Sydney’s third oldest lighthouse is located at South Head, set against the magnificent view of the harbour and Pacific Ocean.

Getting To Hornby Lighthouse, South Head

Where Is It?

Located along the South Head Walking Track, Hornby Lighthouse is one of several historic sites in Watson’s Bay. Access via the walking loop freedom Camp Cove Beach near the HMAS Watson. There are no entry fees for the South Head Walk.


The nearest address is Cliff Street and Victoria Street in Watsons Bay, NSW, 2030


There is a small parking lot on Cliff Street and limited street side parking on the back streets.


Google Maps Link – Hornby Lighthouse | South Head

Facts, Figures & History

Height & Range

The lighthouse stands 9.1 metres high (30 feet) with a focal height of 27 meters (90 feet) and a range of 15 nautical miles (28 kms)

History – The Dunbar & Catherine Adamson

The Dunbar was a Blackwall Frigate (fully rigged) that was driven into the rocks at South Head on the 20th August 1857. 121 of the 122 crew members were drowned, with the only survivor, James Johnson, undiscovered for two days after he was thrown against the cliffs from the force of the impact. The remains of some survivors were recovered and interred at the cemetery in Camperdown Memorial Park. Two months later the Catherine Adamson was also wrecked with a loss of 21 lives.

The loss of two ships at such close proximity exposed the need for a lighthouse at South Head.

Hornby Lighthouse Watsons Bay Sydney

History – Design and Construction

The NSW Government Architect at that time was Alexander Dawson who also approved the location of the lighthouse and suggested the use of a catoptric lense that had already been purchased by the government. Dawson was responsible for the sandstone keeper’s cottage built near the lighthouse. Hornby Lighthouse is the third oldest lighthouse in Australia following Macquarie Lighthouse (built 1818) and Nobbys Head Light (built in 1858).

The lighthouse is made of dressed sandstone and painted in distinctive red and white stripes.

Light Source & Apparatus

The original light source was kerosene lamp on a catoptric lens (first order). In 1904 Hornby Lighthouse upgraded to incandescent gas. In 1933 the light changed to electric power and Hornby Lighthouse was automated. By 1948 a Chance Brothers Catadioptric lens was installed. (Source: Lighthouses Of Australia Inc

Naming The Lighthouse

The lighthouse is named after the family of Caroline Hornby, wife of Sir William Denison, the Governor of NSW at the time of its opening. Caroline’s father was Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby. The lighthouse is also known as South Head Lower Light to avoid confusion with Macquarie Lighthouse (aka Upper Light).

South Head Fortifications Watsons Bay Sydney

Connected by bunkers, these historic gun emplacements are nearby.



  • Food

    There is a kiosk at Camp Cove Beach where you can get drinks and snacks. There’s also plenty of cars and restaurants around Watsons Bay and Robertson Park

  • Rubbish Bins

    There are rubbish bins along the South Head Walking Track prior to the entrance to Lady Bay Beach, close to the amenities block.

  • Toilets

    There is an amenities block near near the start of the walking track.

  • Can I take my dog?

    Dogs are not allowed in the Sydney Harbour National Park or on the South Head loop


South Head Track Sydney

South Head Walk | Watsons Bay

Hornby Lighthouse is located along the South Head Walking Loop. Other attractions include historic gun emplacements, whale watching towards the pacific ocean and views of the Sydney Harbour. The walk is short and starts at Camp Cove Beach. Be aware that Lady Bay Beach along the trail is a nude bathing area, though it is mostly concealed from the track.

Camp Cove Watsons Bay Sydney

Camp Cove Beach | Watsons Bay

Situated at the entrance to the South Head Walk, this popular harbour beach is a great spot to cool off and grab some refreshments after the walk

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