Iconic Lighthouse

The Port Adelaide Lighthouse, an iconic landmark

The Port Adelaide Lighthouse, an iconic landmark on the waterfront, has a rich history dating back to 1869. Initially replacing lightships that marked the approach to Port Adelaide, the lighthouse played a crucial role in guiding ships safely. Over the years, it underwent renovations, expansion, and a change of location. Today, it stands proudly as a static museum display managed by the South Australian Maritime Museum. In this article, we'll delve into the origins of the lighthouse, its construction, expansions, damage from storms, and its eventual relocation to South Neptune Island before returning to Port Adelaide.

Origins and Early Navigational Aids 

Efforts to establish navigational aids in South Australia began in 1838 with the deployment of buoys to mark the entrance to the Port River. Lightships, converted merchant vessels with mounted lights, were later used as beacons. The first illuminated beacon, the brig Lady Wellington, was stationed near Light's Passage in 1840. However, due to the corrosive effects of seawater, lightships proved unreliable. In 1869, the Port Adelaide Lighthouse, using a lighthouse lantern originally intended for Port Marsden on Kangaroo Island, replaced the lightship.

Construction and Expansion 

Designed by Alexander Gordon, the Port Adelaide Lighthouse featured a wrought iron support sunk into the seabed and surrounded by a wooden platform. Initially fueled by volatile oil, the lantern produced a visible signal up to fourteen miles away. In 1874, the lighthouse underwent renovations, including the addition of a new lantern room, which improved its range and visibility. The lighthouse reached a height of 120 feet above the high water mark and was hailed as a "first-class" beacon.

Damage and Relocation 

In 1896, a severe storm caused damage to the lighthouse, and subsequent inspections revealed its instability. As the seabed eroded and the adjacent navigation channel shifted, the structure became shaky. As a result, the Port Adelaide Lighthouse was dismantled and its components redistributed. The lantern was installed on a screw pile tower at Wonga Shoal, which was later destroyed in a maritime accident. The lighthouse tower itself was relocated to South Neptune Island near Spencer Gulf, where it served as a vital navigational aid.

Return to Port Adelaide 

After 84 years of service on South Neptune Island, the lighthouse was dismantled again in 1986. It was transported back to Port Adelaide, where it underwent restoration before being erected at its current site. Today, the Port Adelaide Lighthouse stands as a static museum display, managed by the South Australian Maritime Museum. It serves as a reminder of the Port's maritime heritage and continues to captivate visitors with its rich history and significance as a navigational beacon.

The Port Adelaide Lighthouse has played a pivotal role in guiding ships safely to the Port's entrance. From its early days as a replacement for lightships to its relocation and return to Port Adelaide, the lighthouse stands as a testament to South Australia's maritime history and heritage.

Explore the rich maritime history of South Australia with a tour of the Lighthouse, featuring same-day entry to the South Australian Maritime Museum. For night tours, enjoy a complimentary pass for a future museum visit. 

Check the South Australian Maritime Museum’s website for tour dates, and book it in!

Please note stairs, tight spaces, and heights are involved. Not suitable for children under 5. You will need to sign a health and safety waiver.