Completed in 1818, Macquarie Lighthouse was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway for Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of NSW. Owing to crumbling foundations, it was reconstructed in the 1880s.
The replacement tower was designed by the state’s Colonial Architect, James Barnet, to closely resemble Greenway’s original. Standing at 26 metres tall, Barnet's iteration of Macquarie Lighthouse continues to be source of fascination for visitors. Flanked by head keeper’s residence and assistant keeper’s quarters, the iconic building can be explored as part of the Harbour Trust’s Macquarie Lighthouse Tour.
By car: Drive along South Head Road to arrive at Macquarie Lightstation, located opposite Macquarie Road.
By bus: Sydney Buses operate the 324 service, which links Circular Quay to Watsons Bay via Vaucluse, daily. Alight at the bus stop on Old South Head Road near Macquarie Lightstation. For further information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website.
By ferry: Sydney Ferries run between Circular Quay and Watsons Bay daily. Once you disembark at Watsons Bay, either walk 1.5km to Macquarie Lightstation or catch the 324 bus. For further information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website.
By foot: Macquarie Lightstation is a 1.5km walk from Watsons Bay. It is also one of the stops on the popular coastal walk that extends from the Harbour Bridge to inner South Head.
Limited parking is available on the streets surrounding Macquarie Lightstation.
The grounds of Macquarie Lightstation are mostly wheelchair accessible; however, some surfaces are uneven and there are 100 steps to the top of the lighthouse. The nearest public toilets are located at Christison Park.
In the event of an emergency, dial 000 or 112 if mobile reception is poor. Harbour Trust Rangers patrol Macquarie Lightstation approximately once per fortnight.
For your own safety, and to protect this historic site, please observe the following rules, enforceable by our rangers:
Conditions of entry: Keep dogs on a leash; do not Litter, dump rubbish or leave dog waste; do not camp overnight; do not erect gazebos or marquees (without a permit); do not operate remote-controlled vehicles (including drones); do not light fires or use portable barbeques; do not play amplified music (without a permit) or create excessive noise; do not undertake commercial activities (without a permit); do not hold private functions (without a permit); do not ride bikes, skateboards or scooters on footpaths or walking tracks; and do not climb fences, historic structures or the cliff.
As the situation unfolds, our priority is the health and safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers. Currently, Harbour Trust sites remain open to the public; however, we are monitoring the situation vigilantly.
Looking for things to do in Sydney? Macquarie Lightstation a must-see landmark for history buffs, lighthouse lovers and outdoor enthusiasts…
During this 20-minute tour, our volunteer guide will regale you with the lighthouse's storied history. You will also ascend 100 steps to the lantern room and, from there, access a balcony for a breathtaking panoramic view of Sydney Harbour and the Pacific Ocean. We offer this guided tour every two months on a Sunday.
Feeling ambitious? Embark on the 80km Bondi to Manly Walk, a massive network of public tracks spanning the foreshore between two of Sydney’s most iconic surf beaches. When you reach Vaucluse, take a breather and explore the grounds of Macquarie Lightstation, open to the public daily.
Macquarie Lightstation is located in Birrabirrigal Country and its history as a navigational light source spans 200+ years...
Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the burgeoning colony of New South Wales experienced an influx of convicts as well as an increase in shipping activity. Consequently, work commenced on a series of building projects in Sydney. This included Macquarie Lighthouse. The tower and its neighbouring buildings are collectively referred to as Macquarie Lightstation.
[Image credit: Macquarie Lighthouse, 1909 (Hurley Negative Collection) Frank Hurley, National Library of Australia]
The Harbour Trust has partnered with Google Arts & Culture on a collection of immersive digital exhibitions that showcase our heritage destinations on Sydney Harbour. Celebrating Two Centuries of Light harnesses archival imagery, contemporary photos and 360 footage to vividly tell the story of Australia's most historic lighthouse.
[Image credit: Macquarie Lighthouse, Jean Baptiste Arnout, c. 1829, courtesy of the National Library of Australia]
In 1816, Francis Greenway – an English-born architect and convict serving a sentence for forgery – was appointed the Colony's civil architect, having impressed the Governor of NSW Lachlan Macquarie. His first commission was Macquarie Lighthouse, completed in 1818. Governor Macquarie was so pleased with the tower that he granted Greenway conditional emancipation.
[Image credit: Francis Greenway (Pencil portrait in oval mount), c. 1814-1837, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.]
During his nearly three-decade tenure as the Colonial Architect of NSW (1862 to 1890), James Barnet dominated pre-federation architecture. In this DigiTale, we canvass the career of the tireless public servant including his design work on the second Macquarie Lighthouse tower, completed in 1883, and the other buildings that speak to his enduring legacy.
[Image credit: Portrait of James Barnet, c. 1818, courtesy of the National Library of Australia]
To mark the 200th anniversary of Macquarie Lightstation, the Harbour Trust partnered with Macquarie University to create bespoke 3D models that capture the grandeur of Australia’s original navigational light source...
Macquarie University, whose name and coat of arms pay tribute to the historic site, used drone and ground footage together with terrestrial laser scanning and Pedestal 3D’s educational software platform, to construct detailed, interactive models of Macquarie Lightstation.