Rottnest Island Lighthouse

The original lighthouse on this site was Western Australia’s first lighthouse.

The second, and current, is Australia’s first ever rotating beam lighthouse.


Rottnest Island got its name in 1696 when Willem de Vlamingh landed there and found an animal that was a ‘kind of rat, as big as a common cat’. He called the island Rottnest which literally means ‘Rats Nest’. We know these a small marsupials today as quokkas.

The island was originally settled by Europeans in 1831, but was taken over by the Colonial Government in 1839 and converted to a penal settlement for Aboriginals.

The first lighthouse tower on the island was completed in 1849 using Aboriginal convict labour. Though it was 20 metres tall, it was still 3 metres shorter than originally planned and had taken 9 years to build due to poor skills and the penal environment.

Living quarters for the lightkeeper were built around the base.

Made from locally quarried stone from Nancy Cove, it was the first lighthouse to be built in stone in Western Australia. The lighthouse did not operate until 1851 when the revolving lamp and clockwork mechanism was fitted.

The machinery for the revolving catoptric light was designed and made in Fremantle. This enabled the light to be opened a year earlier than waiting for a apparatus to arrive from England.

The first light flashed for 5 seconds in the minute and was visible for 18 nautical miles. The light consumed some 3 gallons of coconut oil per week, although later kerosene was used as a fuel.

The lighthouse was officially opened on the same day in 1851 as the Arthur Head Lighthouse at Fremantle.

In 1881, the apparatus was replaced by a revolving first order dioptric with an improvement in clarity and range.

continued below …

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Title Address Description
Cape Leeuwin
Leeuwin Rd, Augusta WA 6290, Australia

Go to Cape Leeuwin

Breaksea Island
Unnamed Road, Nanarup WA 6330, Australia

Go to Breaksea Island

Cave Point
Unnamed Road, Torndirrup WA 6330, Australia

Go to Cave Point

Eclipse Island
The Gap Rd, Torndirrup WA 6330, Australia

Go to Eclipse Island

Cape Naturaliste
Bunker Bay Walk Trail, Naturaliste WA 6281, Australia

Go to Cape Naturaliste

Casuarina Point
1 Bennett Way, Bunbury WA 6230, Australia

Go to Casuarina Point

Arthur Head
15 Captains Ln, Fremantle WA 6160, Australia

Go to Arthur Head

South Mole
1 Fleet St, Fremantle WA 6160, Australia

Go to South Mole

North Mole
N Mole Dr, North Fremantle WA 6159, Australia

North Mole

Woodman Point
597 Cockburn Rd, Munster WA 6166, Australia

Go to Woodman Point

Wadjemup (Rottnest)
Wadjemup Rd, Rottnest Island WA 6161, Australia

Go to Wadjemup (Rottnest)

Bathurst Point
Lancier St, Rottnest Island WA 6161, Australia

Go to Bathurst Point

5 Tank Road, Guilderton WA 6041, Australia

Go to Guilderton

Escape Island
Escape Island, Western Australia, Australia

Go to Escape Island

Pelsaert Island
Houtman Abrolhos WA 6530, Australia

Go to Pelsaert Island

Point Moore
481-485 Marine Terrace, West End WA 6530, Australia

Go to Point Moore

Bluff Point
118A Kempton St, Bluff Point WA 6530, Australia

Go to Bluff Point

Cape Inscription
Unnamed Road, Dirk Hartog Island WA 6537, Australia

Go to Cape Inscription

Babbage Island
13 Annear Pl, Babbage Island WA 6701, Australia

Go to Babbage Island

Point Quobba
Unnamed Road, Macleod WA 6701, Australia

Go to Point Quobba

Point Cloates
Cardabia-Ningaloo Rd, Ningaloo WA 6701, Australia

Go to Point Cloates

Vlaming Head
Yardie Creek Rd, North West Cape WA 6707, Australia

Got to Vlaming Head

Jarman Island
Reader Head Rd, Cossack WA 6720, Australia

Go to Jarman Island

Gantheaume Point
Lurujarri Walk, Minyirr WA 6725, Australia

Go to Gantheaume Point

Cape Bossut
Cape Bossut, Lagrange WA 6725, Australia

Go to Cape Bossut

Cape Leveque
Broome-Cape Leveque Rd, Dampier Peninsula WA 6725, Australia

Go to Cape Leveque

Caffarelli Island
Caffarelli Island, Western Australia, Australia

Go to Caffarelli Island

continued from above …

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, it was decided to replace the lighthouse with a new one twice as high and with a more powerful lamp, situated alongside the old one on Wadjemup Hill.

The small square stone building adjacent to the lighthouse is all that remains of this first lighthouse.

The new tower completed in 1896, was designed by W T Douglass, in London, who was also responsible for the Cape Leeuwin light. Construction was under the supervision of the colony’s Engineer-in-Chief, C Y O’Connor.

C Y O’Connor is famous for the water supply pipeline to Kalgoorlie Goldfields in the dry inland of Australia. He took his life tragically when people lost faith in the scheme, and therefore never saw it successfully transform the goldfields to a booming inland city.

The new lighthouse, like the first lighthouse, was also built of limestone from Nancy Cove. This time the stone was transported to Wadjemup Hill along a short railway line.

The lantern room was fitted with a focal radius rotating lens (first order dioptric) manufactured by Chance Brothers and Co Limited, Lighthouse Engineers, near Birmingham. A new mercury bath and pedestal with clockwork mechanism was installed in 1929.

In 1936, light source consisting of a six wick kerosene burners was converted to electricity and made semi-automatic. The light was converted to fully automatic operation in 1986. The electric supply comes from the island settlements power station. The light was demanned in 1990.

It is interesting to note that the first three lighthouse keepers committed suicide!

During the Meckering Earthquake a quantity of the mercury spilled out of its bath.

A subsidiary light was established on Bathurst Point in 1900.

As a major coastal light, the Main Rottnest Lighthouse was passed to Commonwealth control in 1915 under the Navigation Act of 1912. The Rottnest Island Authority has purchased the lighthouse and leased it back to Australian Maritime Safety Authority.




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 Exhibited1850
LocationLat: 32° 00.4378' S Long: 115° 30.2480' E
Original Optic
Current OpticChance Bros. 920 mm focal radius 8 panel catadioptric.
ConstructionRound white stone tower with white Chance Bros. 12'0" diameter lantern
Height38 m
Elevation80 m
RangeNominal: 26 nm Geographical: 23 nm
CharacterFl. W. 7.5 secs
Intensity1,300,000 cd
Light Source120V, 1000W, 3000 hr, TH
Power Source240V AC
NotesAs at March 2013

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


The lighthouse is on Wadjemup Hill at the centre of Rottnest Island. The island can be reached by ferries that leave from the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth, Northport in North Fremantle or Hillarys Boat Harbour. Flights leave from Perth Airport. It is not known whether tours are conducted.

Site Access

The lighthouse grounds are open all year round.


No tours are available.


No lighthouse accommodation is available


Detail to come.

Friends Group

There is no Friends Group

Associated Lighthouse

Detail to come.


Detail to come.


  • Detail to come  External link