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Raine Island Beacon

  • 600432
  • Eastern end of Raine Island, Raine Island


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Transport—water: Lighthouse
2.1 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Exploring, surveying and mapping the land
5.4 Moving goods, people and information: Using shipping
7.2 Maintaining order: Government and public administration
Construction period
1844, Raine Island Beacon (1844 - 1844)
Historical period
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century


Eastern end of Raine Island, Raine Island
Cook Shire Council
-11.59044233, 144.03504996


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Constructed as early as 1844, the Raine Island Beacon served briefly as an aid to navigation and a shelter for shipwrecked sailors, and is one of the oldest and most significant structures remaining in Queensland. Its associations with northern navigation and maritime transport, as well as the penal system and island industry are reflected in the fabric of the structure and site.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

As an early navigation aid built of masonry on an isolated coral cay, the beacon is unique in form and context.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

As an early navigation aid built of masonry on an isolated coral cay, the beacon is unique in form and context.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

It remains a landmark structure, and has an aesthetic appeal generated by its rustic materials, early workmanship, derelict nature, and dramatic, isolated ocean setting.


Ships bound north from Australia to Asia generally took the Outer Passage before turning west through the Great Barrier Reef to Torres Strait. As the area was notorious for shipwrecks, the beacon was built in 1844 to assist navigation. The beacon was built mostly of local materials: coral limestone quarried on site; shells burned to make lime for mortar; and timber from the Martha Ridgway which was wrecked nearby in 1842. Though serving as a landmark for shipping and used by crews, the beacon soon became obsolete after the northern passage was discovered. In 1890 the JT Arundel Company began mining guano on Raine Island, with a workforce of 100 Chinese. Their extensive quarries are evident over much of the island, though there is little sign of the former jetty, buildings, tramway and locomotive. The most obvious gravesite, which is marked by a tombstone, is that of Annie Eliza Ellis who died in 1891. No commercial activity is known to have occurred since 1892, though the beacon tower has been used unofficially for conveying messages, as seen in hundreds of inscriptions on the inner walls. Raine Island, with its beacon, quarries and tombstone, remains a principal wildlife habitat, while dominated by the convict-built beacon.


Raine Island Beacon is a substantial structure about 12 metres high with a base diameter of 9 metres, and is visible for 13 nautical miles. Constructed of good quality coral limestone trimmed to produce a continuous curve inside and out, its cylindrical form decreases in diameter in four steps upwards and is topped by a crenellated parapet. A lightning conductor of wrought copper is fitted from top to bottom of the east face. The only opening in the walls is a semi-circular arched doorway surmounted by the standard inscription VR and date: 1844. Two inscribed stone plaques inserted into the wall above the keystone are illegible due to erosion. The interior originally comprised three levels of wooden floors which were reached by ladders and topped by a dome of timber ribs covered with canvas.

Image gallery


Location of Raine Island Beacon within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022