed into the sea in the immediate vicinity while attempting a crash landing in the dark of night. However, apart from the fact that all the crew perished no other details are available.

Colonial Secretary’s Office, Adelaide, 30 December 1851.

NOTICE is hereby given by the authority of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, that on and after the 10th January, 1852, the light in the Sturt Lighthouse, lately erected on Cape Willoughby, Kangaroo Island, will be exhibited from sunset to sunrise. This Lighthouse is situated on the eastern extremity of the Kangaroo Island, in lat. 35°49’20″S., long 138°12’30″E., and is a revolving light, appearing at regular intervals of half-a-minute. This light is elevated 241 feet above the level of the sea, and can be seen 24 nautical mile, illuminating 259 degrees of a circle, from N. by W.½W., round to S.W. by W.½W.

By His Excellency’s Command,
Colonial Secretary.
[The South Australian Government Gazette, 1 Jan 1852]


Keepers who served at Cape Willoughby
CAWTHORNE William Cook HK 1852-1862
DAVIS W AK 1852-1852
SEYMOUR Michael AK 1856
MCARTHER Donald AK 1860
TAPELY John AK 1860
CARTER William Heppard AK 1862-1894
TAPELY John AK 1865-1869
TAYLOR John AK 1869-1870
BARTLETT John C AK 1870-1871
TAYLOR John AK 1871-1872
WEBLING Alfred Charles AK 1874-1875
TAYLOR John AK 1875-1878
BRUCE E AK 1877-1878
WEST Thomas W AK 1878-1878
FRANK James AK 1878-1879
WILLIAMS Thomas AK 1879-1882
HORSWILL W J AK 1882-1885
TAYLOR John Dunn AK 1883-1894
YOUNG Andrew John AK 1894-1896
FRANK Frederick William HK 1894-1898
ANGUS George AK 1897
DAY Albert Sydney AK 1897-518
FRANK Augustus Daniel HK 1898-1036
PAYNE George Arthur AK 1901
MCLEOD Donald HK 1902-1903
ANGUS George HK 1903
NELSON Conrad Adoff AK 1912
FRANK Augustus Daniel HK 1915
PAYNE Edgar Samuel AK 1915
ADDISON Brant J AK 1934
PERRYMAN Charles Percival Elliot AK 1935
GRENFELL Howard E B AK 1936
HILLOCK Stanley AK 1937
SCHOFIELD Arthur AK 1937
BERESFORD Walter M AK 1938
GRENFELL Howard E B AK 1938
LYALL William Alfred HK 1938
LOVALL William George AK 1939-1946
CAIN Herbert Percey HK 1939
WELLER Alfred Lionel AK 1939
SMITH Arthur Thomas AK 1940
PERRYMAN Charles Percival Elliot AK 1940
SHERIDAN Leonard J AK 1941
BARBER Charles AK 1942
TURNER James Charles Patrick AK 1944
KNIPE Cyril George AK 1944
BOYLE Brison John Gurney AK 1945
GRIMSHORE Donald Newbold AK 1945
PERRYMAN Charles Percival Elliot AK 1945
ROBERTS Edward George AK 1945
LETHEBY Philip Dalwood AK 1946
DENT Philip HK 1972-1989
HARBENS Harbert AK 1966-1991
HK=Headkeeeper, AK=Assistant Keeper
Source: Parks 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.

Technical Details

First Exhibited
Permanent Tower
Original Optic
Current Optic
Light Source
Power Source

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


The lighthouse grounds are open all year round.


Tours of the lightstation including the tower are available.


The keepers cottages are available as holiday accommodation.  See Sealink or National Parks of SA


There is a small museum in the Keepers cottage. The 1st order lens from Althorpe Island is also stored here.

Associated Lighthouse

Cape St Albans Lighthouse