The historic Cape Bruny Lighthouse, built in 1836, is the only southern Tasmanian lighthouse open for tours. At 114 metres tall, it towers over the spectacular dolerite cliffs of Cape Bruny and offers panoramic views of the rugged South Bruny coastline.
The lighthouse was commissioned by Governor George Arthur, following a series of shipwrecks off the southern Tasmanian coast. When first lit in 1838, it was the third lighthouse in the state, and only the fourth in Australia. A lighthouse reserve of almost 200 acres provided timber, vegetable gardens and grazing land, all indispensable parts of its operation.
The nightly task of maintaining the light was challenging. Each lighthouse had a unique light characteristic which was ensured by a clockwork planetary table and needed rewinding every eight hours. The fifteen lamps of the original 1838 Wilkins lantern each burned 600mls of expensive sperm whale oil per hour and needed frequent refilling. The lamps were extremely fragile, being replaced every three nights in 1839.
The lighthouse was refurbished in 1901-3 with a powerful new Chance Brothers lantern replacing the original Wilkins lantern, then in 1959 the light was electrified. Cape Bruny light was lit for the final time in 1996, when it was replaced by a solar powered light nearby, and in December 2000 it was added to the South Bruny National Park.
Visitors to Cape Bruny are invited to climb a steep path to the base of the lighthouse. In order to climb the beautiful spiral staircase and enjoy the views from the top, you’ll need to join one of the regular guided tours.
The tours provide an excellent opportunity to hear the full history of the lighthouse: from shipwreck tragedies on nearby islands, to convict hardship during construction, and the lives and duties of the lighthouse keepers.
After a tour, you can continue to explore the grounds. A track to the nearby beach passes a grave site thought to be the resting place of two children from 1875 and 1898, before reaching a dry stone wall that marks the boundaries of an old vegetable patch.
Also worth a look is the Cape Bruny Lightstation Museum, located by the car park. This small building is packed with an assortment of fascinating maritime artefacts.