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Macquarie Lighthouse 200th anniversary

Thursday 1 November 2018

Macquarie Lighthouse in Sydney celebrates its 200th birthday this year. Macquarie was Australia’s first lighthouse and was first lit on 30 November 1818.

Macquarie lighthouse on an angle

The architect of the original Macquarie tower was Francis Greenway, a 'gentleman convict'. Greenway's design replaced the convict run iron basket of coal which had lit South Head from 1793. Governor Macquarie was so impressed with Greenway's work that he granted him a pardon so that he could be honoured as a free man at the opening ceremony.

Due to crumbling materials, Greenway’s tower was de-activated and replaced by the new Macquarie Lighthouse tower in 1883. Colonial Architect James Barnet designed the new tower so it externally resembled Greenway's original design.

A distinctive change from the previous lighthouse was the addition of an electric light, a relatively new technology in lighthouses and a first for Australia. For a short time, the two towers stood side by side until the original Macquarie tower was demolished in 1884.

Fully-automated in 1976, Macquarie Lighthouse remains one of Australia’s most beloved and recognisable lighthouses. Its role in bringing ships safely into Sydney Harbour makes it an important part of the nation’s colonial history.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority still operates Macquarie Lighthouse today for the safety of ships. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust manages the site under a tourist licence from AMSA and offers tours every month.