Lighthouses of Australia: Northern Territory

Australia's Northern Territory occupies the north central part of the country with a tropical coastline facing the Timor Sea to the northwest, the Arafura Sea to the north, and the Gulf of Carpentaria to the east. Except for the port and naval base of Darwin, the coast is thinly populated and difficult to reach.

The territory has five more or less traditional lighthouses, all associated with the approaches to Darwin. Unfortunately, all the lighthouses are either closed to the public or difficult to reach, so they are not very well known.

The lighthouses are managed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) or by the Darwin Port Corporation.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume K of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA numbers are from Publication 111.

General Sources
Lighthouses of Northern Territory
The section of the Lighthouses of Australia site devoted to Northern Territory lights.
Lighthouses and Lightvessels in Australia - Northern Territory
Index to Wikipedia articles; many include photos.
Lighthouses from the Air - Part 6
Article from the Lighthouses of Australia Bulletin of February 2002, including good aerial photos of Northern Territory lighthouses.
Around Australia Chasing Lighthouses - Part 2
Article from the Lighthouses of Australia Bulletin of December 2000 by John Ibbotson, including visits to the Point Charles and Cape Don Lights.
Australian Lighthouses
This site, posted by Kevin Mulcahy, has a comprehensive list of Australian lighthouses.
World of Lighthouses - Northern Territory
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Leuchttürme Australiens und Ozeaniens auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Point Charles Light
Point Charles Light, Darwin, November 2010
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Djambalawa

Tiwi Islands Lighthouse
Cape Fourcroy
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 30 m (98 ft); three white flashes, separated by 2 s, every 15 s. 15 m (49 st) square skeletal tower with lantern and gallery; entire structure painted white. Winsome Bonham has an aerial photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the southwestern point of Bathurst Island, marking the beginning of the approach to Darwin from the Timor Sea. The island is an aboriginal reserve, and visitors require a permit from the Tiwi Islands Land Council. Tours are available from Darwin. Site open, tower closed. Operator/site manager: AMSA. ARLHS AUS-244; Admiralty K3318; NGA 9520.

Darwin Area Lighthouses
* Point Charles
1893. Active; focal plane 39 m (128 ft); white flash every 5 s. 32 m (105 ft) hexagonal pyramidal cast iron skeletal tower with central cylinder, lantern, and gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Wikipedia has a fine article including the photo seen above, Wikimedia has additional photos, Huelse has posted a historic postcard image of the light station, Bryson Lashbrook has a view from the sea, and Google has a satellite view. The oldest lighthouse in Northern Territory, Point Charles Light was prefabricated in England by Chance Brothers. In the late 1990s, the surrounding land, formerly a Radio Australia facility, was leased to Christian Voice Broadcasting. CVB fenced the property in 2003, shutting off public access to the lighthouse. However, the lease expired in June 2010, and it is reported that access has been restored. Located on a headland about 25 km (15 mi) northwest of Port Darwin. Site believed to be open (more definite information needed), tower closed. Operator/site manager: AMSA. ARLHS AUS-056; Admiralty K3322; NGA 9524.
Emery Point (2)
1915 (station established 1900). Active; focal plane 18 m (60 ft); three flashes every 15 s, white or red depending on direction. 9.5 m (31 ft) square steel skeletal tower with lantern and gallery; entire structure painted white. A photo is at right, a good 2007 photo is available, John Ibbotson has a good closeup photo, Wayne Roddom has a distant view, and Google has a satellite view. Located in the Larrakeyah Barracks, a historic military post at the entrance to the inner harbor of Darwin. Site and tower closed (Larrakeyah Barracks is now the headquarters of Australia's Northern Command). Operator: Darwin Port Corporation (?). Site manager: Larrakeyah Barracks. ARLHS AUS-071; Admiralty K3324; NGA 9528.
East Vernon (2)
Date unknown (station established 1928). Active; focal plane 12 m (39 ft); flash every 5 s, white, red or green depending on direction. 11 m (36 ft) tower, described by NGA as a "red tower on steel structure." No photo available. Lighthouses of Australia has a historic photo of the original lighthouse; it was a square skeletal tower with lantern and gallery that appears to be twice the listed height of the present tower. Bing has a satellite view suggesting that the present tower is probably built on the same piles that supported the original. The light guides vessels approaching Darwin from the northeast. Located at the water's edge on the south side of East Vernon Island, about 60 km (40 mi) northeast of Darwin. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS AUS-066; Admiralty K3316; NGA 9540.
Cape Hotham
1928. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); three white flashes, separated by 2 s, every 15 s. 16.5 m (54 ft) square skeletal tower with lantern and gallery; entire structure painted white. Winsome Bonham has an aerial photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Civil Plus Constructions has photos of a repainting of the lighthouse in 2010. Located at the end of a long peninsula about 80 km (50 mi) northeast of Darwin, marking the entrance to the Clarence Strait, the eastern approach to Darwin. Accessible by boat or helicopter. Site status unknown, tower closed. Operator/site manager: AMSA. ARLHS AUS-245; Admiralty K3315; NGA 9544.
Emery Point Light
Emery Point Light, Darwin, July 2007
Flickr photo copyright suey_j; used by permission

West Arnhem Lighthouses
Note: Arnhem Land is a large region at the northeastern corner of the Northern Terrtitory.
Cape Don
1917. Active; focal plane 50 m (163 ft); white flash every 10 s. 36 m (118 ft) cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery rising from an octagonal base. Tower unpainted, lantern painted white. The keeper's houses have been converted to a fishing lodge; renovated in 2010, they are available for overnight accommodations. A photo is at right, Winsome Bonham has an aerial photo, and Google has a fine satellite view of the station. Cape Don is Australia's northernmost traditional lighthouse, standing in latitude 11°18.0' S. This is the only Northern Territory lighthouse on the territory's Heritage Register. In 2005 the original Chance Brothers 1st order Fresnel lens and its rotating apparatus were discovered in storage and donated to the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane. Located on the tip of the Cobourg Peninsula, marking the entrance to the Dundas Strait. Accessible by boat or by air; driving from Darwin is possible in the dry season but requires permits and careful preparation. Site open, tower closed. Operator: AMSA. Site manager: Garig Gunak Barlu National Park. ARLHS AUS-028; Admiralty K3314; NGA 9548.
New Year Island
Date unknown (1963?). Active; focal plane 32 m (105 ft); three white flashes every 30 s. 30 m (98 ft) slender round cylindrical steel tower with gallery, supported by guy wires. The Northern Territory Library has a 1986 photo, but Google's distant satellite view does not show the lighthouse. Located on a small island in the Arafura Sea about 60 km (40 mi) northeast of Cape Don. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS AUS-179; Admiralty K3313; NGA 9552.

East Arnhem Lighthouses
Cape Wessel (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 54 m (177 ft); white flash every 5 s. 30 m (98 ft) skeletal tower with a small white fiberglass lantern. The Northern Territory Library has a 1986 photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Lorraine Phelan has a 1972 photo showing an earlier tower. Cape Wessel is at the end of the Wessel Islands, a chain of islands extending 120 km (75 mi) northeast from the Napier Peninsula into the Arafura Sea. The light here guides vessels entering the Gulf of Carpentaria, the large embayment of northeastern Australia. Located on Rimbija Island, the northeasternmost island of the archipelago. Accessible only by boat. Admiralty K3312; NGA 9556.
Truant Island (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 39 m (128 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 18 m (59 ft) skeletal tower. No current photo available, and Google's distant satellite view does not show the lighthouse. The Northern Territory Library has a photo, taken either in 1975 or 1986, that shows a round cylindrical stainless steel tower like the 1970 Imperieuse Reef Light off the Kimberley coast and the 1974 Pelsaert Island Light in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands (both in Western Australia). Located atop a small island about 75 km (45 mi) south of Cape Wessel. Accessible only by boat. Admiralty K3311; NGA 9560.
Cape Don Light
Cape Don Light, West Arnhem, January 2009
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Andy-La Paloma

Information available on lost lighthouses:

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Notable faux lighthouses:

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Adjoining pages: East: Queensland's Far North | West: Western Australia

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Posted June 25, 2004; checked and revised July 28, 2014. Lighthouses: 9. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.