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Published May 11th 2016
A heritage listed lighthouse with a Jervis Bay backdrop
Have you ever wondered what makes lighthouses so fascinating? Is it their unique and often remote setting, atop a rugged headland or on an isolated island? Perhaps it is because we have romantic notions of the lighthouse keepers' life of solitude or feel nostalgia for a lost way of life. Whatever the reason, the New South Wales coastline is home to many iconic lighthouses where we can immerse ourselves in this fascinating topic.
In the south coast town of Currarong you will find Point Perpendicular Lighthouse.
Point Perpendicular Lighthouse sits within the Beecroft Weapons Range on the southern side of the Beecroft Peninsula. It is also crucially located at the northern entrance to Jervis Bay. The Beecroft Peninsula is occupied by the Royal Australian Navy and the area is used for weapons and other training activities.
Visitors to the site are welcome, however you need to be aware that the area is sometimes closed for safety reasons when in use for Defence exercises. Entry is via the boom gates at the weapons range entrance. Although entry is free, you will need to provide a drivers licence for identification and you will be given a pin code to be used when exiting.
From the boom gates there is a 10km drive on a corrugated dirt road to get to the lighthouse. Keep an eye out for wild life as you are driving. From the car park it is a short level walk to Point Perpendicular lighthouse.
You will have to excuse the absence of blue skies in my photos as it was a grey, drizzly day when we visited recently. The first thing you will notice about the lighthouse is that the tower is not particularly tall. This is because the cliffs on which it stands are around 70m above sea level, so a tall tower was not required. The tower itself is only around 20m tall.
The lighthouse was designed by Charles Harding who later designed the lighthouses at Cape Byron and Norah Head in a similar style.
Point Perpendicular Lighthouse was constructed in 1898 of precast concrete blocks using local stone and was the first lighthouse in New South Wales to be constructed using this method.
It was actually built to replace the Cape St George lighthouse on the southern side of Jervis Bay. The Cape St George lighthouse had been erroneously built in a location where its light could barely be seen from either the northern or southern approaches to the bay and was eventually decommissioned and destroyed. The new lighthouse at Point Perpendicular commenced operation in 1899.
The coastline of the Jervis Bay area is littered with historic ship wrecks and it was to the Point Perpendicular lighthouse that survivors came for help, such as the Wandra wreck in 1915 and the wreck of the S.S. Merimbula in 1928. According to newspaper reports of the time the captain of the S.S. Merimbula walked seven miles, through the pouring rain across the Beecroft Peninsula, to the lighthouse in order to telephone for help.
Originally the lighthouse precinct included a head keeper's residence, duplex cottage for assistant keepers, signal house, flagstaff, post office, stables, outbuildings, a jetty and fuel store. The post office has been removed and the original jetty replaced, however the original cottages remain.
The keepers cottages are Victorian, single storey, duplex dwellings with attractive verandahs. Unfortunately visitors to the site are not able to access the inside of the lighthouse or the lighthouse cottages. However there are some informational signs provided.
There are spectacular views out to the southern headland of Jervis Bay that should not be missed.
Jervis Bay is known as a fantastic place for whale and dolphin watching. Humpback and Southern Right Whales migrate north to warmer waters during June and July each year. They then return south during October and November. They often enter Jervis Bay to rest. Bottlenose dolphins can often be seen in Jervis Bay.
The lighthouse keepers of the past were definitely on to something - who wouldn't want this view in their back yard?
Unfortunately these days lighthouses are no longer manned.
In 1993 the Point Perpendicular lighthouse was replaced with a solar powered lighthouse. Due to automation the lighthouse keeper was no longer required and the old lighthouse was decommissioned.
Fortunately it does remain on the Commonwealth Heritage List for its significant historical values. I would hate to see such historic and beautiful structures removed from our coastline. For me lighthouses represent a symbol of hope and safety and I love visiting them and learning about the unique histories of the families and people who lived and worked in them.
If you are keen for more sight-seeing in the area you may wish to visit Cabbage Tree Beach, Honeymoon Bay or Green Point. A walking map is available from the Beecroft Weapons Range entry point.
Currarong is located in the Shoalhaven area of New South Wales and is a 2.5 hours drive from Sydney.