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Published January 7th 2016
A Beacon of Hope
Lighthouses are the torchbearers for ships seeking a safe passage through dangerous waters. The light from these beacons shield the water traffic from dangers hidden grimly out of sight. One such beacon is the Macquarie Lighthouse.
The first lighthouse of Australia and still functional, the tower is located at such a strategic point in the residential suburb of Vaucluse that it is visible from most parts of Sydney Harbour. The brainchild of Francis Greenway (a convict who was later forgiven by Governor Macquarie for this wonderful work), powered solely by oil lamps, it went into operation in 1818. The sandstone structure slowly started wearing down and hence, was demolished after another lighthouse (designed by James Barnet) was constructed adjacently in 1883 in its likeness. The lighthouse underwent complete automation in 1976. The quarters used for housing the then lighthouse keeper and other staffs still stand flanking the white giant on both sides.
Stone Memorablia entailing the lighthouse history (image courtesy Chetan Prusty)
The lighthouse grounds are free to public access and picnicking. But tours of the inside are organized every two months for $5 per adult and $3 per kid with the requirement of a minimum of twenty persons (details can be found at www.harbourtrust.gov.au/visit/macquarie-lightstation). Our group, huddled inside the lighthouse building which also accommodates previous lenses, is briefed by the guide about the history and architecture. The tour lasts for about 15 minutes and ascends through the narrow body of the lighthouse (would not recommend it to those who are claustrophobic).
The view from the top is amazing - on the eastern side lies the royal blue expanse of the Pacific, on the south span Christison Park and the numerous houses of Vaucluse and Dover Heights, the west is framed by the unobstructed view of Sydney CBD and the Harbour Bridge, and on the north is visible the confluence of Pacific and Parramatta River lined by the serrated harbor.
Clockwise from top left- eastern, western, souther and northern views from top of the lighthouse
After the tour, we head to the lawns making our way through Signal Hill Reserve (where a radar has been installed for constant monitoring) towards Gap Park. The rugged and picturesque clifftops hold us in a mesmerized awe.
There are several picnic tables and park chairs alongside the path. The paved footpath meanders through beautiful flora in the park. From the height, waves look like playful ripples on the ocean surface, their games frequently disturbed by white frothy gashes left by speedboats.
At certain junctures, the tide has carved flat surfaces on the rocks which form a platform for the uninterrupted dance of waves. The anchor of Dunbar (the vessel whose fateful journey ended at the foot of the Gap) has been installed as a memorabilia mid-way between both the lighthouses.
Exhilarated, we reach the staircase leading to Gap Bluff. Though a vantage point to enjoy the city's beauty, the cliff is infamous for being a preferred location for those attempting suicide. Therefore, the top is completely fenced and monitored 24x7 by multiple cameras installed throughout the ascending stairs. The impressive view leaves little room for contemplation of what many come here to do and so we find ourselves rejoicing in its beauty.
After climbing down and snacking at Watsons Bay (one always has a choice of dining at Doyles), we resume our stroll through another kilometer and a half. Passing Camp Cove and Lady Bay Beach on our left and HMAS Watson Naval Base on our right, and following the South Head Heritage Trail, we reach our final destination which is aptly painted in red (indicating the stop to our walk), though white streaks in between give its beauty a special charm. Constructed in 1858 after the Dunbar disaster, Hornby Lighthouse (designed by Alexander Dawson) proudly stands at the tip of the South Head in Sydney Harbour National Park. Further details can be obtained from www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/historic-buildings-places/hornby-lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse (photo: Kevin McGrath, source: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services)
Unless you are taking your car, the bus stop is right across the road from Macquarie Lighthouse and if covering only Hornby is what's on your mind, then taking a ferry to Watsons Bay is an excellent idea. The entire walk covering all three points, is around 4 kms. So get your walking shoes out andů...Bon Voyage!
It has been a long time since this article came out, but I was just in the area and took a photo of this lighthouse somewhere between Gap Park and Macquarie Lighthouse as we zipped by on a tour bus. I snapped the photo just a minute prior to my Macquarie one. Is this a real lighthouse or fake? Does it have a name?