Richmond River Lighthouse, built in 1880, is significant as a lighthouse designed by the colonial architect, James Barnet, and as one of a series of five small lights established along the northern New South Wales coast in the late nineteenth century.
It exhibits a simple and practical approach to lighthouse design (Criteria D.2 and H.1).
The lighthouse is significant for its association with the maritime navigational aids established along the eastern coast of Australia and its contribution to the once vital North Coast Run of shipping and cargo between Queensland and New South Wales. (Criterion A.4).
Richmond River Lighthouse, erected in 1866 at the northern head of the Richmond River, a few kilometers from the settlement and river wharves of Ballina, was one of two built in the same year from drawings prepared in the office of colonial architect, James Barnet.
Its companion at Yamba on the Clarence River's southern headland was demolished in 1955.
The Ballina tower, stripped of its original porch, annexe and keepers' quarters, remains as the first of a series of five towers erected on northern rivers headlands up to 1879.
The light in each case was a fixed white light of fourth order catadioptric type, exhibited from a brick tower, circular on plan, and capped by an oversailing bluestone platform.
The platform is supported at a level approximately 12ft (3.6m) above ground level by twelve shaped bluestone corbels. The platform is reached from an external door at ground level by an iron stair in the 6ft (1.8m) diameter internal well of the tower.
The tower walls of brick taper from a thickness of 19in (475mm) at the base to 14in (355mm) at platform level.
An enclosed porch and a rectangular annexe containing the keeper's duty room and oil store, which once adjoined the tower, have been demolished upon conversion on the light to electrical operation.
External walls of the tower have been cement rendered and the tower surmounted by a simple metal domed lantern which houses the optical apparatus.
A handrail around the perimeter of the platform has metal standards and rails.
All external surfaces have been painted.
The tower is only 6m high, the focal plane being 35m above high water level.
Although it was a fixed catadioptric light of less than 1,000 candelas, it was visible for 12 miles (19km).
A steamer's masthead lamp with a 200mm lens was placed on a wooden structure only 30m from the main light. Together these two served chiefly as leading lights into the river.
It seems that both the Richmond River Lighthouse and the Clarence River Lighthouse were run in conjunction with the local pilot station, so that only one keeper was required at each station.