Cape Nelson Lighthouse

The white and red tower and the long stone wall are the features that give the Cape Nelson Lighthouse a whole character of its own.


The lighthouse was finally lit in 1884 after the building had been delayed by difficulty in obtaining suitable bluestone for the project. The stone that had been originally quarried from close by soon ran out and consideration was given to completing the tower with steam bricks from Melbourne. However, suitable stone was found at a location eleven kilometres away. But there was no direct road and the stone had to be carted via Portland, a distance of twenty-one kilometres. Some 20 hands and 25 cutters were employed at the quarry and 15 teams were engaged to cart the dressed stone to the lighthouse site.

This tower is believed to have replaced an earlier square wooden tower built in the 1870s.

A remarkable feature of the lighthouse reserve is a rubble wall 1.75 metres high, 0.4 metres wide and 435 metres (1450 ft) long surrounding the keepers quarters and extending out to the light to protect the keepers from the harsh winds.

An auxiliary light was added to the base of the tower in 1890.

The original lighting apparatus was replaced in 1907 with a incandescent vapourised kerosene mantle.

In 1934, the light was one of the first to upgraded to electric operation. The power was provided by a generator plant. At the same time it became group flashing and a clockwork mechanism was installed to turn the light.

In 1977, a major overhaul of the lantern room was undertaken and the cupola (dome) was replaced. In 1987, the light was connected mains power.

continued below …

© All images are copyright of their respective photographers and are not to be used without permission.

Title Address Description
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

Griffiths Island (Port Fairy)
Unnamed Road, Port Fairy VIC 3284, Australia

Griffiths Island (Port Fairy)

continued from above …

The lighthouse was connected to Portland by telephone in the later part of 1884. At this time the “Russian Scare” was well and truly at its height, so a telescope, which was described as the biggest of its kind in the Western District, arrived at the lighthouse on 29 May 1885.

The telescope was 2.1 metres long, had an object glass of 10 centimetres in diameter and was to be used “to sweep the horizon to a distance of 25 or 30 miles and scrutinize passing ships of hostile intent”. The telescope pictured is still at the lighthouse, however the front lens has been cracked.


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 Exhibited1884
LocationLat: 38° 25.8590' S
Longitude: 141° 32.5740' E
Original OpticChance Bros 1st order
Current OpticChance 4 panel 250mm fr catadioptric (with catadioptric reinforcing mirror acting upon the two centre panels to equalise intensity) – with parasitic flash curtains
ConstructionWhite stone tower, white lantern with red cupola
Height32m overall
24m to base of lantern
Elevation123 m
RangeNom: 25 NM Geo: 27 NM
CharacterFl. W. (4) 20 s
Intensity930,000 cd
Light Source120V, 1000W TH
Power Source240AC
NotesAs at 2011

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


The lighthouse is 13 kilometres south of Portland, Victoria. The lighthouse grounds are open all year round.


Are available  External link


Stay in the original keepers cottages  External link