White lighthouse and outbuildings against blue sky.

Macquarie Lighthouse, exterior. Photo © Zak Kaczmarek

Macquarie Lighthouse 2018

Focus Tour - Saturday 2 November 2019



1818, rebuilt 1883


Francis Greenway

Additional architects

1883 James Barnet, NSW Colonial Architect

Macquarie Lightstation in Vaucluse is Australia’s first and longest-operating navigational light source. Originally built in 1818, it was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway, and named for Lachlan Macquarie, the NSW governor who commissioned it.

Perched on the south-east shoreline of Sydney Harbour, the lighthouse tower contained a revolving light with a series of oil-burning lamps set in parabolic reflectors. Powered by a clockwork mechanism, it flashed once every minute, and was visible for 22 miles (35 kilometres).

The lighthouse was so successful it earned Greenway a conditional governor’s pardon, but as he predicted, its poor-quality sandstone soon deteriorated and its foundations began to crumble. A replacement lighthouse was constructed in 1883, designed by NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet to closely resemble the original, though with a larger lantern room.

Evolving with technology, the lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1933 and a smaller lens installed. It was fully automated in 1976, and by 1989 its ‘keepers’ were finally withdrawn. Today Macquarie Lightstation continues to serve as a beacon for sailors seeking the harbour entrance.

Tour experience

Your Sydney Open tour includes a first for the people of Sydney – a Virtual Reality (VR) experience of the stunning Vaucluse cliff face and panoramic city views, using new VR technology from Macquarie University. Climb 100 steps up a spiral staircase to the lantern room, and get up close to the stunning Fresnel lens that still guides shipping passage today. Then head out to the balcony for a breathtaking Sydney panorama: we’ll even get you the best selfie in town, printed onsite to take home along with your very own Macquarie Lightstation souvenir.


The tour is presented by the Harbour Trust and guided by the Harbour Trust volunteer tour guides

Harbour Trust volunteers have delivered guided tours at Macquarie Lighthouse for ten years, drawing on their passion for the iconic building’s history.

  • View across entrance to Sydney Harbour from up high.
  • Looking out of diamond shaped glass panels of lighthouse.

Key information

Session duration

45 mins


This tour has a capacity of 10 people per session.

Visitor requirements

Please arrive 15 minutes before the start time as tours must leave on time. Children must be accompanied by an adult and be able to climb 100 steps.

A good level of mobility is required, including the ability to walk up 100 steps and not be affected by heights. Those with a heart condition or breathing difficulties are advised not to attempt this tour. If conditions are too windy, access to the balcony will not be possible; this will be determined by the guides on the day. Large bags must be left on ground level.

to know

  • Photography restricted
    Tour cannot be delayed for photography. There are photography opportunities on the balcony.


The Harbour Trust thanks Macquarie University for their research contribution.