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Sandy Cape Lightstation

  • 601712
  • North end of island, Fraser Island


Also known as
Fraser Island Lighthouse
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
23 September 1998
Transport—water: Light station
3.3 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Developing engineering and construction industries
5.4 Moving goods, people and information: Using shipping
7.2 Maintaining order: Government and public administration
Rooney Bros
Construction period
1870–1936, Sandy Cape Lightstation (1870 - 1936c)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


North end of island, Fraser Island
Fraser Coast Regional Council
-24.72753191, 153.20275666


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

Completed by 1870, the second lighthouse built by the Queensland government, Sandy Cape Lightstation occupies an integral part in understanding the establishment of maritime navigational aids along the Queensland coast and reflects the growth and development of Queensland after its separation from New South Wales.

Sandy Cape Lightstation is associated with Commander George Poynter Heath, the first Portmaster of Queensland (1862-1890), a significant figure in the development of the Queensland lighthouse service. During Heath's time twelve major lighthouses were built along the Queensland coast.

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

Sandy Cape Lighthouse is one of only two prefabricated cast lighthouses built in Queensland and is significant for its rarity. The other prefabricated tower being Bustard Head Lighthouse [601260].

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

The lighthouse is substantially intact, and survives as a good example of a construction technique using bolted prefabricated segments of cast iron imported from England.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

At 33 metres and the tallest lighthouse in Queensland, Sandy Cape lighthouse is significant as a well-known landmark. With its white tower, capped with a bright red dome and surrounded by the Fraser Island National Park, Sandy Cape lighthouse makes a dramatic visual statement in the natural landscape.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The place has a strong association with the life of the lightkeepers, their families and maintenance and stores people, who contributed to the continuum of a system dedicated to the single aim of maintaining the navigational aid.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

(Criterion under review)


Up until 10 December 1859, the colony of New South Wales extended as far north as Cape York Peninsula. In 1859, the new colony of Queensland acquired over 5000 kilometres of coastline which had few safety features in place, and became responsible for all navigation lights and harbours along this coastline. At the time the only lighthouse which existed had been built at Cape Moreton [600257] by the New South Wales Government in 1857.

By 1862, the Queensland government had appointed a Portmaster, Commander George Poynter Heath and had passed the Marine Board Act 1862. In the two years following, due to a lack of funds to spend on marine safety, activity concentrated on dealing with pilots and harbour lights, The issue of coastal lights was not taken up until 25 May 1864, when Members of the Legislative Assembly moved that a Select Committee be appointed to enquiry into and report upon the state of the harbours and rivers in the colony. The Committee consisted of Messrs Macalister, Douglas, Sandeman, Cribb, Challinor and Bell and convened for the first time on 27 May 1864. The Committee widened the terms of reference to include..the question of the necessity of additional lighthouses on the coast of Australia, within the colony of Queensland.

A Select Committee was also appointed by the Legislative Council with the more specific field of reference to enquire into and report upon the requirements of this Colony, under its increasing trade and commerce, as to the provision of additional lighthouses for its coasts and harbors.

The reports of both Select Committees were in agreement regarding the necessity of a light at Sandy Cape. Other points where it was considered that lighthouses were required were at Cape Capricorn on Curtis Island, Point Danger or Cape Byron and Bustard Head [601260]. Double Island Point [601722] and Lady Elliot Island [601580] were also mentioned by the Committee as possible suitable sites.

The Sandy Cape Lighthouse, designed by William Pole of Kitson and Company, of England and built by a local firm J & J Rooney, was completed in 1870. A report to the Marine Department's Treasure dated 30th June, 1895, states the initial cost of constructing the Sandy Cape Lighthouse was £4524 with annual maintenance costs of £630.

The contractors for the construction of the tower were J & J Rooney of Maryborough, whose tender of £4524 was accepted. J & J Rooney was a partnership of the brothers John and Jacob Rooney who had established themselves in the timber trade in Maryborough as builders and contractors in the 1860s. Sandy Cape was the first of several lighthouses which J & J Rooney constructed for the Colonial Architect's office over the next decade. Other towers were constructed at Cape Bowling Green, Cowan Cowan, Cape Capricorn and Lady Elliot Island.

Early records indicate that a First Order light was placed in the Sandy Cape lighthouse, although it currently contains a Fourth Order Light, probably installed in 1936. The power of the Sandy Cape light was increased in 1917 and six years later the power of both Sandy Cape and Bustard Head lights was increased and then converted to electric operation in the 1930s. The keepers' cottages at Sandy Cape were replaced in 1935 with the two existing timber framed, fibro clad residences.

Sandy Cape Lightstation was automated in April 1991 and destaffed in June 1994.


The Sandy Cape Lightstation is located in a relatively remote area at the northern end of Fraser Island, surrounded by the natural vegetation of the national park. Fraser Island lies 30 kilometres east of Maryborough and 55 nautical miles east of Bundaberg. The lightstation is situated on a 259 hectare reserve. Sandy Cape is a prominent headland running down to a low sandy point with irregular sandhills covered with vegetation. The northwestern boundary of the lighthouse reserve is marked by the sea, with the track leading up from the beach to the lightstation.

The lightstation contains the following two precincts. The non-residential precinct includes the lighthouse, workshop, office, shed powerhouse, garage inflammable liquid store and bulk store. The residential precinct includes the Head Keeper's Cottage, Assistant Keeper's Cottage, fowl yard and shelter. An item of importance in the vicinity of the lightstation, but which does not fall within a precinct is a small grave site to the south of the lightstation, consisting of several stone headstones surrounded by a low picket or paling fence. The remains of a World War Two bunker are located in a gully some distance from the lightstation. The lightstation is generally linear in layout, but with buildings located along a sandy ridge running approximately northwest to southeast.

The 33 metre high lighthouse is circular in plan constructed of cast ironplates with splayed flanges at the base. The tower is conical in elevation, approximately seven metres diameter at the base, reducing to a diameter of approximately four metres at the lantern room. The structural cast iron plates pare painted white. The lantern room is constructed of cast iron. The domed roof is clad with copper sheeting and painted red.

The two keepers' quarters are timber framed buildings clad with fibro cement sheeting with timber cover battens. The door and window frames are timber. The buildings have fixed upper pane windows with sliding sash below and louvre windows. Modifications to exteriors include ramp access to rear entries.

There are a number of minor buildings on the site. The workshop, office and garage are timber framed buildings, lined with painted fibro cement sheets with cover battens. One of the more recent structures on the site is the power house. This building has brick walls on a concrete foundation. The roof is hipped stainless steel with central vent and metal door and window frames. The inflammable liquid store is also a recent structure. It is very similar in construction to the power house and has brick walls on concrete foundation and a hipped stainless steel roof with central vent and metal door and window frames.

Image gallery


Location of Sandy Cape Lightstation within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 January 2016
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