Fingal Head Lighthouse, built in 1872, 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 H.1 and B.2). 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).
Fingal Head Lighthouse was established in 1872 and was built to a design prepared in the office of NSW Colonial Architect, James Barnet, who played a major role in the development of NSW architecture for over 25 years. Fingal Head was the third in a series of five small lights, the others being Richmond River, Yamba (demolished), Hastings River and Crowdy Head. The light was originally manned by one lighthkeeper but on 15 June 1920 it was converted to automatic acetylene operation, the power of the light being increased from under 1,000 to 1,500 candle power, and the character changed from fixed to group flashing. Soon after this, the lightkeeper was withdrawn. About the same time the enclosed porch and annex containing the keeper's duty room and oil store were demolished.
The lighthouse consists of a group-flashing light of fourth order catadioptric type exhibited from a brick tower. The tower is circular in plan and capped by an oversailing bluestone platform supported by shaped bluestone corbels at 12ft (3.6m) above ground level. External walls of the tower have been cement rendered and the tower is surmounted by a simple domed lantern which encases the optical apparatus. A handrail at the platform's perimeter has metal standards and rails.