Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse (Commonwealth)

Go to the Register of the National Estate for more information.
Seal Rocks Rd, Seal Rocks
Great Lakes City
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, opened in 1875, is significant for its association with the development of New South Wales maritime navigational aids during an important period of expansion of the lighthouse network. It also has a long association with Australian shipping. (Criterion A.4) (Themes: 3.8.1 Shipping to and from Australian ports, 3.16.1 Dealing with hazards and disasters)

The tower is unusual in that it is one of only two with an external stairway providing access to the tower. Further, it retains its original Chance Bros optics. (Criterion B.2)

The Sugarloaf tower, with its rendered brick shaft, bluestone gallery supported by concrete corbels, and graceful gunmetal railing, represents a fine design achievement. (Criterion F.1)

The lighthouse was designed by New South Wales Colonial Architect James Barnet, and was the first of his major lighthouse designs. Barnet played a very influential role in the colony's architecture for over 25 years. (Criterion H.1)

Dramatically located on the summit of an abrupt headland which rises 60 metres above the sea, and free from modern visual intrusions, the lighthouse has strong aesthetic values. (Criterion E.1)

Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse is well known in the area and has social significance for mariners, tourists and the north coast community. (Criterion G.1)

A committee of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly considered the construction of additional coastal lights in 1863. Among its recommendations was a light near Seal Rocks which was a recognised danger spot for shipping. However, construction was delayed while the precise location of the light was debated: should the light be built on the Rocks or nearby on Sugarloaf Point. Finally Sugarloaf Point was selected in 1873. Tenders were called early in 1874 and John McLeod was selected as the contractor. The light was first exhibited on 1 December 1875, and it was part of an important period of expansion of the lighthouse system. The lighthouse was designed by NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet, and it was his first major lighthouse. Barnet, over a period of 25 years, played a seminal role in the development of architecture in the colony.

Originally the light was 122 000 candelas. In April 1923 it was increased to 174 000 candelas, and then in June 1966 the light was converted to electricity and increased to 1 000 000 candelas. The light was automated and converted to solar power in 1997, and now the tower, the flagstaff base and part of the inclinator remain in Commonwealth hands (ie the Australian Maritime Safety Authority), the rest of the lightstation being the responsibility of the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation.


The tower is a painted, cement-rendered brick construction, which is 6.7 metres high to the floor of the lantern room. The tower is divided into two storeys by a concrete floor; an external flight of bluestone steps reaches this floor from ground level, and then an internal iron stair continues up to the lantern. Sugarloaf is significant for being one of only two lighthouses in Australia with an external stairway providing access. At the top of the brick tower is the lantern gallery which is built of bluestone slabs, the oversail of which is supported on sixteen shaped concrete corbel slabs built into the brickwork. As at some other Barnet lighthouses, there is an elegant gunmetal handrail to the gallery. The lantern and the optical equipment is the original by Chance Bros of Birmingham. The light is a first order dioptric, is sixteen-sided, was originally kerosene powered and has a visibility of 22 miles. The lantern roof is a copper dome. Lower in the tower there is a subsidiary fixed light (originally green but changed to red in the 1980s) which serves to warn mariners of Seal Rocks. The fuel store is located in the base of the tower. At ground level there is a four feet high, cement-rendered brick wall enclosing a brick-paved walkway around the base of the tower.

North of the tower is the original flagstaff base, a pad made of concrete which has been painted and which retains various iron fastenings; the flagstaff is recent. Just to the south-west of the tower is part of the inclinator, a timber railway used to transport goods up the steep slope to the tower. The rest of the inclinator, the keepers' residences and other buildings are outside the Commonwealth boundary.

The tower, although not tall in itself, is dramatically sited on the summit of an abrupt headland 60 metres above the sea. This location, combined with the structure's graceful design, gives the tower considerable aesthetic value. The lighthouse has social value for mariners, tourists and the north coast community more generally.