For centuries lighthouses have guided people home safely, lighting the way for those who are lost at sea. Even when the sun goes below the horizon and the stars are behind the clouds, lighthouses and their lightkeepers have a responsibility to keep shining through the night. The lighthouse appeals to me as a symbol of adventure and an invitation to experience more of Sydney’s coastline. I’ve visited every lighthouse there is in Sydney and compiled a list of the best 11.

As a photographer it’s hard not to be drawn to the unique physical attributes of Sydney’s lighthouses. There are various landscapes to find them in; some tower above cliffs and headlands, while some are positioned in sheltered bays surrounded by trees. Historically there’s always more than what meets the eye – many were built in response to horrible shipwrecks and to foster safer trade routes. Even in the era of GPS navigation it’s a necessary device to have. I hope that I’ve made it clear of how important lighthouses are! With all that in mind, here are Sydney’s most photogenic and beautiful lighthouses that you can visit today.

Hornby Lighthouse

This is possibly the most popular lighthouse in Sydney. It’s one of the attractions of Watson’s Bay and Sydney Harbour National Park, in the Eastern suburbs. It has a lovely red stripes that make it stand out on the headland. It was built in 1858 following a horrific shipwreck. It’s perfect to visit for sunrise because it faces out towards the ocean. It takes about 45min to walk here from the Camp Cove carpark, along a track that has historic gun emplacements and military lookouts.

Grotto Point Lighthouse

This interesting lighthouse was built in 1901 to guide ships past the Balgowlah headland. It reminds me of a small castle. This is a charming spot to visit at sunset. To get here there’s a 30-45min walk through bushland. Fore more info check my post about Grotto Point.

Norah Head Lighthouse

Located on the central coast, this large lighthouse is the only one near Sydney that you can climb to the viewing platform. It was built in 1903 to make the perilous journey between Newcastle and Sydney safer. Tours run every day for about $6 a person. It’s surrounded by nice beaches and intriguing rock shelfs. It’s a unique experience to stay overnight at the historic lighthouse quarters – booking is here.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

This is one of the most famous lighthouses in Australia. It sits high up on the headland above Palm Beach and is a popular hiking destination. Many people come on the weekend to spend the afternoon walking and to watch the sunset. It’s actually the best stargazing spot in Sydney – because it’s the furthest point from the city. I’ve come here for astrophotography a few times. In the photo below I was able to get the Milky Way as well as the lighthouse beacon in the same photo! Parking is available in the Palm Beach carpark.

 Bradleys Head Light

This unassuming lighthouse is also the location of one of Sydney’s best views. The skyline, harbour bridge and opera house are all easy to photograph from here. I would recommend coming here for sunset, as you can get great views of the lighthouse as well as Sydney. There’s a small carpark right on the headland.

Robertson Point Lighthouse

This little lighthouse is one of the lesser known in Sydney and has an interesting design similar to that of the more famous Bradleys Head Light. Located on the edge of Cremorne Reserve, this Lighthouse is one of the most convenient to get to with public transport. From Circular Quay take a ferry to Cremorne Point Wharf and walk just 200m to Robertsons Point. To find out more check my blogpost about Cremorne Reserve.

Parriwi Head Light

This one was a bit of a surprise! Surrounded by trees in the suburb of Mosman, it is the sister lighthouse of Grotto Point. I didn’t expect to find a lighthouse here surrounded by eucalyptus. It’s located on Parriwi Road, but blink and you’ll miss it. It’s barely visible from the street. There’s a walking track that leads down to Middle Harbour. Follow it for about 15min to get to Chinaman’s Beach.

Macquarie Lighthouse

Australia’s first lighthouse is also one of the biggest. It sits grandly on a big patch of grass in the eastern suburbs. It’s a bit hard to get a creative photo of this one, but at least it’s relatively easy to get to by car. There are some magnificent cliffs nearby, and a decent view of Sydney city. You can park right outside the building on Old South Head Road, Vaucluse. It’s also pretty close to Hornby Lighthouse in Watsons Bay.

Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse

Built in 1871, this lighthouse is located at the end of  the Wollongong Breakwater. It’s no longer in use today but has been restored to become an icon of the harbour. It’s history stems back to early coal industry in the Illawarra region, when ships were the most efficient way to transport goods. It was scheduled for demolition in the 1970s however it has survived the harsh ocean conditions since then. During big storms the waves regularly inundate the breakwater and batter the lighthouse. It’s a more interesting lighthouse to photograph than the lighthouse that superseded it, the Wollongong Head Lighthouse. There are a few public carparks within 15min walk from here.

Wollongong Head Lighthouse

Standing proud on the headland, this lighthouse is important for ships in navigating through Wollongong Bay. This is the lighthouse that replaced the nearby one on the Breakwater. There’s a carpark right next to the lighthouse which makes it a popular tourist attraction. It’s possible to walk from here to the Breakwater Lighthouse. From here there are good views facing back towards the town and bay.

Nobbys Lighthouse

This is a fully functioning site located at Nobbys Island in Newcastle. On Sundays it’s open to the public, but other days you can only walk around the building. It’s actually going to be renovated in the next few years and will probably look different. For now the original buildings are interesting to explore, aptly named Cottage 1, Cottage 2, and Cottage 3. In the future there will be restaurants and a cafe too. A parking area is is just behind East End Beach. I took this photo from along the breakwater.


Bonus – Fort Denison

Did you know that this heritage fort island is also a lighthouse? It sits in the middle of Sydney Harbour and is accessible by ferry. It was built up and used since the convicts era. There are rumours that it used to be an isolated jail for punishing the worst offenders, and that skeletons were hung for years after the execution. I took this photo from Cremorne Reserve.

Tips for Lighthouse Photography

Challenge yourself to get creative – there are plenty of different ways to photograph lighthouses. I like to use the surrounding flora and landscape to give some context to the photo. I think that a lighthouse looks most poignant during bad weather, because you can get an idea of what conditions it was built to face. Hopefully you can visit a few of the locations on this list and see Sydney in a different way afterwards.


Here are the exact locations of all the lighthouses!