Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nelson Head - Inner Light

View of Nelson Head Light Tower and Lightkeepers cottage
 - view facing north October 2013
" Harbour Light, Nelson Head, Port Stephens. On and after the night of Monday, 1st April, a harbour light will be exhibited on Nelson Head, Port Stephens, visible at a distance of from 8 to 10 miles in clear weather................When Nelson Head is passed the light will again make out bright and be a guide for picking up anchorage or proceeding further into Port Stephens."

So appeared this notice in the Government Gazette of 28th March 1872, issued from the Office of the Superintendent of Pilots, Lights and Harbours in Sydney.

Nelson Head is situated between Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay, New South Wales on the southern shore of Port Stephens.

The need for an 'inner light' became obvious after the commissioning of the 'outer light' on Point Stephens, to guide vessels around the actual entrance to the port which has many close-in islands, rocky reefs and shoals.

The first light in 1872 was beamed from a wooden tower with four kerosene lamps. This was replaced in 1876 by a one storey octagonal tower which was attached to the lightkeepers residence which was completed in that year.

Nelson Head Lighthouse tower attached to cottage
 view looking eastward - October 2013
The light was electrified in June 1948, when externally mounted electric lamps replaced the original lamps. The controls remained inside the Light Room.

In 1984 the lighthouse was fully auotmated with the lights being mounted in a black box on a corner of the roof together with electronic controls.

In 1995, the light was relocated to a masthead atop the radio base which had been built over a Second World War observation bunker situated just below the lighthouse. It was solar powered at this time. The light was decommissioned in 2003.

View of lighthouse rooms and Marine Rescue NSW
Communications Centre - October 2013
Today the lighthouse cottage and reserve are managed by Marine Rescue NSW incorporating the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, which first set up a communication centre on Nelson Head in 1982.

On Sunday, 3 November 2013, Marine Rescue Port Stephens, celebrated the official opening of its refurbished Communications Centre on Nelson Head. The radio and communications hub has undergone a major upgrade from analogue to digital radio capability. 

Today the site boasts the Inner Light Tearooms and Lighthouse Cottage Museum, and is a major tourist attraction in the Port Stephens area, with magnificent views over Shoal Bay, Mts Tomaree and Yacaaba and the entrance to the port. It is definitely worth a visit.

Historyy Services NSW in its Government Contract and Contractors Database has records of eighty-six government contracts awarded for the construction and repair of lighthouse premises NSW up to 1900 including: 
  • Erection of Lighthouse Keepers Quarters, Nelson Head Port Stephens -1875 to H McMaster;
If you would like further information, go to our website at:

Prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken  October 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment