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Norah Head Light is an active lighthouse located at Norah Head. It is the last lighthouse of the James Barnet style to be built, and the last staffed lighthouse constructed in New South Wales.

Officially displayed for the first time in 1903, the original vapourized kerosene burner was upgraded in 1923, electrified in 1961 and automated and de-manned in 1994 after more than 90 years of being staffed.

The concrete block tower is 27.5 metres (90 ft) high, topped by a bluestone gallery. On top of the gallery is the original Chance Bros. lantern. This lantern holds the original housing of the Chance Bros. 1st order bivalve dioptric Fresnel lens. Other important structures include the chief lightkeeper's cottage and assistant keeper's duplex, and a flag house.


Calls for construction of a lighthouse at Norah Head (then "Bungaree Noragh Point") were made as early as 1861 due to many wrecks occurring in the area. A notable supporter in the end of the 19th century was local landholder Edward Hargraves from Noraville. However, these efforts were fruitless for many years. The first formal recommendation to construct the lighthouse was made by the Newcastle Marine Board, just prior to its abolition, in 1897.

The lighthouse was designed in a style similar to the style of James Barnet, by his successor Charles Assinder Harding, who also designed Cape Byron Light and Point Perpendicular Light. It is the last to be designed in this style.

Construction commenced in 1901, undertaken by day labour. Materials were brought by boat and unloaded on a wharf constructed at Cabbage Tree Harbour for that purpose. It was officially lit on 15 November 1903, two years after Cape Byron Light. The first keepers were N. H. Williams as chief keeper, with N. Hanson and S. Kells as assistant keepers.

The cost of the tower and cottages was nearly £24,000, £19,000 for the construction of the tower and £5,000 for the optical apparatus, a Chance Bros. 1st order bivalve dioptric Fresnel lens with 700 prisms.

The original light source was a vapourized kerosene burner and mantle generating a light intensity of 438,000 cd, visible for 18 nautical miles (33 km; 21 mi). The original mechanism was a grandfather clock-type mechanism with the counterweights going down a 100 feet (30 m) central column. The weights went down gradually as the light turned and had to be wound every half an hour. The light revolved every 10 seconds, and was floating in a mercury bath of more than 15,000 pounds (6,800 kg) to lessen the friction. The high speed of rotation made operating the light while it was active very difficult.

On 13 April 1923 the light source was upgraded to a Ford-Schmidt kerosene burner with an intensity of 700,000 candlepower. It was changed to revolve every thirty seconds in 1928.

On 28 March 1961 the light was electrified, with mains electricity as the power source, and an intensity of 1,000,000 cd. The drive was replaced with a 0.3 amp electric motor. At the same time the staff was cut from three lightkeepers to two.

The light was automated and de-manned in 1994. It was one of the last stations in Australia to de-manned, after over 90 years of being staffed.

The current light source is a 1000 Watt 120 Volt tungsten-halogen lamp, which flashes white every 15 seconds(Fl.W. 15s) and can be seen for 26 nautical miles (48 km; 30 mi). It also shows a fixed red (F.R.) and green (F.G.) lights for coastal shipping.

The lighthouse celebrated its centenary on 15 November 2003.


Destinations to explore near

Norah Head Lighthouse

Photos Courtesy Scott Westlake Photography

Distance & direction from Sydney: 111 Klms NE

40 Bush Street, Norah Head

Tel: 1300 132 975   Website

Norah Head Lighthouse

Historic Site, New South Wales

First Level balcony with Sydney in the far distance (indicated by arrow)

Looking in from first level balcony. Note the two holes. When visiting, ask your guide what they are for. I think you will be amazed

The light shines through the red coloured perspex window.

This helps ships travelling south to stay left of the lighthouse

Looking at the keeper and assistant keepers cottages from the very top of the lighthouse. Note the bluestone railing and the locking pins

Keepers Cottage (foreground) and Assistant Keepers cottages

Inscribed - In memory of the Merchant Mariners lost in time of war

First lighthouse keeper and his family

Early photo of Norah Head Lighthouse (date unknown)