Iron Pot Lighthouse

Iron Pot Lighthouse is significant for several reasons.

It was the first lighthouse built in Tasmania, it is the second oldest lighthouse built in Australia, it is the oldest original tower in Australia, it was the first to utilise a locally made optic, and was the first Australian lighthouse to use solar power.


The Iron Pot Lighthouse is significant for several reasons. It was the first lighthouse to be built in Tasmania and is the second oldest lighthouse ever built in Australia. It is also the oldest original tower in Australia and the first lighthouse in Australia to utilise a locally manufactured optical apparatus. It is also believed to be the first lighthouse to be converted to solar power in Australia.

Origin of the name Iron Pot continues to be a mystery. One theory is that whalers’ pots were left on the island from the early eighteenth century and this gave the island its name. Another is that it takes its name from the curiously formed pot like holes in island. And a third theory is that there was a whale oil fired beacon in old whaler’s tri-pot.

The barren rocky island is small, about 0.4 hectare in area and marks the entrance to the Derwent River.

The first beacon and signal station was manned by convicts and is believed to be on the nearby Betsy Island before being relocated to Iron Pot Island.

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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
South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)
Wilsons Promontory, VIC 3960, AustraliaSouth East Point (Wilsons Promontory)
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

Several significant shipwrecks and groundings including the Bombay (1830), SS Lintrose (1832) and the Princess Royal (1832) with 300 free women settlers on board caused agitation from merchants and residents in Hobart Town for a light to be erected.

Lt Hill, the Port Officer, drew up plans for a wooden light, which was approved and erected in 1832. It had a timber crossbar and the locally made apparatus was raised and lowered by hand. The light was manned by a keeper and two convict assistants living in harsh conditions in tents.

John Lee Archer inspected the light and was dissatisfied with arrangement of light and recommended it be upgraded. His rubble tower was built within the timber framework of the existing tower and was completed and operating in 1833.

Despite these improvements, the light apparatus still failed to meet up with expectation and in 1835 a new lamp was fitted. Ship owners still complained the light was inadequate but it was not upgraded.

Finally, in 1851, another new apparatus installed, but the ship owners still considered the light unsatisfactory. In 1858 the newly formed Hobart Marine Board took control of light. By now a stone hut had been built for the keepers.

A curious episode happened in 1862 when one of the keeper’s children was claimed to have found a high grade gold bearing quartz nugget. The Iron Pot gold rush was on within hours of their father’s report, however the 200 potential diggers were disappointed with hours of their arrival as no further gold was apparent.

Significant changes took place on Iron Pot from 1882 to 1885.

Owing to the confined space on the Islet, the Board in 1882 entered into an Agreement for the occupation of an area on the mainland which was used for many years as a garden by the keepers at the lighthouse.

Then, in 1884 a new Chance Bros colza burning apparatus was installed. To mark the new era, in 1884, the Marine Board renamed Iron Pot Lighthouse, the ‘Derwent Lighthouse’. The name never really took, and even today on some official documents the lighthouse is still referred to as ‘The Iron Pot’.

Keeper’s conditions were improved in 1885 when a new two story headkeeper’s cottage was constructed. It was unusual to have two storey cottages on lightstation but on the 0.4 hectare island space was a premium.

The first and only person born on the island was baby Essie (or Elsie) Margaret Roberts, born to the headkeeper’s wife in 1895.

In the same year, 1895, a huge storm arose, driving waves right over the island. The assistant keeper’s quarters were abandoned for the safety of the headkeeper’s cottage as they flooded. Full water tanks, sheds and a stone retaining wall were washed away. It is believed that the keeper and families then retreated to lighthouse. In the morning, there was devastation everywhere. There was even kelp clinging to uppermost rails of the lighthouse, over 20 metres above sea level. There had been no loss of life and the keepers had worked all night and kept the light going.

1904 saw the installed incandescent petroleum burner. It was the first light in Australia to use vapourised kerosene as illuminant.

As part of the agreement controlling coastal lights, Iron Pot Lighthouse was handed over to Commonwealth in 1915. Following recommendations made upon its takeover, in 1920, the fixed white light was converted to revolving white light by inserting a revolving cylinder.

The apparatus was also converted to acetylene gas, ending an era spanning 88 years of constant toil and service to the light.

In 1921, the keepers were withdrawn and the keepers’ cottages were sold for removal. The material from the cottages is said to have been recycled into other buildings around Hobart.

As a result of local vessels objecting to the lighthouse levy imposed by the Commonwealth the Light was eventually transferred back to the Hobart Marine Board in 1925 and no further levies were charged.

However, under this arrangement, the light continued to be maintained by the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, at the Marine Board’s expense until 1976. To keep costs down upon resuming responsibility for maintenance of light, the Marine Board converted from acetylene gas to solar in 1977 – the first such conversion in Australia.

The light celebrated its centenary in 1932. Conditions must have been less than ideal as two row boats were lost.

The Iron Pot tower is known for its unique obloid (square) shape and its blackwood staircase.

The derrick crane once used to get supplies on and off the island is still visually intact.

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.


Iron Pot Lighthouse is located on an craggy island in the Derwent Estuary about 17.5 kilometres east of Hobart. Access is difficult as the island is about 2 kilometres off Cape Direction. Even by boat the landing can be difficult. The tower is not open to the public.


No tours are available.


No lighthouse accommodation is available


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.


ABC Story – 13 November 2018