Cape Wickham Lighthouse

The impressive Cape Wickham Lighthouse, at 48 metres, is Australia’s tallest lighthouse, but is not the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere although you will read that claim.


Established in 1861,the tower is constructed of local stone, with walls 3.4 metres thick at the base. It has eleven flights of stairs each of 20 steps.

The light was automated in 1918 replacing the original single wick oil burner with an acetylene flasher. This changed the character of the light from being “fixed” to group flashing, showing two flashes in quick succession every 10 seconds, and increased the candlepower from 7,500 to 13,000 candles.

The light was demanned in 1921 after which the Superintendent’s house and the three cottages were demolished. The light was tended by the lightkeeper from Currie.

The original first order catadioptric fixed lens installed in1861 was replaced in 1946 by a Chance Bros 250mm revolving lens and electric lamp with an intensity of 170,00 Candelas. The first order fixed lens was then used in the light at Quobba Point, north of Carnarvon, West Australia until 1988. The lens was returned to King Is for display in the King Island Historical Museum 

The Cape Wickham Lighthouse is located at the northern tip of King Island, in Bass Strait. It also marks the southern end of the “Eye of the Needle,” the dangerous narrow western entrance, 84 kilometres wide, that ships had to go through to get into Bass Strait and to Melbourne. The northern end of this entrance is Cape Otway, Victoria.

One of these two capes was usually the first landfall for ships coming from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa to Australia. Suddenly from an ocean of thousand of kilometres ship’s captains had to find a gap 84 kilometres wide! This lead to tragedies on both capes and the need for these lights.

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Title Address Description
Blinking Billy
Blinking Billy Point Reserve, 652 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay TAS 7005, AustraliaBlinking Billy
John Garrow Shoal
Blinking Billy Point Reserve, 652 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay TAS 7005, AustraliaJohn Garrow Shoal
Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot
Iron Pot, Tasmania, AustraliaDerwent Lighthouse Iron Pot
Tasman Island
Tasman Island, Tasmania, AustraliaTasman Island
Cape Bruny
Cape Bruny Lighthouse Tours, Lighthouse Rd, South Bruny TAS 7150, AustraliaCape Bruny
Maatsuyker Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, AustraliaMaatsuyker Island
Cape Sorell
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, AustraliaCape Sorell
Entrance Island
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, AustraliaEntrance Island
Bonnet Island
Macquarie Harbour,, TAS, AustraliaBonnet Island
Bluff Hill Point
Bluff Hill Rd, Marrawah TAS 7330, AustraliaBluff Hill Point
West Point
Unnamed Road, Marrawah TAS 7330, AustraliaWest Point
Sandy Cape
Unnamed Road, West Coast TAS 7321, AustraliaSandy Cape
Stokes Point
Unnamed Road, Surprise Bay TAS 7256, AustraliaStokes Point
Currie Harbour
LOT 1 Lighthouse St, Currie TAS 7256, AustraliaCurrie Harbour
Cape Wickham
687 Cape Wickham Rd, Wickham TAS 7256, AustraliaCape Wickham
Councillor Island
Councillor Island, Tasmania, AustraliaCouncillor Island
Highfield Point
Unnamed Road, Stanley TAS 7331, AustraliaHighfield Point
Highfield Point Old
Marine Park, 14 Wharf Rd, Stanley TAS 7331, AustraliaHighfield Point Old
Rocky Cape
Rocky Cape Rd, Rocky Cape TAS 7321, AustraliaRocky Cape
Table Cape
Lighthouse Rd, Table Cape TAS 7325, AustraliaTable Cape
Round Hill Point
Chasm Creek Lighthouse, 1A Bass Hwy, Chasm Creek TAS 7321, AustraliaRound Hill Point
Mersey Bluff
39 Bluff Access Rd, Devonport TAS 7310, AustraliaMersey Bluff
Devonport Leading Lights
6 Victoria Parade, Devonport TAS 7310, AustraliaDevonport Leading Lights
Devonport Leading Lights
26 Best St, Devonport TAS 7310, AustraliaDevonport Leading Lights
Low Head
496 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, AustraliaLow Head
Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)
180 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, AustraliaMiddle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)
Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)
199 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, AustraliaSheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)
Swan Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, AustraliaSwan Island
Goose Island
Flinders, TAS, AustraliaGoose Island
Eddystone Point
Eddystone Light Station, 2986 Eddystone Point Rd, Eddystone TAS 7264, AustraliaEddystone Point
Deal Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania 7255, AustraliaDeal Island
Cape Tourville
Cape Tourville Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, AustraliaCape Tourville
Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)
Freycinet National Park, Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, AustraliaCape Forestier (Lemon Rock)
Point Home
Unnamed Road, Triabunna TAS 7190, AustraliaPoint Home
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It was Australia’s largest maritime disaster, the wrecking of the Cataraqui with losses of 402 lives in 1845, that eventually lead to the establishment of Cape Wickham. An earlier loss of the Neva with 225 lives, mainly convict women and children in 1835, had brought no reaction from authorities.

Even after the establishment of the light there were still wrecks as some ship’s masters mistook the light for Cape Otway. One such ship was the Netherby, wrecked near the current Currie Lighthouse in 1866, amazingly without loss of life. This was followed by the Lock Leven in 1871, and the Anna in 1873, and lead to the establishment of the Currie Lighthouse.

At these times the Cape Wickham Lighthouse became a refuge to the survivors and a final resting place to the victims.

Near the lighthouse are the unmarked graves of many of the Neva’s victims and the marked graves of some later mariners, including the master of the clipper Loch Leven, that attest to these tragedies.

When the light was first established there seemed to be a certain amount of tension between the lightkeepers and hunters, the other early occupants of the island. This is illustrated in this extract from Katherine Stanley’s book Guiding Lights:

“Roving bands of hunters began trespassing on the lighthouse reserve and making free use of the comforts the keepers had painstakingly provided for themselves. Some of them refused to leave when directed to do so and animosity developed between these and the families who lived there. One report in 1873, outlined the difficulties:

‘There are certain lawless men who have taken up their residence on the island who make a practice of annoying the Superintendent in every possible way, destroying his cattle, pulling down the fences and taking his hay and in fact they say they are determined to make the place too hot for him, and I much fear it will end in some serious injury to the station or perhaps to the light itself.’

Further to this food and goods from shipwrecks were stolen sometimes even when they were being salvaged.

There was an occasion where a keeper was dismissed for looking after goods his brother had looted from a wreck. They were both apprehended and convicted. It is said that when his wife left the island, she took off 3 times the possessions that had she had brought on.The lightkeepers had to be extremely self-sufficient with supply ships only visiting once or twice a year. One early keeper was renown for his gardening and agricultural skills. Mail was sent by signalling passing ships to pick it up.


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 Exhibited1st November 1861
Permanent Tower1861
ArchitectWR Falconer
LocationLat: 39° 35.3060' S Long: 143° 56.5830' E
Original OpticL Sautter fixed 920mm Catadioptric now on display on King Is
Current OpticChance Bros 250 mm double flashing
Automated5th of July 1918
ConstructionWhite round stone tower and 13'0" dia. H. Wilkins & Co. lantern
Height48 m
Elevation85 m
RangeNom: 24 nm Geo: 23 nm
CharacterFl. W. (2) in 10 secs
Intensity500,000 cd
Light SourceSealite SL324 LED array
Power Source240V AC Mains
NotesAs at November 2020
  NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.


The lighthouse grounds are open all year round. The tower is not open to the public.


No tours are available.


No lighthouse accommodation is available


King Island Historical Society Museum at Currie Harbour.  External link

The Museum was established in a former lighthouse keeper’s cottage in 1980. Make sure you ask for a look at
the original Cape Wickham fresnel light which returned home for the 150th anniversary of Cape Wickham in 2011. It’s simply stunning.

Associated Lighthouse

Point Quobba