Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Cape Naturaliste is the northernmost point of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge and separates the relatively sheltered waters of Geographe Bay from the southern Indian Ocean, in the south west of Western Australia.

The lighthouse was activated in 1904 and  is a 20-metre high cylindrical tower built of local limestone that still uses its original first order Fresnel lens made by Chance Brothers. The lighthouse is now an automatic operation, with its white beam visible for 26 nautical miles (48km), flashing twice every 10 seconds. 

The lighthouse stands on a 100m bluff overlooking the beautiful Geographe Bay. 


Standing 20 metres high (66’), the lighthouse was built in 1903, with limestone carted by bullock wagon from a quarry about 1.5 km away at Bunkers Bay. The three original keepers’ quarters are open close by the lighthouse of stone construction, they were built in 1904. 

Now they are beautifully restored, the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage Cafe serves delicious cakes, coffee and light refreshments and the landscaped lawns and nautical themed playground will entice you to sit and enjoy this wonderful heritage precinct.It is one of the most popular attractions in the Margaret River Region and an easy climb of only 59 stairs makes this lighthouse accessible even for young & older folk.

Only 12 kilometres from the town of Dunsborough, this reveals the fascinating maritime history of the Cape region. The half hour guided tours provide a captivating insight into the functions of this working lighthouse with visitors to the top balcony of the lighthouse tower rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, Cape Naturaliste, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and the beautiful Geographe Bay coastline.

The new observation platform at the base of the lighthouse tower enables universal access to sweeping ocean views and great photo opportunities.

History 

The State government at the time was strapped for cash. Regional infrastructure was a low priority and most monies were spent on Perth and Fremantle. 

However, when Ford and Bayley found gold in 1892, royalties began to fill government coffers and money could at last be spent where it was desperately needed, the lighthouse took 10 months to build.

Shipwrecks 

At least 12 ships have come to grief in the strong currents and dangerous reefs which lie off Cape Naturaliste’s sharp point.The Halcyon was completely wrecked in 1844. The Day Dawn, the Gaff and the Dao all went ashore during gales at Quindalup or near Toby’s Inlet. The Phoenix, a 684 ton Danish ship loaded with jarrah was swept ashore in 1895, and the Paragon met with the same fate.American whalers frequented the coast in great numbers during the 1840’s. 

During January 1841 there were 17 ships in Geographe Bay, nearly all were whalers. Three American whalers were wrecked on the south west coast of Western Australia on 8 July 1840 in a gale: the Samuel Wright, the North America and the Governor Endicott.

Building the Lighthouse

Bullock wagons carted the limestone from the Bunkers Bay quarry and most of the other materials and apparatus landed at nearby Eagle Bay. This included the lens and turntable weighing 12 1/2 tons. 

Late one evening, during the lighthouse’s construction, while being unloaded from a ship on the Quindalup Jetty, a jar of valuable mercury fell into the sea. Despite a warning to stay away until it could be reclaimed by the proper authorities, a sailor dived for it, but drowned in the course of trying to bring the heavy weight to the surface. The next day in the morning light no sign of it could be found. The heavy weight and movement of water had moved the jar well below the sand. The mercury has never been recovered. so, some small fortune of mercury lies hidden beneath the encroaching sand dunes at Quindalup.

The steps loading up the tower were made from wooden teak blocks dowelled together and placed grain-end up for long wearing. These steps are still in good order and in use today.The light was exhibited for the first time in 1904. The apparatus was originally powered by an incandescent vapourised kerosene lamp.

The power was increased to 1,213,000 candles in 1924.The light was converted to automatic operation in 1978 and the keepers were reduced to one.The light is painted with a special acrylic to match the original stone.

The Lighthouse Keepers

 Although Cape Naturaliste was relatively close to the settlement, life was still hard for lightkeepers and their families. With no paid annual leave or travel assistance, lightkeepers remained at their isolated stations for many years. 

Once a fortnight stores were delivered from Busselton. The nearest school was 20 kilometres (14 miles) away at Quindalup. It was manned by three keepers who lived on-site—one head keeper and two assistant keepers and their respective families. 

Night watches were divided into three periods—one for each keeper—during which the clockwork had to be wound and the kerosene pumped into the burner. 1907 was an eventful year for the light station. 

The wreck of the Carnarvon Castle, which had caught fire off the the south east of Western Australia, saw the rescue of 14 seaman after weeks at sea in lifeboats. The crew stayed at the headkeeper’s home until they were well enough to travel.

Fireball at Cape Naturaliste

The other major event was a fireball that did immense damage to the station. After the fire ball struck, there was loud thunder and lightning, like hell let loose for about an hour. Then the severity of the storm subsided and it became very quiet. Very heavy rain came down and lasted for a few hours, slowly stopping. Then everything cleared, the sun shone through and it looked so peaceful with raindrops glistening on trees and flowers.

The light, the last to be manned became automatic late in 1995.

Walking trails around the cape

That goes from the Lighthouse around the stunning bays and beaches of the Cape, providing amazing views over the ocean and close-up glimpses of local wildflowers?Providing magnificent whale watching during the annual migratory periods, from September to December - a special experience not to be missed.

The 'Access for More' section of the Cape to Cape Track runs between the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and Sugarloaf Rock.  

This is a world-class trail that provides an exceptional experience for walkers of all abilities. It incorporates more than 1 kilometre of timber boardwalk. Seats are provided along the route.Access this track at easy drop off points in parking areas at either the northern end by the lighthouse or at Sugarloaf Rock.  

It is suitable for wheelchairs, being graded 1:12.Several track options with distances of 2.4 km to 4km. One is a loop walk for great views of the exposed north-west tip of the cape.  Plus another popular trail incorporates boardwalks and lookouts with views over the ocean. Plus the other trail leads to a cliff edge with breathtaking views. 

Rest for a while at the viewing platform enjoying overlooking Shelley Cove with distant views of Geographe Bay.

The pull of the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse is strong and the story of the lighthouse and those brave souls who tended it is fascinating, it is well worth a visit.

Last Note

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