Cape Leeuwin

Lighthouses are more than engineering marvels; they evoke emotions and inspire art, literature and music.

For almost 130 years, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse has stood as a sentinel on Western Australia’s treacherous Southwest coast, protecting passing ships. It is still a working lighthouse today and plays a vital role in maritime safety and navigation.

Cape Leeuwin stands at the most south-westerly corner of the continent, overlooking the point where the mighty Southern and Indian Oceans meet.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
The majestic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is a sight you won't forget. Photo: Holly Winkle

This magnificent cape is one of the three major capes of the Southern Ocean, alongside the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and Cape Horn in South America. These capes are significant landmarks for ocean voyagers, as they present a daunting challenge during passage due to their treacherous rock formations, strong currents, legendary swells, and sudden squalls.

In 1881, the construction of the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was first proposed. Still, it took another 15 years to begin, as the Western Australian government could only fund such an extensive construction project after the discovery of gold near Kalgoorlie. The lighthouse was essential to protect ships travelling to Albany, Western Australia’s then-principal port. Thus, Premier Sir John Forrest pushed for the project to go ahead.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Take in the Southern and Indian Ocean views. Photo: Tourism Australia

On December 1, 1896, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was illuminated for the first time. The light was generated by a kerosene wick lamp, the world’s largest at the time, revolving in a mercury bath and controlled by a clockwork mechanism. With an intensity of 250,000 candelas, it could be seen for 40km. By the 1920s, the light was upgraded and could generate a beam of 780,000 candela. The kerosene burner gave way to an electric light in 1982, the 1000-watt halogen lamp beaming out 1,000,000 candelas. And though the technology had changed over the years, the lighthouse was still manned.  

In September 1992, the romantic era of manned lighthouses ended, and Cape Leeuwin was fully automated. Today, like other lighthouses, it is run by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is still a vital beacon to guide shipping and warn of the dangers of coming too close to the rugged coastline, its unceasing light flashing every 7.5 seconds.  

The tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland, standing at 39m, is now open for public visits. This beautiful lighthouse is found on the headland at Cape Leeuwin, just 9km away from Augusta and 50km away from Margaret River. It’s a perfect spot to see the magnificent power of the sea, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot pods of dolphins or whales. 

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is open to the public 7 days a week. Photo: Tourism WA

On a half-hour guided tour, you’ll learn tales of triumph and tragedy; it was a shipwreck coast. Climbing the lighthouse’s 176 steps is quite a feat (for safety reasons, tours are not available for children under the age of four) and gives you an idea of how fit the lighthouse keepers must have been.  

The site still has three of the four original cottages of the lighthouse keepers standing. One of these cottages is home to the Interpretive Centre, which showcases the history and lives of the many lighthouse keepers who safeguarded this rugged coastline. Through artefacts and stories, interactive technology, and a large-scale animated film, visitors can gain fascinating insights into the lives of the men, women and children who once lived at the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland.  

Whether you’re there on a balmy Southwest summer’s day or visiting with the winter southerlies blasting in, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse experience is not to be missed. 

Cape Leeuwin
Stunning Cape Leeuwin is well worth the trip. Photo: Tim Campbell

Advice from a Local

Speak to a local expert Advice from a Local Our team of local experts

Our team of local experts are here to help plan and book your stay in the Margaret River Region.